How To Delete Files That Won’t Delete

Sometimes you may come across a file that simply won’t delete, no matter how many times you press the Delete key or drag it to the Trash. This can be for a number of reasons, but the result is the same: it’s extremely annoying. So here are five different methods that will allow you to finally get rid of these troublesome files.

Just keep in mind that Windows system files are usually protected against deletion, as this can cause problems with the operating system, so make sure you don’t attempt to remove them. Of course, it’s always wise to run a full backup in case something goes wrong, so here’s how to back up Windows 10 before you start.

Method 1. Close the app

Usually, the problem of files that cannot be deleted can be caused by the application that is currently using the file. You may not know that the software in question is doing this, but the simplest way to fix the problem is to close all open applications on your PC.

Once everything is off, try deleting the file and hopefully you’ll find that the file should now be gone with no further problems.

Method 2. Close Windows Explorer

While closing all your apps can usually do the trick, it’s also possible that what’s preventing file deletion is Windows Explorer – also known as File Explorer.

To close it, you’ll need to open Task Manager (right click on the taskbar, then select it from the pop-up menu) and scroll down until you find Windows Explorer. Right click on it and then select End of mission from the menu.

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how to delete files that won't delete

Method 3. Restart Windows

Another thing to try before tackling the more advanced methods is to restart your PC. It’s hardly scientific, but sometimes apps or even Windows itself can get into a weird state that affects the way things work. In many cases, a quick reboot can resolve these issues.

Method 4. Using Safe Mode

If none of the above methods bring you any joy, then the next option is to use Safe Mode in Windows. This only uploads the operating system itself and minimal files and drivers. So if the file you’re trying to delete is somehow locked, Safe Mode can make it available again.

Follow How to Start Windows 10 in Safe Mode for more details, or if you are using Windows 7 then just restart the machine and keep pressing F8 as it reboots.

Now navigate to the file and try deleting it. If everything goes well then it should accept its expulsion without complaint.

Method 5. Use software removal application

If the file is still adamantly undeletable, it may be time to invest in a third-party app that specializes in this area. Some of the options are File Assassin, Long Path Tool, and Microsoft’s own Process Explorer.

The latter is free and is generally considered a great tool for unlocking files to delete them. Download Process Explorer then install it on your PC.

Launch the application and you will see a window that looks a lot like the standard Windows Explorer. Go to File in the upper left corner, then select Show details for all processes.

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how to delete files that won't delete

You can now scroll through the list until you find the file, but a faster way is to click Find in the menu bar at the top of the window, then select Find Handle or DLL.

how to delete files that won't delete

Type the name of the file in the search bar, click Search and if the filename appears, click on it and you will see the details opened in another Process Explorer window.

how to delete files that won't delete

Now, right click on the file list in the Process Explorer window and you will see two choices: Close handle and Characteristic.

how to delete files that won't delete

Option Close handle and the file will be unlocked from the app using it. You may need to repeat this last step if multiple applications are holding files.

Once done, you should now be able to delete the last file.

If you want to clean up your hard drive even further, see How to remove duplicate files in Windows and How to uninstall programs in Windows 10.

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Posts “How To Delete Files That Won’t Delete” posted by on 2019-08-14 13:27:00. Thank you for reading the article at

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