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How to delete an undeletable folder in Windows XP

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  davidkarp's Photo
Posted Sep 24 2009 10:25 AM

I'm trying to delete a folder, but Windows says it's being used by "another person." Are we talking gremlins here, or has someone broken into my PC to read my manifesto on platypus cloning?

All this means is that there's a running application that either has a file open in that folder or has placed a lock on the folder because the last file it saved was stored there. (The latter can happen even if the folder is empty.) Just close the application in question (or close all open windows if you're not sure which one it is), and try deleting the folder again.

You'll get a similar error if the folder contains a program file (i.e., an .exe or .dll file) belonging to an application that's currently running. As you'd expect, closing the application should make it possible to delete the file, and thus the folder. The tricky part is when the file is a component of a background process (so there's no visible window to close), part of a stealthy spyware process, or part of a program that has crashed. If you suspect the problem is connected to a hidden process, restart Windows and then delete the folder. If you suspect spyware, scour your system with up-to-date antispyware software, such as Spybot - Search & Destroy (free, http://www.safer-net...load/index.html) or Ad-Aware SE Personal (free, http://www.lavasoft....?myrehovot.info).

If you still can't delete the folder, try Safe Mode. Restart your computer, and just after the system beep but before the Windows startup logo appears, press the F8 key to display the Windows Advanced Options Menu. Use the arrow keys to highlight Safe Mode, and then press Enter. Windows will then load in a hobbled state, loading only essential programs and drivers. At this point you should be able to delete the folder with no problem. Restart your PC when you're done, and Windows will load normally.

If this doesn't work you can use the "Delete in-use files" tool, part of Creative Element Power Tools (http://www.creativel...com/powertools/). If there's a file you can't get rid of, just right-click it, select Delete In-Use File, and then restart your PC. The next time Windows loads, all files queued for deletion will be removed before any programs that use them load.

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 : Apr 19 2010 08:54 AM
It's not always necessary to shut down the offending program. In many cases, if you open another file in another folder, then save it, the lock on the "undeletable" folder will be removed.