How To Find What Program Has Locked A File When Attempting to Delete Copy Or Move



How many times have you seen these Windows error messages when trying to delete, copy or move a file?

"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"

"Error Deleting File or Folder"

For many, probably when your least expected it or in a rush. Sometimes the fix is as easy as closing a program or Windows Explorer, while other times it's not as simple.

In all cases, the error is caused by the file handle being held open by program, process or another user. The challenge is finding what has it open, and the freeware utility Unlocker makes it easy to identify.





Unlocker (written by Cedrick Collomb) is an Windows Explorer extension that allows you to right click on a file and quickly unlock, when any of the above error messages appear while deleting, copy or moving a file. It can also unlock folders, DLL's, and delete the index.dat file without the need to reboot your Computer.

To install, download Unlocker and double click on the executable. Unlocker runs on Windows 2000 / XP / 2003 / Vista  (not supported on Windows XP 64 or Vista 64).

1 – Select a Language and click OK

2 – Click Next at the Welcome screen

3 – Accept or select the Install Location and click Next

4 – Choose which Components you want to install. IMPORTANT:

– eBay shortcuts component is a promotional feature and should be uncheck if you do not want it installed.
– Assistant component will reside in the System Tray and automatically launches Unlocker when it detects a file is locked during copy/move/delete (this eliminates the need to right click).

5 – Click Finish to exit

To use Unlocker with the right click functionality, when a file or folder is locked and you try to delete, copy, or move, you will see an error message. In my case, when trying to delete an MS Word document, the following error message appeared.


Just right click on the file and select Unlocker


…which will open Unlocker


Here, I selected Delete from the pull down menu (arrow) and clicked on Unlock All button. The file is now deleted.

Even though I could have just closed MS Word and deleted the file, Unlocker can be very useful when it's not obvious as to what program has a lock on a file or folder.

If you installed the Assistant, after you click OK on the error message, Unlocker will open automatically allowing you select an action.

For those who like to use Windows command prompt often, Unlocker can also be run from the command prompt. Just type Unlocker -H for command line options.


Unlocker is definitely a handy utility to have around and easy to use during those unexpectant times when one of those annoying error messages appear.

For more info check out Unlocker FAQ (

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Dylan Austin


Whenever I have a problem, I sing. Then I realize my voice is worse than my problem.

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