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Monday, June 12, 2006

Delete locked files in Windows ... Why?

There have been some posts on Digg [1][2] about a new utility developed for Windows that allows users to remove restrictions on locked files. We have all encountered the infamous cannot delete folder/file message and are often forced to reboot to solve the problem. Sometimes rebooting doesn't even solve the problem.

Why does this happen? Windows is notorious for many things, excessively locking files being one of them. What really happens is that while reading meta-data in media files, Windows places a lock on the file to prevent a read error. On top of this, some other programs will also place locks on files and sometimes forget to release them when you are done.

What is the purpose of locking? Well, a file is locked specifically when it is being accessed but because of poor programming locks are sometimes forgotten and not reversed. Such a lock will prevent the user from moving, deleting, or sometimes editing the target file or folder.

While locking has prevented users from deleting or moving files in Windows Explorer, it is still possible to delete them the old fashioned way using the DOS command prompt. And when all else fails, programs have been made to allow for easy removal of unwanted locked files.

One such program, Unlocker, integrates with Windows and allows you to easily view the processes that have locked the file (below).

Click unlock all and all of file locks should be released and you should now be able to delete the file. Take note that Unlocker is not the only software out there to help you unlock files. Many of the programs out there are free and reviews of them are abundant. If you're interested in a review of Unlocker take a look at CNet.com.

My biggest concern with this sort of software is that inexperienced users can cause severe damage to Windows by unlocking and then deleting certain files. File locking is good in many cases because deleting a necessary file can cause a program or operating system to crash and possibly render it unrecoverable. If you are unsure about deleting a file, you are better off not deleting it or reading more about it before deleting it.

Ultimately, Operating Systems and programs implement these restrictions to prevent the users from damaging the computer and more often than not file locks are in place properly. If you are having a problem with a locked file, consult a computer technician or an online forum before deleting it.


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