Deleting files and folders as you use your PC is such a normal function that you rarely give it another thought. Windows usually does all the work whenever you decide to press the Delete button for any file or folder.
However, sometimes you’ll find that you cannot delete a particular file or folder the usual way. Usually, you’ll get a “File in Use” message whenever you’re unable to delete it. Fortunately, there are multiple ways you can force delete a file when Windows isn’t letting you do so.
Though before you jump in to delete the file, let’s have a look at the potential reasons why Windows is not letting you delete a file.
Potential Reasons Stopping you to Delete a File
Mentioned below are a few reasons that could be stopping you from being able to delete the file.
- File or folder corruption
- File/ folder currently in use by other processes and/ or app(s).
- File/ folder is read-only.
- Corrupted Disk.
- The file/ folder you wish to delete is a system folder.
- Recycle Bin is completely full.
While most of these reasons are rare and it’s generally a case of file/ folder being already in use, it can still happen. Force Delete overrides any such conflicting processes that are preventing you from deleting the file.
Now, that you are familiar with the potential reasons for the issue, move on to how you can force delete files/ folders on your device.
Method 1: Use the ‘Shift’ key Shortcut
In case you are not able to delete the file because the Recycle Bin on your computer is full. You can simply use the Shift key when deleting the file/folder to skip the Recycle bin.
To delete a file/ folder this way, click it to select it. Then, click the Shift+Delete combination on your keyboard to delete the file/ folder. This will bring a prompt to your screen.
After that, click on the ‘Yes’ button from the prompt.
Method 2: Use Terminal to Delete the File/ Folder
In case the Shift shortcut did not work for you, you can also execute a simple command in the Command Prompt and delete the file/ folder.
Before you head to Command Prompt, go to the file/ folder that you wish to delete using File Explorer. Then, right-click on it and select the ‘Properties’ option.
Then, select the file path by selecting the directory following the ‘Location’ option and then press the Ctrl+C keys together to copy it. Keep the file path handy as it will be needed in further steps.
Next, head to the Start Menu and type Terminal to perform a search. After that, right-click on the ‘Terminal’ tile and select the ‘Run as administrator’ option.
A UAC (User Account Control) window will appear on your screen. If you are not logged in with an admin account, enter the credentials for one. Otherwise, click on the ‘Yes’ button to confirm.
After that, from the Terminal window, click on the chevron (downward arrow) and then select the ‘Command Prompt’ option.
After that, to force delete a file, type or copy+paste the below-mentioned command and hit Enter on your keyboard to execute it.
Note: Make sure you replace the ‘<filepath>’ placeholder with the file path you copied earlier in the section and the ‘<filename.extension>’ placeholder with the actual file name and extension.
To force delete a folder, type or copy+paste the below-mentioned command and hit Enter to execute it.
Note: Make sure you replace ‘<filepath>’ with the file path you copied earlier in the section and the ‘<filename.extension>’ placeholder with the actual file name and extension.
RD /S /Q "<file path>\ <filename.extension>"
Method 3: Boot your PC in Safe Mode
Safe Mode on Windows allows you to only load essential Windows services and system apps. In case another app or service is interfering when you are trying to delete a file or folder, this method will help you resolve this issue.
First, head to the Start Menu and click on the ‘Settings’ tile to proceed. Alternatively, press the Windows+I keys together on your keyboard to open the app.
After that, ensure that you have selected the ‘System’ tab from the left sidebar.
Then, click on the ‘Recovery’ tile from the right section of the window to proceed.
After that, click on the ‘Restart now’ button present on the ‘Advanced startup’ tile. This will bring a prompt to your screen.
Now, click on the ‘Restart now’ button to restart your PC immediately in the Recovery environment.
Next, click on the ‘Troubleshoot’ tile.
After that, click on the ‘Advanced options’ tile to proceed.
After that, click on the ‘Startup Settings’ tile to continue.
Then, click on the ‘Restart’ button to again restart your system.
After the restart, you will be required to choose an option. Press the key Fn key F4 to use your PC in Safe Mode. In case you wish to use the network capabilities, press the F5 key to boot into Safe Mode with networking.
Once the PC boots in safe mode, delete the file or folder that was creating the ruckus. It should delete fairly quickly now. Then, restart your PC and it’ll exit safe mode and boot normally.
There you go, people. Using the above-mentioned methods, you can easily force delete any file/ folder on your Windows 11 PC.