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How to Force Delete A File on Windows 11/10/8/7? [Can't Delete File Solutions]

You can learn how to force delete a file if you can't delete file or fail to delete files on Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7. It is most likely because another program is currently trying to use the file or the file is locked. Here are methods that work to fix how to delete files that cannot be deleted.

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Updated by Cedric on Oct 18, 2023
Written by Brithny

Fast fix - you can use Shift + Delete to delete files or folders permanently. If you still can't delete files in Windows 11/10, check the 4 ways in this post on how to force delete a file that cannot be deleted on your Windows 11/10 computer.

Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
1. Using a Third-party Tool Launch BitWiper, right-click the partition you want to erase > click "File Shredder"...See how to force delete a file
3. End Task from Task Manager Go to Start, type Task Manager, and choose "Task Manager" to open it...See how to force delete a file
4. Delete Files/Folders Using CMD Press the Windows key + R and type cmd to open the Command Prompt...See how to force delete a file
4. Use Safe Mode to Delete Files Open "Settings" > Click on "Update & Security" > Click on "Recovery"...See how to force delete a file

Why Can't Delete File/Folder on Windows 11/10/8/7

Sometimes you might encounter a folder that you're unable to delete. If you want to fix this problem, you must know the reason first. Generally, the file is used or locked would be the main reason. Otherwise, a virus must be taken into account.

It's most likely because another program is currently trying to use the file. This can occur even if you don't see any programs running. When a file is open by another app or process, Windows 11/10 puts the file into a locked state, and you can't delete, modify, or move it to another location. Usually, after the file is no longer in use, the application will unlock it automatically, but that's not always the case. Sometimes, a file may not unlock successfully, and even if you try to take any action, you'll see a warning that the operation can't be completed because it's open by another program.

Before you take actions to delete the undeletable files, you can first try these simple tips and delete these files:

  • Close all the programs.
  • Restart your computer.
  • Let the antivirus scan your computer to see if there's a virus on your computer and get rid of it.

If these files still exist, the following methods would do a favor to you.

Method 1. Force Delete File that Cannot Be Deleted Using a Third-party Tool

There are many third-party applications that can help you with this problem and delete locked files. One tool that might help you with this problem is EaseUS BitWiper. It can help to clean up junk files and wipe the whole data. It's fully compatible with Windows 11/10/8/7 etc.

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Windows 11/10/8/7100% Secure

Free download this software and start deleting undeletable files now.

Step 1. Launch EaseUS BitWiper and click "File Shredder".

Select File Shredder

Step 2. Click "Add Files" to select the files you need to shred, or you can drag files, documents, images, music files, etc., into the center area.

Select files to shred

Step 3. Re-select files that you need to shred and click "Shred" to confirm.

Confirm to shred files

Step 4. The program will immediately shred all the selected files. When it finishes, click "Done".

Complete shredding files

It's important to note that unlocking and deleting files on Windows 11/10 may cause system and program issues, depending on the type of files you're trying to unlock. So be careful of what you delete if you're not sure of the consequences.

Method 2. How to Delete Files that Cannot be Deleted from Task Manager

Usually, can't delete file because it is open in system. You could receive the information when you can't delete a file, like this screenshot, files cannot be deleted if the file is open in an application.

force to delete a file - 1

To force Windows 11/10 to delete a file, you can follow the steps below:

Step 1. Go to Start, type Task Manager, and choose "Task Manager" to open it.

Step 2. Find the application that is currently using the file, and select "End task".

Step 3. Then, try to delete the file again on your Windows PC.

force to delete a file -2

Method 3. How to Delete File that Cannot be Deleted with Command Prompt

How to delete a file that won't delete? Using Command Prompt for deletion is sometimes more efficient, and you definitely should give it a try. Here’s what you need to do to delete a certain file or folder with Command Prompt:

Step 1. Press the Windows key + R and type cmd to open the Command Prompt or just search for Command Prompt at the start. Click the "Run as administrator".

open command prompt

Step 2. In the Command Prompt, enter del and location of folder or file you want to delete, and press "Enter" (for example del c:\users\JohnDoe\Desktop\text.txt).

Method 3. Enter Safe Mode to Fix "File Won't Delete"

Usually, when you come across a locked file, you can simply restart your device to unlock it. If it doesn't work, you can boot into Safe Mode to unlock and delete the file. 

Step 1. Open "Settings" > Click on "Update & Security" > Click on "Recovery" > Under "Advanced Startup", click the "Restart now" button.

