How to Delete Windows File or Folder

Method 1

Reboot, then delete.

Method 2

Open a command line window (WindowsKey + R, enter: cmd). Move to the folder in question by means of CD commands like CD \ and CD foldername.

Delete the file or folder by using the DEL command to delete files or the RMDIR (remove directory) command to remove directories (folders).

Method 3

If this, on its own, is still not enough, then leave the command line window on the desktop, open Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), and kill all explorer.exe tasks. Your desktop will go blank, except for the windows already open.

Now try to delete the offending file by means of the DEL command, or folder by means of the RMDIR (remove directory) command, in the command line window, as described above.

After that, in the command line window enter:


to restart your desktop. If you closed the command line window, you can still restart explorer by opening the Task Manager by holding down the Ctrl and Shift keys and briefly pressing the Esc key. In Task Manager select Applications, New Task and enter: explorer

Method 4

If the previous method fails, particularly with multimedia files, log off, then log on again, but do not select the file in Windows Explorer. The safest way is not to open Windows Explorer in the first place.

Then try the previous method again.

Method 5

An even stronger measure would be to reboot, then try the previous methods again. This would work, for example, if a service has the file open.

Method 6

[Thanks to John Barrington:] If you can't delete a problem file, try deleting the folder that contains the problem file. If this doesn't work, try this next item.

If the problem file and its folder, we'll call (A), is within another folder, we'll call (B), try to delete the folder (B) along with any troublesome contents.

Of course, you want to make sure, if you have any other important files or folders within either folder, that they are saved in another location first.

Method 7

Begin like the previous method, but try also

rmdir /s foldername

(replace foldernamewith the name of the folder to be deleted). This command should delete a folder with all its subfolders.

If the folder name contains one or more spaces, enclose it in quotes. Example:

rmdir /s "folder name"

Note that the abbreviated command rd can be used in place of rmdir.

Method 8

If the folder name contains strange characters, use a command line window again, but use the DIR /X command to find the short name (for example: PROGRA~1) and use the short name instead. The short name is DOS compatible and has no more than 8 characters for the main name, a period, then no more than 3 characters for the extension.

Retry the previous methods that use a command line window, but use the short name now.

Note: Sometimes an illegal file name can cause Windows Explorer to use nearly 100% of the CPU time.

Sometimes the abbreviated name can have a number other than one and can have an extension. If the above does not work, proceed as follows.

  1. Open a command line window (Start, Run, type: cmd, press the return/enter key).
  2. Navigate to the folder using "cd .." and "cd pathname", where pathname is the name of the next subfolder you want to go into.
  3. Type dir /x to see the actual real short name of the subdirectory. Critically: This may include an extension, e.g. "ABDCEF~1.XYZ".
  4. Type "rmdir /s", replacing the example name with your actual folder name.

Method 9

Boot into safe mode and try to delete the file or folder there.

Method 10

If you're trying to delete a program file, like one with the extension .exe, the cause could be that the program is currently running. Stop it, then delete the file.

If the program starts automatically, check the article Autorun causes on how to remove the start command. Do it, reboot, then delete the file.

Method 11

If this also doesn't work, there is a way to rename a file or folder during the boot process. For this you need to use the registry editor REGEDIT.EXE. See the Registry warning for a general warning.

Create an entry in

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Session Manager\

named PendingFileRenameOperations of type REG_MULTI_SZ. In pre-XP Windows versions you have to use REGEDT32.EXE to create this value type.

The first line of each pair is the current file or folder path and name with \??\ in front of it.

The second line of each pair is the new file or folder path and name with !\??\ in front of it.

Example for one pair which moves the file mfc42.dll from the temp folder to the system32 folder and overwrites any existing file at the destination:


You can add as many pairs as you like. The move operation is performed directly after the next reboot. You can also give folder paths, so the folder will be renamed. But both paths have to be local.

There is a Windows API call for this, named MoveFileEx, and somebody in Germany has even written a utility named MoveEx for it. You can download it from Use it if you need this function often. A Posix utility from a Windows Resource Kit named mv.exe also does it, just in case you still have the resource kit around.

Method 12

Boot into another operating system to delete the file from there. The other operating system can be, for example, another installation of Windows, BartPE, Knoppix, or any operating system that can read the file system used (NTFS or FAT32).

Method 13

Remove the hard disk from the computer and connect it to another computer. Delete the files or folders there.

Method 14

If you cannot delete a file or folder because it is in use, you can use one of the mostly free utilities, such as Unlocker.

Method 15

If the cause is that the path and file name is too long, first try to rename folders in the path with shorter names.

If that doesn't work, you can use the following method, reported 2007-05-17 by Mark Briody:

Open a command line window and use the subst command to create a virtual drive to the folder containing the long file name, e.g. (all in one line):

subst x: "C:\Documents and Settings\briodym\Favorites\Mark\Gadgets and Hardware\Hardware\Stores\eBuyer"

Then change to the virtual drive x:, and you should be able to delete, rename, and move files and folders.

Finally, to clean up, remove the subst again with:

subst x: /d