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File/Folder Open in Another Program on Windows: How to Find and Force Delete

by Ravi Teja KNTS
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Sometimes when you delete a file or folder on your Windows PC, it displays an error saying “The action can’t be completed because the folder or a file in it is open in another program”. As the file is in use, Windows tries to block that file from deleting which is good. But unfortunately, it does not show which program is using the file. So you have to figure out the program on your own, stop the program from using that file/folder, and then delete it. Instead of trying to guess the program that’s using the file/folder, here’s how you can find and force delete a file/folder that’s open in another program on Windows 10 and 11.

How to Find the Program That’s Using the File/Folder

There are many ways to solve this error. You can do it from the Windows resource monitor or by using third-party apps like Process Explorer. But there is an easy way and that is to use Microsoft’s own Power Toys app. It is not installed by default, but here’s how you can install it, find the program that’s using the file/folder, end the process of using the file/folder, and finally delete the file/folder on Windows 10 and 11 easily.

1. First, you need to download the PowerToys app from GitHub. You can also download it from the Microsoft Store, but it is usually a few versions behind.

2. On the Github page, scroll down to the Assets section. If your PC has an X64 processor, click on Power Toys Setup X64. If you have an ARM processor, click on Power Toys Setup ARM64 option. Then click on the Save button in the pop-up to save the setup file.

Power Toys Setup file

If you are not sure which processor your PC has, open Settings > System > About. Now on the About page, check for the System Type option. Here you should find your processor type.

System Type on Windows

3. To install, open the downloaded file. Now enable the checkbox beside I agree to the license terms and conditions option. Then click on Install. In the pop-up, click on the Yes button for the installation process to start.

Installing Power Toys Windows

4. The app should be installed. Now open the Power Toys app, and select the File Locksmith option in the sidebar. Then enable the toggle beside Enable File Locksmith.

Enable File Locksmith on Power Toys

5. Now right-click on the file/folder in the File Explorer that you are unable to delete. If you are on Windows 11, then click on Show more options.

Show more options on Windows File Explorer

6. Then in the pop-up menu, select What’s using this file? option. This option is available because of the File Locksmith module you enabled in the Power Toys app.

What's using this file?

7. It opens a File Locksmith window and shows you all the applications that are using the file/folder you have selected.

8. Now just right-click on End task option here. This will not close the application or program that you are using. Instead, it will forcibly remove the file/folder from that program.

End task on File Locksmith

9. Once no application/program is using that specific file, close the window.

10. Now you can Delete that file/folder from the pop-up menu or by using the Delete key on the keyboard.

Deleting the file on File Explorer

File/Folder Isn’t Open in Another Program

Using Power Toys offers some advantages over manually finding the program that’s using the file or folder on Windows and force closing it. First, you can find which programs are using a single or even multiple files within seconds. And second, it does not close the entire application, but simply removes the file from that application. While some other third-party applications like Process Explorer give a lot more control, it’s unnecessary and requires a learning curve to use the tool correctly. Power Toys is more user-friendly.

Like Power Toys? Learn how you can use it to rename multiple files at once on Windows 10 and 11.

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