Step 2. Click on "Troubleshoot" > "Advanced options" > "Startup Settings".

Step 3. Click the "Restart" button.

Step 4. On "Startup Settings," press F4 to enable Safe Mode.

click trouble shoot and choose the following settings

While in Safe Mode, use File Explorer to locate and delete the files that were previously locked, then simply restart your device as you would normally to exit Safe Mode.

Before we delete the undeletable files by wiping the whole partition, you must backup other useful files in advance. Once you start the erasing process, you can't be canceled it until it is finished. Do remember to check the folders again to avoid data loss.

Video Guide - Fix Can't Delete File or Folder on Windows 11

Can't delete file because it is open in system? This tutorial released by Britec09 shows you how to force delete a files and folders using command prompt, powershell and unlock-it. See how to delete a file that is open in system.

  • Use CMD - 1:06
  • Run Powershell - 4:34
  • Unlock software - 5:31

If you think the provided solution works for forcing file deletion on Windows, you can share it with more friends to help them solve the problem!


Bonus Tips - How to Recover Deleted Files or Folders

There are times you mistakenly deleted a needed file on your Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7 computers, we also provide you with additional help. You can recover deleted files with easy-to-use data recovery software. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is my recommendation. It is the best file recovery software that allows you to:

  • Restore data from internal and external hard drives, SSD, USB flash drive, SD card, etc.
  • Retrieve lost videos, photos, Word files, music, and more.
  • Repair corrupt/damaged photos, and repair MP4 files.
  • Download and install EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard on your computer and follow the operations below to recover deleted files.

Step 1. Select the location to scan

Choose the specific device and drive where you have permanently deleted files using Shift delete or emptying recycle bin. Then, click the "Scan" button to find lost files.

select a location and click scan

Step 2. Check the results

The software will automatically start scanning all over the selected drive. When the scan completes, select the "Deleted Files" and "Other Lost Files" folders in the left panel. Then, apply the "Filter" feature or click the "Search files or folders" button to quickly find the deleted files.

scan permanently deleted files

Step 3. Recover deleted files

Select the deleted files and click "Preview". Next, click "Recover" to save them to another secure location or device.

select files and click recover

How to Delete Files that Cannot Be Deleted FAQs

As for how to delete files that cannot be deleted on Windows 11/10, hope the above solutions can help. If you still have problems, read the following questions and answers.

How do you force delete a file that won't delete?

  • To do this, start by opening the Start menu (Windows key), typing run, and hitting Enter. 
  • In the dialogue that appears, type cmd and hit Enter again. 
  • With the command prompt open, enter del /f filename, where filename is the name of the file or files (you can specify multiple files using commas) you want to delete.

How to force delete folder?

To force delete folder: It is recommended trying Shift + Delete to permanently delete a file or folder. Besides this shortcut, Command Prompt, Safe Mode, and third-party file shredder software can give a back.

Can't delete a file is open in the system?

To Overcome the "File in Use" Error:

  • Close the Program. Let's start with the obvious. 
  • Reboot your computer. 
  • End the Application via the Task Manager.
  • Change File Explorer Process Settings. 
  • Disable the File Explorer Preview Pane.
  • Force Delete the File in Use via the Command Prompt.

How do I end a DLL process?

  • Go and find the "Search" button in the "Start" menu. You should search "All files and folders".
  • Then type the name of that DLL file you want to stop running into the search dialogue box. 
  • Locate the DLL file and write down the full file path for the DLL file.

Can I delete Aow_drv?

No. No matter how much you try but you cannot delete aow_drv. It is a log file and you cannot delete this file.


This post provides you with four effective solutions. Most users say that they have solved their problems after they have tried Method 1. And Method 1 is my first choice. If you have some alternate solution to this problem, and you'd like to share it with us, please tell us, our readers would love to read it.

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About the Author

Updated by Cedric

Cedric Grantham is a senior editor and data recovery specialist of EaseUS. He mainly writes articles and how-to tips about data recovery on PC and Mac. He has handled 10,000+ data recovery cases and is good at data recovery of NTFS, FAT (FAT32 and ExFAT) file systems, and RAID structure reorganization.

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Written by Brithny

Brithny is a technology enthusiast, aiming to make readers' tech lives easy and enjoyable. She loves exploring new technologies and writing technical how-to tips. In her spare time, she loves sharing things about her game experience on Facebook or Twitter.

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