How to Delete Undeletable Files in Windows

Many times when trying to remove an unwanted program, especially a piece of adware or spyware, you may run across a file that is undeletable by any normal method. When you try to remove it you'll receive the error message shown below telling you "access denied" and explaining the file may be in use. You may also receive one of the following messages.

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.


So if the file is in use, how do you delete it?

I'll show you several ways of removing these types of files and even some freeware programs that help you remove these pesky undeletable files.

Access Denied - Error deleting file

Windows 95/98/ME

If you are using Windows 95, 98, or Windows ME, the easiest way to remove an undeleteable file is to boot to a DOS prompt and manually delete the file. Before you do this, you'll want to make a note of the location of the file including the entire path to it. Follow the steps below to delete these types of files.
If you already know the path to the file, please skip to Step 7

1. Click on Start, Find, Files and Folders
2. Type the name of the undeletable file in the Named or Search For box
3. Make sure the Look In box shows the correct drive letter
4. Click on Find Now or Search Now and let the computer find the file
5. Once the file is located, right-click on it and choose properties, make a note of the file location. Usually this is something similar to

c:\windows\system32\undel eteablefilesname.exe
6. Close the search box
7. Locate a boot disk for your version of Windows, if you do not have a boot disk, follow the steps on the link below to create an emergency boot disk.

How to Create an Emergency Boot Disk for Windows

8. Shut down and restart your computer with the boot disk in your floppy drive.
9. The computer will boot to a DOS prompt that will look similar to

c:\

10. Type the following command and press Enter to delete the filer, substituting the phrase <path to file> with the actual path and file name you discovered in Step 5 above.

del <path to file>

Example:

del c:\windows\undeleteablefi le.exe
11. Remove the boot disk in the floppy drive and restart your computer
12. The file should now be deleted.

Windows XP

In Windows XP, there are a couple ways to remove an undeleteable file, a manual way, and a couple automated ways using some freeware programs. First, I'll show you the manual way.

Manual Method

If you already know the path to the file, please skip to Step 7

1. Click on Start, Search, All Files and Folders
2. Type the name of the undeletable file in the box shown
3. Make sure the Look In box shows the correct drive letter
4. Click Search and let the computer find the file
5. Once the file is located, right-click on it and choose properties, make a note of the file location. Usually this is something similar to

c:\windows\system32\undel eteablefilesname.exe

6. Close the search box
7. Click on Start, Run, and type CMD and Press Enter to open a Command Prompt window
8. Leave the Command Prompt window open, but proceed to close all other open programs
9. Click on Start, Run and type TASKMGR.EXE and press Enter to start Task Manager
10. Click on the Processes tab, click on the process named Explorer.exe and click on End Process.
11. Minimize Task Manager but leave it open
12. Go back to the Command Prompt window and change to the directory where the file is located. To do this, use the CD command. You can follow the example below.

Example: to change to the Windows\System32 directory you would enter the following command and Press Enter

cd \windows\system32

13. Now use the DEL command to delete the offending file. Type DEL <filename> where <filename> is the file you wish to delete.

Example: del undeletable.exe
14. Use ALT-TAB to go back to Task Manager
15. In Task Manager, click File, New Task and enter EXPLORER.EXE to restart the Windows shell.
16. Close Task Manager

Programs to automatically delete a file

Remove on Reboot Shell Extension
This is a nice extension that loads into the right click menu. All you have to do is right-click on a file and choose "Remove on Next Reboot" and the file will be deleted the next time the computer restarts. Although it probably should only be used by more advanced computer users since it may be TOO easy to delete files using this program.

Pocket Killbox
A simple .exe file that you can use to delete undeleteable files, although the program will also delete temporary files, edit the HOSTS file, and more. A definite must have program when you are fighting an annoying spyware or adware program that won't remove.

Unlocker
Unlocker is another program that runs from the right click menu. Its simple and very effective. The website even has a side by side comparision of other programs that accomplish this task.