How to delete a corrupt file or a file that refuses to be deleted in Windows

Usually it’s easy to delete files, and it’s much more common to delete a file by accident. However, there are some files which pose a problem and can’t be deleted. Here are some tips for deleting files.

A common problem is that a video file becomes corrupted and Windows can’t delete it, no matter whether you push the Delete key or even the Shift+Delete combo. It isn’t limited to video files, though. Practically any file can resist deletion, although the reasons behind the problem are varied.

How to delete a corrupt file in Windows

There are lots of other ways to try deleting files. Here are just some of them. Hopefully you’ll find one of them works for you.

Close Windows Explorer

One of the most annoying error messages is “File in use”, which prevents you moving and deleting said file. If you’ve closed down all applications and you still can’t delete it, it’s probably because Windows Explorer is accessing the file, perhaps to display a thumbnail.

You can move all other files in the folder to a temporary folder and then delete the folder that contains the immovable file, but if this still doesn’t work, try closing Windows Explorer. To do this, start Task Manager (right-click on the taskbar and choose Task Manager).

How to delete corrupt files in Windows

Now look through the list of running applications for Windows Explorer, right-click on it and choose End Task. You can now use another application – another file manager, say – to delete the file. You’ll have to install that first, of course.

Windows Safe Mode

A second option is to restart your PC in safe mode. Press F8 when the computer is starting up until you see the boot menu. Choose Safe Mode and a cut-down Windows will load. You can try deleting the file in Windows Explorer or File Explorer.

Here’s how to boot into safe mode if you’re running Windows 8.

How to delete corrupt files in Windows

Third-party deletion utility

Lots of utilities can clean up troublesome files, including those that can’t be deleted. They tend to create a script which runs when Windows boots up at a time before any restrictions are placed on the file preventing it being deleted. They include¬†File Assassin andMoveOnBoot.

Also, as has been mentioned in the comments below, you can try Long Path Tool.

Use the Command Prompt

Yet another method is to use the Command Prompt. You’ll find this in your Start menu, or Start Screen. Just search for it, click on it and a black window will open.

Change to the directory where the file is located by typing cd . For example cd c:\users\jim\desktop

Now type dir to list the files in that folder.

Now type del. You can use the Tab key to autocomplete the name of a file after typing the first few characters. You’ll need to include the extension of the file, so you’d type deletemovie.mkv to get rid of that video file.

Change the file extension

Sometimes this is the simplest way to delete a file that refuses to budge using the Delete key. If you have file called birthday.avi, select it in Windows Explorer, press F2 and change the extension – the .avi – to something else such as .txt.

You’ll have to enable file extensions first, though, since Windows defaults to hiding extensions for known file types. To show extensions in Windows 8 onwards, click on the View tab and tick the ‘File name extensions’ box.

In previous versions, search for folder options in the Start menu. Click on it and a window will appear. Scroll down and untick the box for “Hide extensions for known file types” and click OK.


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