Delete Locked Files and fix File Is Locked error in Windows

You know how much it irritates when you wish to move a file and you get a message saying the file is locked and you cannot move or delete it. This might happen due to the file really being in use with some application or due to its attributes’ settings. The reason might also be that Windows locked the file as it originated from an unsafe source such as the Internet. This article aims to help you in case you are experiencing problem with locked files and show you how to delete undeletable & locked files.

Problems with Locked Files

Is The File Really Open?

You need to see if the locked file is really open in any application. What happens actually is that when you open a file, Windows locks it for editing. This locking prevents editing the files concurrently from more than one place and more than one application. This also avoids two people seeing two different versions of the same file.

If you do not see any application using the file in question, open the Windows Task Manager (Press CTRL+ALT+DEL or right-click on the taskbar to select Task Manager). Check the processes tab to ascertain if there is any process running that might be related to the file type of locked file. If yes, close the process by right clicking and selecting “End Process”

Note that you need to be sure about the processes you are ending as closing a Windows essential process may cause your system to hang or act unstable.

Manually Change Attributes

Every file under Windows has three active attributes: read-only, hidden and archive. A file marked for archive tells Windows that it is ready for backup. A file marked read-only will not accept any changes to its contents. A hidden file will not show up in Windows Explorer unless you have set up option to show hidden files.

We have to deal with the read-only attribute in this case. It is not that you always cannot delete or move read-only files but if you are getting problems saying “this file is locked…”, remove the read-only attribute and try again. Sometimes, removing the read-only attribute helps in fixing the problem of locked files. To remove the read-only attribute, right-click on the file icon and select Properties. Under General tab, uncheck the box saying Read-Only.

Is the File From Internet?

While you are at the File Properties dialog box, check to see if the file originated from an unsafe source such as the Internet. If yes, you will see a message under the General tab that says the file has been blocked as a security measure. If yes, click on Unblock to fix the problem. Before clicking on Unblock, you should make sure you do not wish to open the file without checking it for virus and other malware. You can run an anti-virus scan on the file to ascertain the same.

Use Third Party Software

There are several third-party programs that help you in unlocking files. Applications such as Free File Unlocker, Tizer UnLocker, Unlocker or UnlockIT helps determine the file handles open in some application so that when prompted you can simply unlock them with one click.

Sometimes, you may have to click the Unlock button more than once to unlock the file completely. This behavior depends on the type of third-party applications you are using. Using third-party applications for locked files should be that last option as forcing unlock may make your computer unstable.

I hope this explains dealing with problem of locked files. If you still face problems, please leave a note along with the operating system version so that we can assist you better.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN