What is “The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program” error

The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program is a message reflected in the “File in Use” window when trying to delete, rename, or move specific files and folders. The error appears because the manipulated file or folder is currently used by some application or background process. In most cases, it is enough to find and terminate the process that uses the file or simply restart your PC. However, there are situations when none of the above helps you get rid of the problem. The issue may keep reiterating itself even after rebooting the system. Unfortunately, the featured message offers no real solution on how to avoid this problem. Intuitively, users should stop the related process and try to delete or move their files afterward. Sometimes there are simply no related processes visible, which means users are unable to shave them. Luckily, there are potential prospects to address this issue and restore full control of the file. Follow this bundle of methods below that will help you remove the issue potentially.

Download Windows Repair Tool

Download Windows Repair Tool

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There are special repair utilities for Windows, that can solve problems related to registry corruption, file system malfunction, Windows drivers instability. We recommend you to use Advanced System Repair to fix the “The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program” error in Windows 10.

1. Restart Windows File Explorer

File Explorer is an in-built background process responsible for searching, inspecting, and changing files stored on your PC. We suspect there could be a problem in how it operates, which results in a disability to run manipulations with files. Therefore, let’s try to restart it via Task Manager. The steps are short and do not require a lot of time to implement them. Here is how:

  1. Right-click on Start button and choose Task Manager.
  2. In the Processes tab, scroll down the list until you find Windows Explorer.
  3. Right-click on it and select Restart.
  4. Then wait a couple of seconds and try to modify the problematic file again.

Even if you solve the issue using these steps, it is still likely that a similar error will appear again in the future. This is why you should treat this only as a temporary solution.

2.Empty Recycle bin

It is hard to believe, but clearing your recycle bin may actually resolve the problem. Some users reported it was the case. Simply find your Recycle Bin on desktop, right-click on it and choose Empty Recycle Bin. Confirm the action if promoted and see the error message resolved. Despite its effectiveness, it is only a temporary solution that should be performed each time you stumble into the same problem again. Test other solutions below to rectify the problem once and for all.

3. Find and terminate the Associated process

As we already know, “The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program” message indicates there is some file-related process still running, which denies attempts to delete or effect changes with files. Instead of using traditional Task Manager, we are going to access Resource Monitor which is more advanced and provides better tools to detect and lift the stuck process. Follow these steps below to do it:

  1. Press Windows Key + R buttons, type resmon.exe into the field, and click OK or Enter to open it up.
  2. After Resource Monitor is opened, go to CPU tab and expand Associated Handles at the bottom.
  3. Search for the name of a problematic files or folder and wait until Resource Monitor finds all processes related to it.
  4. Then, right-click on the found processes and select End Process to shut it.
  5. After doing these steps, deleting or changing a file should no longer be met by the error.

4. Clean up thumbnails

Thumbnails are cached copies of files stored by Windows to provide faster access to files. In other words, Windows does not have to wait for icons of images, videos, or documents to load as they have already been memorized by your system. As research shows, these thumbnails may cause some problems with the file system and lead to editing issues. Thumbnails are created automatically by default, but you can disable this feature using instructions further in our guide. For now, let’s delete thumbnails. There are two ways to do it:

using Disk Cleanup

  1. Open This PC.
  2. Right-click on your main disk and choose Properties.
  3. Find and click on Disk Cleanup.
  4. Among the list of checkboxes, select Thumbnails and click OK to remove them.
  5. After this, you should be able to see the problem resolved.

using Command Prompt

  1. Search for Command Prompt in the searching box next to the Start Menu button. Right-click on it and choose Run as administartor
  2. Make sure you have your main system drive selected. If not, enter its letter (“C:”) manually and push Enter.
  3. Then, copy-paste del /ash /s thumbs.db and press Enter again.
  4. Wait until the process deletes thumbnail databases, close the window, and check if the problem with files persists.

5. Disable Thumbnails

If deleting thumbnails helped and you want to stop their generation completely, then there is an option to do it. You should try it even if none of the previous methods helped, just to test all the existing solutions. There is a plethora of ways to switch off the creation of thumbnails. Here are the most popular:

using File Explorer Settings

  1. Open This PC and click View on the very top of the window.
  2. From the drop-down menu find and choose Options.
  3. In the opened window, go to View, scroll down a bit and select Always show icons, never thumbnails under Files and Folders.
  4. Click Apply and OK to save the changes.

using Performance Options

  1. Open This PC and right-click on empty space under your disks.
  2. Choose Properties and navigate to Advanced system settings.
  3. Under Performance, click Settings.
  4. From the appeared list of options, find and uncheck option named Show thumbnails instead of icons.
  5. Click Apply and OK to save the changes.

