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Cannot Delete Windows System Files or Files That Are In Use

This article was previously published under Q259150
When you try to delete a file, you may be unable to do so. Also, you may receive an error message stating that the file is in use and cannot be deleted or that it is a system file and cannot be deleted.
This issue can occur for either of the following reasons:
  • The file is currently being used by Windows or another program.
  • The file is a Windows system file.
To work around this issue, use the appropriate method:

File Is Currently Being Used by Windows or Another Program

If the file is being used by Windows or another program, restart your computer with a Windows Millennium Edition, Windows 98 or Windows 95 Startup disk, and then delete the file from the command prompt.

WARNING: Do not perform the following procedure unless you are certain the file can be deleted without damaging Windows or a program you currently use. If you are unable to determine that the file can be safely deleted, create a copy of the file before you delete it so you can restore it if needed. To copy a file, right-click it, click Copy, right-click a folder you want to put the copy in, and then click Paste.
  1. If you already have a Windows Me, Windows 98 or Windows 95 Startup disk, skip to step 2. If you do not have a Startup disk, create one:
    1. Click Start, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.
    2. Double-click Add/Remove Programs.
    3. Click the Startup Disk tab, click Create Disk, and then follow the instructions on the screen to finish making the disk.
  2. Start your computer by using the Startup disk.
  3. At the command prompt, change to the folder that contains the file you want to delete. For example, if you want to delete a file in the Windows folder, type cd windows, and then press ENTER.
  4. Type del file name, and then press ENTER, where file name is the name of the file you want to delete. Note that you can repeat this procedure for other files by repeating steps 2-4, but name a different file in step 4.

File Is a Windows System File

WARNING: Windows system files are essential portions of the operating system software, and should not be deleted. Deleting a Windows system file can cause data loss or require you to reinstall Windows. Do not delete a Windows system file unless you have created a backup copy of the file, and deleting the file is absolutely necessary.

To delete a Windows system file, use the steps listed in the "File Is Currently Being Used by Windows or Another Program" section of this article.

Article ID: 259150 - Last Review: 01/27/2007 17:56:53 - Revision: 1.3

  • Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition
  • Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition
  • Microsoft Windows 98 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Windows 95
  • kberrmsg kbprb KB259150