How to Force Delete Files that Cannot be Deleted in Windows

Written By Kumar Raj
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh  
Published On July 9th, 2024
Reading Time 8 Minutes Reading

Summary: Stuck at removing the undeletable files? Worry not! We have prepared this write-up to answer your query on how to delete files that cannot be deleted in Windows 10 & 11.

File management has become a crucial skill for this generation of Windows users. While surfing the files, we may come across some files that won’t get deleted even through conventional means. This issue exists because of file locks, incomplete system processes, or corrupted data. In this concern, as the storage grows, knowing the ways to force delete these problematic files becomes essential. Addressing this problem, not only solves immediate issues but also empowers users to maintain a cleaner file operating system with a more efficient Windows environment. Here, we cover the methods from using Command Prompt to third-party tools.

Table of Contents Hide

What are the Reasons to Delete Undeletable Files?

Deleting the files that won’t get deleted is a critical task in modern computing becomes essential in terms of security, privacy, and operational reasons. Further, these files pose risks such as harboring malware, occupying unnecessary storage, and more or less hindering the system’s performance. With this much information, let’s get into the question of “why” to delete the files that couldn’t be removed:

  • Some malware (malicious software) creates undeletable files on your system disguising their identity and compromising your data. As a result, it is essential to eliminate such threats.
  • On the other hand, large or bulky unerasable files occupy valuable storage of your device, hindering your system performance.
  • In general, some of these files could conflict with the system operations or software installations.
  • Corrupted files are often not removed using normal means. Also, results in causing system instability.
  • Files opened in some other windows couldn’t be deletable at times.
  • Moreover, incorrect permissions provided to files could appear as undeletable.

Now, we will delve into the methods to delete files on PC that won’t delete. Every method has its pros and cons so choose wisely.

Ways on How to Delete Files that Cannot be Deleted

In the given techniques, you will be educated about the common issue of deleting files that resist removal. This problem has existed since the early days of computing, where it frustrates users and sometimes leads to compromising system performance and security. With this much being informed, let’s dive into the main context:

#1: Close Applications and Processes to Delete Files that Won’t Delete

Mostly the files are not deleted because they may be opened or currently active in some other tab or application or process. So, ensure that all relevant programs are closed before doing the delete operation. To do this, follow the steps:

  • Close the File/Application – Ensure the file isn’t open or being used by any application.
  • Task Manager:
    • Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager.

open task manager

  • Find and end any process that might be using the file. Look for the application name or the file name in the list of running processes.

Limitations of this Approach:

  • Forcing applications to close via Task Manager can result in unsaved data loss.
  • If the application or process frequently uses the file, you may encounter the same issue repeatedly.

#2: Use the Command Prompt to Force Delete the Undeletable Files

Command prompt is an inbuilt utility in Windows that lets you perform advanced administrative operations such as deleting stubborn files and more. It is an efficient way to troubleshoot and maintain the system performance. Let’s find out the relevant steps:

1. Open Command Prompt as Administrator

    • Enter cmd in the left corner of Windows’s search bar denoted as “Type here to search” for Windows 10 and “search” for Windows 11. Then, open the CMD with administrative privileges i.e. by right-clicking on it and selecting the “Run as Administrator” option.

open cmd with adminitrator rights

2. Use the Del Command:

    • Use the cd command for navigating to the folder or directory where you want to perform the task. E.g., cd C:\Users\YourUsername\Downloads. Replace YourUsername with the system admin name.
    • Type del filename. Don’t forget to replace “filename” with the actual file name and press Enter.

use cd command and type del


  • Intimidating and complex for non-technical users.

#3: Safe Mode to Delete Files that cannot be Deleted

Safe Mode is a diagnostic mode where it is used to start windows with a minimum of resources. It has a specific purpose that includes the deletion of files that are generally not removed using the normal mode. With this much information, let’s go through the steps:

  • Restart in Safe Mode
    • Press Windows key + R → type msconfig → press Enter.

type msconfig

    • Under the Boot tab → search for “Safe boot” and click on OK. This will restart your computer.

go to safe boot

  • Delete the File – Next, go to the file location and try to remove the file in Safe Mode.


  • Requires a system restart, causing inconvenience.
  • Needs the knowledge to navigate in Safe Mode.

