How to Delete or Move a File That Is “In Use By Another User Or Program”

March 5, 2009

in applications,computer performance,data storage and recovery,Windows

by David Hakala

Have you ever encountered one of these error messages when you tried to delete or move a file on your Windows machine?

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.

It seems a mystery because you are the only person using the machine and you are absolutely sure you don’t have that file or folder open in another program, aren’t you? Well, you are probably not the only user currently active on the machine. Some programs may set up “ghost” user accounts to handle background functions such as Windows Automatic Update. These non-human users run various processes that open files and can prevent you from deleting or moving the files. You need to find out which processes are using the file or folder you want to manipulate.

That’s where a utility such as the free Unlocker comes in handy. Just download and install it. Then, when you get an “access denied” message, right-click on the file and select Unlocker from the context menu. A window listing processes that are locking files will appear.



Simply click “Unlock All” and you’re done. That’s the beauty of Unlocker; it makes this annoyance go away real fast. Of course, you can also explore to find exactly which process is locking the file or folder you want to delete or move. You can decide whether to just unlock the file – make the process “let go of it” – or turn off, “kill,” the offending process entirely. But you don’t have to spend time on all that when you can just unlock everything and get on with your deleting or moving.

Other programs like Process Explorer and Take Control do much more than Unlocker. But if you just want to get access to a file, Unlocker is the simplest way to do so.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at

{ 1 comment }

Azrael 03.09.09 at 3:45 am

I’m using it for since 2006 and it’s brilliant, it saved me in countless occasions. It’s a must-have.

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