FIX: Cannot delete files, folders or icons in Windows 10/11

by Ivan Jenic
Ivan Jenic
Ivan Jenic
Troubleshooting Expert
Passionate about all elements related to Windows and combined with his innate curiosity, Ivan has delved deep into understanding this operating system, with a specialization in drivers and... read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • If you can't delete files, folders, and icons in Windows 10/11, the problem is pretty hard to pinpoint.
  • In this article, you will learn how to force delete a folder in Windows 10/11 and many more.
  • When you're not allowed to delete a folder, a possible solution is just to restart your system.
  • Another fix for this annoying issue is to use a third-party tool to solve the problem.
delete files

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One of the problems users are noticing in Windows 10 is that they’re unable to delete some files or folders. And if you’re facing the same issue, we’ll show you a few solutions to this problem.

We frequently remove files from our PCs, but sometimes you cannot delete a folder, file, or icon in Windows 10.

This can be an annoying problem, and speaking of file removal, many Windows 10 users reported the following issues:

  • How to delete a folder that won’t delete
    • Sometimes you might encounter a folder that you’re unable to delete.
    • This can be a big problem, but you should be able to fix it using one of our solutions.
  • Can’t delete folder in use
    • In some cases, you might get a message that the folder you’re trying to delete is in use.
    • To fix the problem, you need to close all applications that might be using this directory.
    • We covered a similar problem in our File in use error article, so be sure to check it out for more information.
  • Cannot delete file access denied
    • This error message can appear if you don’t have the necessary privileges to delete a certain file or folder.
    • Simply change your security permissions and you’ll be able to delete the file.
  • Can’t delete folder open in another program
    • By default, Windows prevents you from deleting files that are currently used by other applications.
    • To fix this error, make sure that other applications aren’t using that file.
  • Can’t delete files with long names
    • Windows can’t work well with files that exceed a certain character limit.
    • If that’s the problem, the best solution is to rename the problematic file
    • We explained how to do that in our The filename or extension is too long article, so be sure to check it out for more information.
  • Can’t delete files need permission
    • This is just a variation of this error, but in most cases, you can fix it simply by changing your security permissions.
  • Force delete folder windows 10
    • These solutions act by overwriting any protocols so that the data is forcefully deleted.

How can I delete files, folders or icons on Windows 10?

1. Reboot your system

Sometimes, all you need to do is to restart your machine and the problem will be gone.

Unresponsiveness doesn’t just happen in this case, for example, a lot of people reported that they’re unable to open the start menu sometimes, but when they restart their computer, everything works fine.

But if restarting your PC didn’t solve the problem, you can try one of the following solutions.

2. Delete the file/folder using Command Prompt

  1. Go to Search and type cmd.
  2. Click on Run as administrator to open Command Prompt with full permissions.
  3. In the Command Prompt, enter del, followed by the path of the folder or file you want to delete, and press Enter (for example del c:usersJohnDoeDesktoptext.txt).

3. Change the Ownership of the file/folder

  1. Right-click on the file you want to delete and choose Properties.
    Can't delete folder in use
  2. Under Security tab, click the Advanced button.
    Cannot delete file access denied
  3. The Advanced Security Settings window will appear, and you’ll spot Owner.
  4. In some cases, SYSTEM is listed as the owner, and in some it is TrustedInstaller, click on Change option, next to the name of Owner.
    How to delete a folder that won't delete
  5. Enter the username you want to become the owner of the file, press Check Names to make sure if it’s okay, and press OK.
    Can't delete folder in use
  6. You’ll notice that the name of the Owner has changed, and you’ll also notice a checkbox called Replace owner on subcontainers and objects, check that checkbox and click Apply.
  7. Close Windows Security Properties (Windows will require a restart).
  8. Open the Properties again, by right-clicking on the file, click on Security, and then on Advanced.
  9. Under Permission tab, check Replace all child object permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object.
  10. After that, click Edit.
    Cannot delete file access denied
  11. In Permission Entry window check Full Control and hit OK.
    Can't delete folder open in another program
  12. Try to delete the file/folder again.

We have a more in-depth guide on how to take full ownership of a file or folder, in case you need more information.

4. Check your antivirus

Antivirus software is a necessity, and many antivirus tools have a useful feature that can protect your files. Thanks to this feature, malicious applications and users won’t be able to delete your files.

Even though this feature is useful, it can also prevent you from removing certain files.

To fix this problem, you need to check your antivirus settings and see if this feature is enabled. If so, disable it for the files that you want to delete and check if that solves the issue.

If you can’t find this feature, you can remove your antivirus and check if that helps.

In case removing the antivirus solves the problem, you should consider switching to a different antivirus solution. There are many great tools available, but you should always choose the best.

