Deleting ‘File in Use’ In Windows

Deleting files is a simple and easy process. We delete files for various reasons like to free up the disk space or because we don’t need that file anymore. And we also delete files by accident which is a common scenario. But sometimes, deleting files can be a daunting task, if you get an error message saying - cannot delete the file is in use.

If you get this message, it means that the file is still open or used by another application or maybe the file is corrupt. you can get this message not just on the files you opened recently but also on files which you never touched for ages! Windows only tell you that the file is in use but do not guide you to what is causing the problem. So what's the solution? Is there a way to delete a file in use?

Well, below are some of the methods to check what is causing the problem and how to delete the file in use:

Is The File Really Closed?

Most of the time, we think we have closed all applications, but it might not be the case sometimes. So make sure that the file is closed. So, browse all the open application and check if the file is closed. If not close it and ‘try again’.

Try Closing Windows Explorer:

You have closed all files and programs, yet you cannot rename or delete it. Probably, Windows Explorer might be accessing your file to show the thumbnail.

Try moving all your files into a new folder, and delete the one which contains the stubborn file. If this doesn’t work, try closing Windows Explorer. And how it is done?

Launch Task Manager by right clicking the Task-Bar and select Task Manager. Once the window opens, look for Windows Explorer, then right click on it and choose End Task. Once this is done, you will be required to restart it, as Windows Explorer is as well responsible for Task-Bar and Start Menu. To restart, click on File tab > Run New Task > Type Explorer.exe > Enter.

Now try and see if you can delete the file.

End The Program Through Safe Mode:

If the above method didn’t work, don’t worry! You have another option. try booting your computer in Safe Mode. If you are using Windows 7 or earlier versions, this is what you need to do. When your PC is starting up press F8 key and tab repeatedly until you see options to boot.

Windows 8 and 10, go to Start Menu, then click Settings and then click Update and Security.

Now, select Recovery, and Advanced Startup then, Startup Settings and then on Restart Now. You’ll see few options when your PC is rebooting.

Select Troubleshoot then choose Advance Options then, Startup Settings and Restart. Select Safe Mode option from the list.

You can try your luck in deleting the file in Safe Mode.

Delete The File Via Command Prompt:

Still, couldn’t delete the file in use? Well, there is another method – Command Prompt. Yes, you can use the command prompt to delete the file. You can go to command prompt either by clicking Windows icon the left bottom corner of the screen or by pressing ‘Windows + R’ then type “cmd.exe” and hit Enter. A black window opens up.

Now type ‘del’ to delete the file in use.

In order to remove the lock on the files, you are required to close the Windows Explorer. (As mentioned above). Another easy to go to Task Manager is by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc and close Windows Explorer.

Now, come back to command prompt and press Enter. This will activate your command and the file will be deleted if everything is done in right way.

You can bring back the Task-Bar and Start Menu by clicking on File tab in Task Manager and select Run New Task, then type explorer and hit Enter.

How About Restarting the PC?

Well, for every PC problem, the first thing that comes to our mind is “Restart the Computer”. This is a good solution if you don’t want to mess up things trying to do something you don’t understand or don’t want to dig deep into the problem. Restarting fixes most of the simple issues and also clears up the RAM. So, there is no harm in trying this one too!

So, this is it about deleting a file. But want if you want to access a file and just unable to do it? Simple, hop onto the web and shop for corrupted file recovery software which helps in recovering and accessing the file like it never happened.

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John Harris

Senior Editor, Content Analyst and a fan of exceptional customer service. John develops and publishes instructional and informational content regarding partition management, Windows hot-fixes, data management and computer troubleshooting.

As a tenured data recovery specialist, John shares exceptional insights and blog posts about data loss and data recovery across any storage device. With 8+ years’ experience in writing for Data Recovery for both Mac OS and Windows OS computers, he is an avid learner who always wants to polish and simplify the data recovery process. John passes his free time playing Chess and reading Science Fiction novels.

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