How do I force delete an old Windows folder?

Having old, unused folders cluttering up your Windows computer can be annoying. Over time, these folders can build up and start taking up valuable storage space. In some cases, you may find that certain old folders cannot be easily deleted through the standard delete functions in Windows. Fortunately, there are a few different methods you can use to force delete stubborn old folders in Windows.

Try Deleting the Folder Normally First

Before looking into force delete options, try deleting the folder using standard methods first. Here are the usual ways to delete a folder in Windows:

  • Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder you want to delete. Right click on it and select “Delete”.
  • Select the folder and press the Delete key on your keyboard.
  • Drag and drop the folder to the Recycle Bin.

Oftentimes, this will be sufficient to remove the unwanted folder. If you get an error message like “Folder Access Denied” when trying to delete, then you will need to move on to some of the force delete solutions covered below.

Use the Command Prompt to Force Delete

One of the easiest ways to force delete a troublesome folder is by using the Command Prompt. The Command Prompt has more powerful delete capabilities than the standard graphical interface of Windows.

Here is how to force delete a folder with Command Prompt:

  1. Open the Command Prompt. You can do this by typing “cmd” into the Windows search bar and pressing Enter.
  2. Type “cd ” and then the full folder path of the folder you want to delete. For example:
    cd C:\Users\Username\Documents\OldFolder
  3. Press Enter. This will change you into the directory of that folder.
  4. Type “rd /s /q FolderName” where “FolderName” is the name of the folder you want to delete. For example:
    rd /s /q OldFolder
  5. Press Enter. The folder and all its contents will now be force deleted.

The “rd” command stands for “remove directory”. The “/s” switch deletes all files and subfolders inside the target folder. The “/q” switch quiets confirmation prompts so the command deletes without asking.

Delete Folder via Registry Editor

The Registry Editor is a powerful tool that gives you access to your Windows Registry. This central database contains system settings and file associations for Windows. You can use the Registry Editor to delete folder references from the Registry, effectively force deleting them.

Here is how to use the Registry Editor method:

  1. Type “regedit” into the Windows search bar and press Enter. This will open the Registry Editor.
  2. Navigate to the folder path:
  3. Expand the “FolderDescriptions” subfolder. This contains the references to special folders like “My Documents” and more.
  4. On the right side panel, look for a subkey with the same name as the folder you want to delete. Right click on it and select Delete.
  5. Go to:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
  6. Look on the right for the folder path and delete it.
  7. Restart your computer. The folder should now be gone from File Explorer.

This process essentially removes the folder associations from the Windows Registry. When your computer restarts, it will no longer have the references needed to open the now deleted folder.

Use Unlocker Software to Force Delete

Unlocker is a free utility program designed specifically for force deleting locked files and folders in Windows. It works by closing open handles that might be locking the folder you want to remove.

Here is how to use Unlocker:

  1. Download and install Unlocker. You can get it from
  2. Right click on the folder you want to delete and select “Unlocker” from the context menu.
  3. A window will open showing the handles locking the folder. Click “Unlock All” to release the handles.
  4. Go back and attempt deleting the folder normally now. It should remove successfully.

Unlocker makes it easy to see exactly what programs or processes have a handle on the folder preventing deletion. By closing those handles, it removes the restriction so you can delete the folder.

Delete on Boot With Unlocker or DELFBOOT

If a folder is locked by a system process, you may need to schedule a delete on restart. This causes Windows to delete the folder right as the computer boots, before system processes start.

You can do this with Unlocker by right clicking the folder, choosing Unlocker, and selecting “Delete on Reboot.”

Another option is a utility called DELFBOOT. To use it:

  1. Download DELFBOOT.exe – you can find copies online by searching for it.
  2. Right click on DELFBOOT.exe and choose “Run as administrator.”
  3. Click “Browse” and select the folder you want to delete.
  4. Check “Delete folder on reboot” and click Process.
  5. Restart your PC. The folder will be removed before Windows starts up.

This is a surefire way to delete any locked folder in Windows by scheduling it before the OS boots.

Delete System Folders With DELPROF

DELPROF is a command line tool that can delete protected system folders that otherwise cannot be removed in Windows. To use DELPROF to force delete a system folder:

  1. Open Command Prompt as administrator.
  2. Navigate to the DELPROF executable. The default location is:
  3. Run the command:
    delprof \FolderPath where \FolderPath is the full path to the folder you want to delete.

For example, to delete the C:\Windows\System32\GroupPolicy folder, you would run:

delprof C:\Windows\System32\GroupPolicy

DELPROF will now force delete the protected system folder.

Take Ownership to Delete Folders

One reason that a folder may resist deletion in Windows is because your user account doesn’t have ownership permissions for it. You can take ownership to gain full control and force delete it.

Here are the steps to take ownership of a folder:

  1. Right click on the folder and choose Properties.
  2. Go to the Security tab and click Advanced.
  3. Click the Owner tab and change the owner to your user account.
  4. Apply the changes, then try deleting the folder again.

Taking ownership will assign your user account full control permissions, allowing you to delete protected folders.

Unlock Folder in Safe Mode

Starting Windows in Safe Mode loads a minimal set of drivers and software. This can unlock folders that may be locked by programs during normal startup.

To force delete a folder from Safe Mode:

  1. Access advanced startup options by holding Shift and selecting Restart in your Start menu.
  2. On the Choose an Option screen, select Troubleshoot.
  3. Go to Advanced Options > Startup Settings and click Restart.
  4. After your PC restarts, select Safe Mode with Networking by pressing 4 or F4 on your keyboard.
  5. Log into your account and try deleting the folder that wouldn’t delete before.

With software services disabled in Safe Mode, you have a better chance of removing stuck folders successfully.

Delete from a Boot Disk

Booting from an external drive allows you to access the full Windows file system without any folders or files locked. This is a more guaranteed option for force deleting.

Here’s how to use a boot disk to delete a stuck folder:

  1. Create a bootable Windows USB or DVD with the Media Creation Tool.
  2. Boot your computer from the disk you created by changing the BIOS boot order.
  3. When the fresh Windows environment loads, navigate to the folder you want to delete.
  4. Try deleting the folder now – it should remove successfully from the boot disk.

This boots your PC into a fresh operating system where you can access the full hard drive. Since no programs are loaded that could lock folders, protected items can now be deleted.


Troublesome folders that refuse deletion in Windows can be dealt with using the force delete methods covered here. The Command Prompt, Unlocker, DELPROF, and boot disks provide reliable ways to remove stubborn folders.

By taking ownership, unlocking in Safe Mode, or scheduling deletes on reboot, you can gain the permissions needed to force delete. With some clever tricks like these, no folder can permanently hide from removal on your Windows system.