Unable to delete file: being used by another person or program

Updated: 12/31/2020 by Computer Hope
Finger pressing the Delete key on a keyboard.

This error message occurs when the folder or files in the folder are currently used by Windows or another program running. To successfully delete this file, try following the steps.


Try waiting a few moments and then deleting the file again. Although it isn't typical, sometimes a program may encounter an issue, which makes it slower to close. In this instance, the program may still be using the file you're attempting to delete, which generates this error message.

Using Windows Resource Monitor

  1. Press the Windows key on your keyboard, type resmon.exe and press Enter.
  2. In the window, click the CPU (central processing unit) tab.
  3. In the third bar from the top, see the label Associated Handles.
  4. Type the name of the file you're trying to close in the Search Handles bar, and click the magnifying glass icon.
  5. Locate the program using your file.
  6. Right-click the program using the file in question and select End Process.

If you cannot find the file with the steps above, try the delete option in the next section.

Delete file in Safe Mode

It may be possible to delete the file or folder through Windows Safe Mode. In Safe Mode, many Windows programs are not running, making it easier to delete files and folders.

  1. Access Windows Safe Mode.
  2. Find the file or folder you want to delete and attempt to delete it.

I'm still unable to delete the file

If you're still unable to delete the desired file or folder, that file or folder may be read-only. As read-only, the file or folder is essentially write-protected, meaning it cannot be edited or deleted.

To remove the file's read-only status, you can try the following steps.

  1. Using your mouse, right-click the file or folder.
  2. In the menu that opens, select Properties.
  3. On the General tab, find the Read-only option. If the option is checked, uncheck it, and click OK.

If the Read-only option isn't checked, or the option is checked but cannot be unchecked, it's likely you're not the owner of the file or folder. If another person is the owner, that person must delete the file or folder, or they grant you permission.