using Registry Editor

  1. Press Windows Key + R buttons and type regedit into the field.
  2. Open it up and confirm UAC window.
  3. Then, open this path HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Explorer/Advanced on the left pane.
  4. After reaching Advanced folder, you will see the list of entries on the right pane.
  5. We need to find IconsOnly and double-click on it.
  6. Change its value to 1 and click OK to disable thumbnails. If you want to enable them back, simply type 0 instead of 1.

using Group Policy Editor

  1. Press Windows Key + R buttons like above, type gpedit.msc into the field and click OK or Enter to open it up.
  2. On the left pane, navigate to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer.
  3. After clicking on File Explorer, you will be able to see the list of different entries.
  4. Find and double-click on Turn off caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files.
  5. Set its value to Enabled. Click Apply and OK to save changes.

All 4 methods pursue the same goal – to disable the generation of thumbnails and prevent them from causing modification problems. Choose either of them and follow each step carefully. Especially you should be attentive when changing values in Registry and Group Policy Editors. Changing other settings other than what we listed may lead to problems with other segments, so make sure you follow each step strictly as written.

6. Disable Preview Panel

Based on data we gathered from forums, some users managed to resolve “The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program” message by turning Preview mode off. This is a useful, yet sometimes conflicting option offered by Windows to view the content of certain files prior to accessing them. It is easy to do and will not affect system performance in any way. On the contrary, disabling this feature may help boost system performance a bit on slack PCs because Windows will not have to process and preview the inside content.

  1. As we already did, open This PC and click View on the very top of the window.
  2. Click onto Preview pane to disable or enable it. The enabled option will be highithed with blue in the background, so make sure it is disabled.
  3. After this check whether you have the same issue with modifying a file.

7. Change File Explorer to launch windows in separate processes

As a rule, File Explorer launches and maintains all opened windows in a single process. Therefore, it may be hard to keep the stable performance of opened windows when resources are not distributed. We recommend you try to alter File Explorer to open windows in a separate process. This should alleviate the pressure and win some room for better stability. Here is how you can do this:

  1. Open This PC and click View on the very top of the window.
  2. From the drop-down menu find and choose Options.
  3. In the opened window, go to View, and check the Launch folder windows in a separate process option.
  4. Then click Apply and OK to finish.

8. Optimize your drive

Another quick method to solve the issue is to optimize your drive performance. You can do this by clicking on a single button inside of drive properties. This is how:

  1. Open This PC and right-click on the drive where the problematic file or folder is located.
  2. Choose Properties and navigate to the Tools tab.
  3. At the bottom, click Optimize and follow the on-screen instructions to finish the process.

9. Optimize Folders

If you struggle to delete or change a folder with a specific type of files like music, images, documents, videos, or others, then the solution could be to optimize a problematic folder by choosing the right category of files. You can do it the following way:

  1. Open a folder with problematic files and right-click on empty space.
  2. Choose Poroperties and go to Customize tab.
  3. Under Optimize this folder for:, choose the type of files stored in a folder.
  4. You should also select the Also apply this template to all subfolders option.
  5. After doing so, click Apply and OK to save the changes.

10. Delete or edit problematic files in Clean Bootup

Clean bootup is a Windows feature helping users boot their PC only with in-built apps and services. This helps you find out whether some secondary app or process causes the problem. By accessing this mode, you should be able to change your files without trouble. To launch your system in Clean bootup mode, follow these steps below:

  1. Press Windows key + R combination and paste msconfig.
  2. Then in the opened window go to the Services tab located on top.
  3. Check the box next to Hide All Microsoft Services and click on the Disable all button.
  4. Now choose the General tab and select the Selective startup option. Make sure that the box is checked only next to the Load System Services.
  5. Click Apply and OK. Then reboot your PC.

Now you can try to edit your files whilst being in Clean Boot mode. No matter whether you managed or failed to resolve the issue, it is important to turn Windows back to Normal Startup settings. To do this, simply redo all the steps you implemented above by enabling the disabled services and changing your startup option from Selective to Normal.

11. Install fresh .NET Framework updates

.NET Framework plays a significant role in building and sustaining applications. In some cases, people may lack it or have a malfunction of some sort. Thereby, it is worth reinstalling the entire Framework package by downloading the up-to-date client from the official Microsoft website. Download the latest version from the list.

Summary

Although being unable to delete or move your files may not seem to be a major problem, it is enough to cause disturbance and inconvenience whilst using your PC. We hope you are no longer forced to encounter “The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program” message. Even if you do in the future, you are now more aware of what steps to use in order to solve it. You can find a number of other PC-troubleshooting articles on our website if there is something else downgrading your usage.

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