How to Rename or Delete Locked Files in Windows (When the File is in Use by an App)

The Windows OS wouldn’t allow the changes to the file details if at all it is being used by some application in the background. For example, while you are watching a video file in a media player, you wish to change the name of the file or wish to delete it entirely, that won’t be possible unless you are shutting down the application and then doing it.

File in use - Action Cannot be completed

Some times, the file gets locked due to a running known program, or by a background process which didn’t close well, and thus the lock status remained as it is. If at all you are in a situation where you didn’t want to close the app (it’s not just the movie but any type of application or file), and still wanted to make a few changes like renaming the file, moving the file to any other folder or even deleting it, there is a utility that would assist you with that.

We are talking of the utility called Unlocker, which would assist not just with these functions like renaming or modifying a file that is already running somewhere else, but there is a lot more possible with it. Here’s where the Unlocker would be helpful, a list of situations where the file acts stubborn and you are left with no option but to use this tool (or some alternatives such as Process Explorer):

  • The file is in use by another program or user
  • Cannot delete file: Access is denied
  • The source or destination file may be in use
  • There has been a sharing violation
  • Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use

These above situations arise with the file when you are trying to change the name, or delete or try to move it from the current location.

Renaming, Deleting or Moving a Running / Locked File – Workaround

The workaround here is with the Unlocker tool, which can be downloaded from the link given below. Install the executable file just like any software is installed in the Windows OS.

Unlocker Software Install

After the installation, go to “Start” menu, select “Start Unlocker” or right click on it, and select “Run as administrator”. Both would work almost the same and it would take you to the Windows file system where you have to select the particular folder where the files are to be unlocked.

Unlocker Run as Administrator Start Unlocker

Select the particular folder under which the file is present, and click on “OK”.

Browse Folder Unlocker

Once the folder is selected, Unlocker tool would list all the processes that are currently running, and that is shown at the deep level, and you would easily know which program was currently running the file in the background, if you didn’t know that. Select the particular file which has to be unlocked, and click on “Unlock”. Alternatively you can select “Unlock All” if it was multiple files you wanted to make changes to.

Unlocker Folder Search

Once done, you would be able to make changes to the file and the annoying warnings would not bother you at all.

Note: While you are unlocking the file and making changes to it, and the file is being run under your knowledge, don’t expect the file to function correctly unless you once close the app running it, and re-open it. The file would run continuously (for example, the movie you are watching) until you close it, and that’s the advantage here with the tool.

Final Workaround if above steps don’t work

1. Restarting the Windows computer solves hundreds of such problems, because a restart would shut down all the running processes and restarts them only if you command that to happen. Thus, if the above steps don’t work out for you, try to restart the computer once and if you see one of the above warnings again, try to use Unlocker after the restart.

2. Deleting the file is another option, after you copy and keep a backup of it. That would not be possible directly, so you would need to restart the PC in Safe Mode and then delete that particular file. The copied backup would function just as a new file.

Download Unlocker for Windows: Click here.
> This file is a universal installer for both the 32-bit and 64-bit computers.
> This is the Unlocker 1.9.2 version, and any version from 1.9.0 would work on the 64-bit versions of the PC, thus make sure you are installing the latest one if you are using a 64-bit OS version.

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