Resolving the “File is open in another program” Windows Issue

Why can’t I delete or move a file or folder? What program is stopping me from deleting or moving a file or folder?

Folder in use dialog box

Windows message for file or folder that can’t be deleted

Solve the issue with the Microsoft Process Explorer

To help you resolve the ‘File is open in another program’ you can use The Process Explorer from Microsoft, amongst other things, will list the processes that are currently accessing the file or folder. You can download the Microsoft Process Explorer from here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653.aspx

When you launch the Process Explorer pick Find from the menu.

Microsoft Process Explorer

Microsoft Process Explorer

Enter the file or folder name you are trying to move or delete and pick the Search button. The applications that are accessing the file will be listed in the Search Window.

Search Results

Applications that are accessing the file or folder you are trying to delete

You will then know which program/application to close; or if there is a process that is currently using the file – which you can close in the normal way using the Windows Task Manager (Right-click on the Windows Taskbar and select Start Task Manager).

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Comments

  1. says

    Way to go Joe!

    I’ve always relied on the “Computer Management, Shared Folders, Open Files” tool, but found too often it wouldn’t find everything.

  2. Matthew says

    I’ve noticed there’s a delay on my machine — Windows 7 64bit — sometimes if I wait a few minutes I can edit the folder or delete it.

    I think what it should do instead is visually indicate the file or folder is in use before you try to edit or move it. (The folder icon could be reddish instead of yellow, or it could pop up with a message before you try to make the edit). But I didn’t have this program on older versions of Windows, I think, or not as often.

    Also the pop-up message could bother to tell you what programs are using it instead of being unhelpful.

  3. Matthew says

    Or!! It could put it on a backburner, so that AFTER the program that’s using it is closed it deletes it. I don’t know if Windows can do that, but it seems like a simple thing to implement. The it could remind you that a folder you requested to be deleted has now been moved to the trash can.

  4. says

    Hi Matthew,

    In some case Windows will tell what program is holding a file (at least in Windows 7), but the behavior is not consistent. I found another little utility call Unlocker which also can help unlock files.

  5. says

    Okay, I’m a newbie and got the PE dl’d and am trying to keep my head above water here. I found the files/folder that I’ve been trying to delete that only showed up on the dvd drive of files to be be written and need to know what to do now?
    Any assistance is welcome,
    D

  6. Joe Medeiros says

    I’m sorry D, I’m not sure if I understand your question, can you give me a bit more info?

  7. Mike says

    If you have the preview pane open in explorer close it and choose a different option from the view menu such as “list” etc. If you have file previews on its the same as executing the file so you will not be able to delete the file.

  8. stevenkor says

    Try “Long Path Tool” can simplify and can end your problems in unlocking,
    managing and renaming files that appear to have a long filename.

  9. garrydam says

    I also downloaded and use “Long Path Tool” guarantees to fix your error fast and easy. Try it.

  10. Scot says

    Mike’s solution (7/10/13) worked for me. Without accessing any special program to see what “other” program was using the file, and with no other programs open, it appears Windows 7 itself is the culprit! (At least in my case.) Hide the preview pane first and see if that allows you to do what you want to do.

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