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

Updated: 01/05/2018 by Computer Hope

DeleteThis error message is generated when the folder or files within the folder are locked because they are being used by Windows or another program running in Windows. To successfully delete this file, try following the steps.

Tip: Try waiting a few moments and then deleting the file again. Although it isn't typical, sometimes a program may have been using a file that has had 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 that appears, click the CPU tab.
  3. In the third bar from the top, you should see the label Associated Handles.
  4. Type the name of the file you're trying to close into the Search Handles bar, and then click the magnifying glass icon.
  5. Locate the program that is 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 above steps, 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 are still unable to delete the desired file or folder, it is possible the file or folder is 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 on 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, un-check it, and click OK.

If the Read-only option is not checked, or the option is checked and you are not able to un-check it, it's likely you are not the owner of the file or folder. If another person is the owner, you will need that person to delete the file or folder, or they need to grant you permission to delete it.

Additional information