How to Delete Locked Files

Cannot delete icons: file already in use by another user or program. Close the program that is using the file, then try again. Raise your hand if you've never been faced with such a mistake! I would have bet, it has happened to you too many times, but luckily there is an explanation - and luckily also a solution - to all this.

When you open any file or document with a program, for obvious reasons it is not possible to delete it (as it is in use by a process running on your computer). There are cases in which, however, even after closing the program that holds the file "hostage" and restarting the PC, you still cannot delete that element, because it is still used by a notorious "invisible" program.

If you do not want to resort to unorthodox methods, you can solve the problem by using small free applications that, once started and "put in communication" with the files to be deleted, close the processes that keep them blocked and therefore allow their deletion . Do not you believe it? Then try them now! Take five minutes of free time, download one of the programs I'm about to recommend and find out how to delete locked files following the directions you find below. You will be amazed by the results you'll get!

Delete Locked Files on Windows

The problem of "undeletable" files can be seen above all on PCs equipped with the operating system Windows: let's start with the latter and discover some programs that can fix the situation at no cost.


LockHunter is one of the best programs for delete locked files on Windows. It is completely free and integrates into the context menu of the File Explorer, which allows you to clear blocked items in a few clicks. To download it to your computer, connect to its official website and click on the item Download LockHunter now! check if you trova in bottom the page.

A download completo, apri il file lockhuntersetup_xx.exe that you just downloaded on your PC and, in the window that opens, click on the button first Yes and then Next for two consecutive times e Finish but I will complete the setup.

Now you just have to find the file to delete, select it with a right click and choose the item What is locking this file? from the menu that appears. In the window that opens, click the button Yes.

At this point, in the main window of Lock Hunter you will find detailed information on the processes that lock the file you have selected: to unlock it (and thus delete it), press the button Unlock It! at the bottom and confirm by clicking on Yes e ** Delete It! **.

In the unfortunate event that the deletion of the file is not successful, you can order its deletion at the next restart of the computer. Then press the button Other located at the bottom and select the item Delete At Next System Restart from the menu that opens. The file will be deleted automatically when the PC is restarted.

Malwarebytes FileASSASSIN

Another software that allows you to delete locked files on Windows and that I highly recommend you try is FileASSASSIN, a free program created by Malwarebytes, the very famous manufacturer of the homonymous antimalware for Windows and macOS. 

To download Malwarebytes FileASSASSIN on your PC, connected to the official website of the program and click on the button Download located in the center of the page. Then open the file fileassassin-setup-xx.exe that you have downloaded to your computer and, in the window that opens, click on the button first Yes and then Next. Then put the check mark next to the item I accept the terms in the License Agreement and finish the setup by first clicking on Next and then install e Finish.

Now all you have to do is start FILEASSASSIN, click on the button [...] and select the file you want to delete. Then put the check mark next to the item Delete and all other options placed under the heading Attempt FileASSASSIN’s method of file processing e pulsing sul pulsating Run to start deleting the file.

If FILEASSASSIN fails to delete the file you have selected, try activating file deletion upon system reboot. Then put the check mark next to the item Use delete on Windows reboot functions, pigia sul pulsating Run and accept the system reboot.

When you log on to Windows again, the file you "handed" into FILEASSASSIN's hands should be deleted (or erasable, using the standard Windows function).

IObit Unlocker

If LockHunter and FILEASSASSIN were not able to delete the files of your interest (hypothesis, in any case, very unlikely), you can contact IObit Unlocker: a free program that offers the same functionality as the software mentioned above. It is compatible with all major versions of Windows and is extremely easy to use. To download it to your PC, connect to the MajorGeeks site and click on one of the items [email protected] which are located in the center of the page. 

When the download is complete, start the file  unlocker-setup.exe e, nella finestra che si apre, fai clic prima sul pulsado Yes and then forward. Then accept the conditions of use of the program by clicking on the button Accept, and finish the setup by pressing on first forward twice in a row and then on end.

At this point, start IObit Unlocker and translate the program interface into Italian by selecting the option Italian from the menu Language (top right). After this step, drag the files and / or folders to be unlocked into the program window, click on the arrow ▼ located next to the button Unlock e seleziona l'opzione Unlock & Delete from the menu that appears. Reply OK the warning that appears on the screen and the game should be done.

In case of problems, that is, if IObit Unlocker fails to delete the items you have imported into it, try to repeat the operation by putting the check mark next to the item Forced mode and the program will try to force the shutdown of all processes that hold the files hostage.

If, on the other hand, you want to do this first, you can start IObit Unlocker from the Windows context menu. To do this, select the files to delete, right-click on one of them and select the item IObit Unlocker from the menu that opens. This will open the IObit Unlocker main window and you can proceed as described above.

Delete Locked Files on Mac

As mentioned above, the problem of locked files mostly affects Windows, but it can also happen on MacOS. If you use a Mac and find yourself dealing with documents that do not want to know how to unsubscribe, try one of the solutions listed below.

  • Close running applications. If you don't know how to do it, select the applications currently in use one by one and close them by pressing the combination cmd + q on your Mac keyboard. Alternatively, open Activity monitoring from the folder Other of the Launchpad, look for the processes of the applications that you think can hold in "hostage" the files that you cannot delete and terminals by clicking first on their name and then on the button (X) placed top left and up Logout.
  • Restart Finder - to perform this operation, do option + click the smiling face icon on the Dock bar and select the item Reopen give the menu to compare.
  • Force deletion of files from the Terminal - if the solutions I suggested above did not give the desired effect, open the terminal from the folder Other Launchpad and issue the following command: sudo rm -rf [path to the file to remove]. Then type the password of your user account on macOS and press Submit. I recommend: before using this command, make sure you have typed the exact path of the file to be deleted (you can get the exact path of the file by dragging it into the Terminal). If you type the path incomplete or without the file name at the end, you risk deleting the entire contents of the folder!