There is another reliable security software that can protect your PC and of course, the essential files on your PC. Plus, this light resource software can increase malware protection without affecting other system services.

Hence, switch your security utility to a reliable antivirus with a high detection rate. Protect your system while you keep all the usage right for your PC.

5. Use a specialized software

If this is a recurring problem and you do not have the time necessary to try out different possible tricks to fix it, we recommend you use dedicated PC cleaner software.

One of the best tools of this kind is CCleaner because it is fast and easy to use. The tool can automatically scan your PC and remove any unnecessary clutter.

To fix the cannot delete files issue with CCleaner, you can use the Custom Cleanup option. Select what type of file you want to remove and the software will automatically display a list of all these files.

Then you can select all of them o particularly pick which one you want to remove. Click the Run Cleaner button and you are good to go.

If you want to remove duplicate files, select the Tools icon and then click on the Duplicate Finder submenu. CCleaner can scan your whole PC for duplicates, but you can also pick a specific location.

When the scan is complete, you will get a list of all duplicate files that have been found. You can then delete them all in bulk or select individual files you want to remove.

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6. Enable the hidden administrator account

If you can’t delete certain files, the problem might be the lack of security privileges. However, you can always try removing those files by using a hidden administrator account.

Windows 10 comes with a hidden administrator account, and you can use it to fix various problems.

We already wrote about this account in the past, and if you need more information, be sure to check our article on how to enable the hidden administrator account for more information.

7. Use a dedicated third-party software

  1. The third-party software are recommended because they can unlock and remove locked files from your PC. You can choose specific files, file types, and folders to be included in Cleaner operations.Delete files and folders with CCleaner
  2. To include files and folders in the cleaning process, you must select the Custom Files and Folders check the box on the list of options screen.
  3. You can then add separate Include statements (as many as necessary) by following these steps each time:
    • Click the Options icon from the left sidebar.
    • Hit the Include button.
    • Add a new include statement by clicking Add.
    • Complete details in the Include dialog box.

As an alternative, you can utilize PC repairing software that can help you repair various Windows issues present in your system.

8. Remove AMD Uninstall Utility

Sometimes, third-party applications can cause this problem to appear. If you can’t delete files or folders on your PC, the issue might be caused by the AMD Uninstall Utility.

To fix this problem, find this application on your PC and remove it. There are several ways to do that, but the best way is to use uninstaller software.

These tools are specially designed for removing applications, and they will remove all files and registry entries associated with the desired application.

After completely removing the problematic application, the issue should be resolved and you’ll be able to delete files once again.

9. Use Microsoft’s Troubleshooter

  1. Download the troubleshooter.
  2. Start the troubleshooter and click Next.
    Can't delete files with long names
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen to complete the troubleshooting process.

After the troubleshooter is finished, check if the problem still persists.

10. Use Safe Mode

  1. Open the Start Menu.
  2. Click the Power button, press and hold the Shift key and choose Restart from the menu.
    How to delete a folder that won't delete
  3. A list of options will now appear. Select Troubleshoot, select Advanced options, click on Startup Settings, and select the Restart button.
  4. You should now see the list of options. Select any version of Safe Mode by pressing the appropriate keyboard key.

Once you enter Safe Mode, try to delete the problematic file or directory again.

Keep in mind that this is just a workaround, but it can be useful if you need to remove just a couple of files or folders from a specific directory.

In case you can’t boot into Safe Mode, you can try doing it from the Power Menu or with the help of third-party software.

11. Use the chkdsk command

  1. Run Command Prompt as administrator as shown in solution 3.
  2. Type the following command and press Enter to run: chkdsk /f
  3. Click YES when prompted if you want to run it at the next start.
  4. Restart your PC.
  5. After the restart, open File Explorer, look for the folder that wouldn’t delete. This time you will be able to delete it.

The chkdsk scan will fix any potential errors and some users reported fixing this problem after performing it so make sure you try it.

Why can’t I delete folders in Windows 10/11?

Most of the time, you are unable to delete folders in Windows 10 or 11 due to various reasons that can block the Windows OS to respond to your commands.

The first scenario in which you can’t delete files or folders is because it’s already open in the system. It can be either opened by other programs or it’s already in use

You can as well encounter the issue if the folder is write-protected and the disk is full. Besides, the problem can be generated by a corrupted disk.

At the same time, the problem might be strictly related to your files. Thus, the causes may be corrupted files or folders, read-only file protection, or system files that aren’t allowed to be removed.

In case you keep getting the same error and nothing worked for you so far, we suggest you consider efficient software to force delete locked files.

If you have some alternate solution for this problem, and you’d like to share it with us, please write it down in the comments below. Our readers would love to read it.

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