#4: Specialized Utility for Better Precision in Deleting Unwanted Files

To have enhanced functionality and a user-friendly interface for managing all types of files, you can this expert software i.e. SysTools Data Erasure Software. This application not only delete the files that cannot be deleted but also makes sure that they cannot be reinstated. It uses sophisticated data sanitization methods to completely remove the data beyond recovery.

Making it an ideal choice for erasing malware or corrupted files. Steps to perform:

Features of this Reliable Deletion Tool:

  • Eliminates any leftover data remnants (data remanence) or traces of classified information.
  • Uses Quick selection (File & Folder) to eliminate data recovery traces.
  • Erases caches, logs, temp files, recent files, and other traces.
  • Generates data destruction reports post-audit.
  • Ensures data sanitization for disposal or repurposing.
  • Complies with 20+ global standards like ISO/IEC 27001, HIPAA, NIST 800-88, GDPR, US DoD, and more.
  • Wipes data from HDD, SSD, SATA, PATA, NVMe, Laptop before selling, etc.
  • Overwrites data with methods like US DoD (3 Passes), Russian GOST-R-50739-95 (2 Passes), British HMG IS5 (3 Passes), Peter Gutmann (35 Passes), etc.
  • Deletes a 1GB file in 40 seconds using Peter Gutmann’s algorithm.

#5: Change File Permissions to Delete Files That Won’t Delete

File permissions allow the user to read, write, or execute a file. Sometimes, this permission issue can be a reason to prevent file deletion. Let’s find out more on this:

  • Right-click the File:
    • Select Properties.

right click and go to properties

      • After that, go to the Security tab → click on Advanced.

in security tab, click on advanced

  • Change Ownership:
    • Click on Change next to the owner.

tap on change

    • Enter your username and click Check Names, then OK.

click on check names

  • Grant Full Control:
    • Go back to the Security tab.
    • Click Edit, select your username, and check Full Control.


  • Understanding permissions can be difficult.
  • Doesn’t address non-permission-related issues.

#6: Check Disk for Errors to Delete Files that Cannot be Deleted

Sometimes errors in the disk could cause various issues such as the inability to delete files. So, make sure to check the Disk to identify and fix these errors for a modified system’s integrity and performance. Let’s find out how to do it:

  1. Run Check Disk:
    • Open Command Prompt as administrator.
    • Type chkdsk /f and press Enter.

type the code

    • At the end, adhere to the prompts for scheduling a full scan on the next restart.


  • Can take hours to complete on large drives.
  • Only resolves issues caused by disk errors.

#7: Use Disk Cleanup to Erase Files that Won’t Delete

Disk Cleanup is a built-in application in your system to free up space on hard drive by deleting unnecessary files. This comes in handy or serves as a better option for maintaining system performance and efficiency. Let’s get into the associated steps:

  • Open Disk Cleanup:
    • To launch this utility, click on the Start button or press the Windows key present on your keyboard. After that, type “Disk Cleanup” and hit the Enter tab.

open disk cleanup

  • Select the Drive:
    • Choose a specific drive from which you want the files to be erased. For example: Select C: and click OK.

drive selection for disk cleanup

  • Check Files to Delete:
    • Next, the Disk Cleanup will figure out the amount of space you are going to free. This could take some minutes. Once it is completed, you get a set of file types that can be removed.

select the Clean up system files option

    • Here, you will be shown the boxes such as “Temporary Internet Files,” “Recycle Bin,” “Temporary Files,” “Download Program Files,” etc. If you’re not sure about the choice, then go to the description of the respective type.
  • Delete Files:
    • After selecting the desired files, click on the OK button. Henceforth, in the next dialog box i.e. confirmation window, tap on “Delete Files” to proceed with deletion.

Connected Cons:

  • Mainly targets temporary/system files.
  • Can be confusing for inexperienced users.

Final Verdict

In this discussion, first, we have focussed on the reasons to delete files that cannot be deleted in Windows 10 & 11. After that, we came across several solutions to erase files that won’t get eliminated easily. In terms of better data privacy and security, these easy-to-find methods are not reliable as they leave the scope of data retrieval to a considerable extent. Because of these shortcomings, you can rely on the aforementioned tool to entirely erase files that could be malicious or corrupted.


By Kumar Raj

Kumar Raj has more than 14 plus years of expertise in migration technology. He likes to create, edit, and optimize web material on topics conversion of email data, and migration of email data. For the majority of the past ten years, he has been a devoted fan of the technology scene.