Tuesday, June 24, 2008

HOW TO: Delete an Undeletable or Locked File

Have you ever run into a situation where you wanted to delete a file, but Windows simply wouldn’t allow you to do it? Personally, these things happen to me all the time, especially when I’m at a client’s house trying to get their machine clean of malware. Have you ever tried deleting a locked file using common windows commands? If so, then you’ll know that this is just not possible.
The main reason behind this is that the explorer.exe process locks files that are in use, effectively preventing you from deleting them. Usually, these files should not be touched, but sometimes, situations arise when you really need to erase some troublesome ones.
Fortunately, there are a few easy solutions to delete those files.
Solution #1: Kill explorer.exe
Open a command prompt
Navigate to the location where the locked file is
Press CTRL-ALT-DEL, click on “task manager”, select the Processes tab
Kill the explorer.exe process via the “End Process” button
Go back to the command prompt and delete the file
Bring up the task manager windows again
Select file->new task
Type explorer.exe in the “create new task” field
Press OK.
Solution #2: Use The Windows Recovery Console
Just stick your Windows CD in your CD tray, boot on it, and at the “Welcome to Setup” screen, press “R“. Once the recovery console has started, navigate to the location of your locked file, and delete it. Since WRC does not really start the system, the files will not be in use, and you will be able to delete them
Solution #3: Use unlocker
Unlocker is a very useful freeware that will allow you to unlock any files that are currently in use by Windows. You’ll know if this is happening if you are getting any of these messages when trying to delete a file:
Cannot delete file: Access is denied
There has been a sharing violation
The source or destination file may be in use
The file is in use by another program or user
Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use
Unlocker will make things right again for you.
You’ll notice that right after installing the software, a new option named “unlocker” will appear when right clicking any files or folders in Windows Explorer. To unlock a locked file, just right click it, select unlocker, and the unlocker software will start. Then, click “unlock all” and close the software. Now that your file is unlocked, just delete it in Windows Explorer, as you always do. This is much simpler than solution #1 or #2, isn’t it?
I hope these three solutions will help you get rid of those hard to delete files. If you’ve got any additional suggestions, the comment section is open for your comments!
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