How to forcefully delete a folder in Windows using PowerShell?

Deleting a folder in Windows is usually a straightforward process. You right-click on the folder you want to delete and select “Delete”. However, sometimes deleting a folder is not so simple. You may get an error message that the folder cannot be deleted because it is in use by another program or user. This is where the PowerShell command line tool can come in handy to forcefully delete the stubborn folder.

What is PowerShell?

PowerShell is a command-line shell and scripting language that provides system administrators and power-users with a tool to manage Windows systems. It comes pre-installed on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2012. PowerShell includes various cmdlets (pronounced command-lets) that enable tasks such as managing files and folders, running programs, working with the registry, and accessing network resources. One of the cmdlets included with PowerShell is Remove-Item, which can be used to delete files and folders.

Using Remove-Item in PowerShell

The Remove-Item cmdlet allows you to delete files, folders, and other items in Windows. To use it to delete a folder, you need to open up a PowerShell prompt, navigate to the parent folder that contains the folder you want to delete, and then use the Remove-Item command followed by the path to the folder you want to delete. Here is the basic syntax:

Remove-Item -Path C:\FolderToDelete

For example, to delete a folder named OldReports in the C:\WorkFiles directory, you would do:

Remove-Item -Path C:\WorkFiles\OldReports

This will attempt to delete the OldReports folder. If the folder is not in use, it will be deleted right away. But if some process has a lock on the folder, you will get an error message saying the folder cannot be deleted. This is where the -Force parameter comes in handy.

Using the -Force Parameter

By adding the -Force parameter to the Remove-Item command, you can force the deletion of a folder regardless of whether it is locked or in use:

Remove-Item -Path C:\WorkFiles\OldReports -Force

This will forcibly delete the OldReports folder by closing any open handles to the folder and overriding any sharing violations. So use this parameter carefully, as you could potentially disrupt other processes or users that are accessing that folder.

Using the -Recurse Parameter for Nested Folders

If the folder you want to delete contains subfolders, you will also need to add the -Recurse parameter. This deletes the target folder and all of its subfolders and files. For example:

Remove-Item -Path C:\WorkFiles\OldReports -Recurse -Force

This will delete the OldReports folder and any subfolders and files within OldReports. Again, use caution as this could have unintended consequences if that folder structure is in use.

Test First Without -Force

When using the Remove-Item cmdlet with the -Force and -Recurse parameters, it’s a good idea to first test it without -Force to see if the folder can be deleted normally. For example:

Remove-Item -Path C:\WorkFiles\OldReports -Recurse

If you don’t get an error, the folder can be deleted regularly without forcing it. This should be the preferred approach when possible. Only use the -Force option when absolutely necessary to avoid disrupting other processes.

Using the -WhatIf Parameter to Test

You can also test the Remove-Item command using the -WhatIf parameter. This will run through the delete process but won’t actually delete anything. It just reports what would happen. For example:

Remove-Item -Path C:\WorkFiles\OldReports -Recurse -WhatIf

This lets you preview the action first before applying the potentially dangerous -Force parameter.

Other Remove-Item Parameters

Here are some other useful parameters that can be used with Remove-Item:

  • -Include – Delete files matching a pattern, such as *.txt
  • -Exclude – Exclude files matching a pattern from deletion
  • -Verbose – Gives detailed information about each file/folder as it is deleted
  • -Confirm – Prompts for confirmation before deleting each item

Undo a Deletion

If you delete the wrong folder by accident using Remove-Item -Force, you may be able to undo it if you act quickly. First, close PowerShell immediately to prevent overwriting any deleted data. Then use a file recovery tool to scan the drive and restore the deleted folder. But there is no guarantee this will work if the folder contents have already been overwritten by new data.

Deleting Files

The Remove-Item cmdlet can also be used to delete individual files. The same force deletion logic applies. For example:

Remove-Item -Path C:\WorkFiles\OldReport.docx -Force

This will forcibly remove OldReport.docx from the C:\WorkFiles folder regardless of sharing locks.

Use Caution When Forcing Deletions

While using Remove-Item with the -Force and -Recurse parameters gives you immense power to delete stubborn folders, use extreme caution. Only use force deletion when absolutely necessary. Make sure other users or processes are not actively accessing that folder structure before forcing deletion. Test first without -Force to see if a regular deletion works. And leverage -WhatIf to preview the action before applying -Force for real.


Here are some key points to summarize how to forcefully delete folders with PowerShell:

  • Use the Remove-Item cmdlet with the -Path parameter to delete folders
  • Add the -Recurse parameter to delete nested folder structures
  • Use the -Force parameter to forcibly delete folders in use or locked
  • First test without -Force to see if a regular deletion works
  • Leverage -WhatIf to preview the -Force action first
  • Use caution when forcing folder deletions to avoid disrupting other users
  • Act quickly with file recovery if you accidentally delete the wrong folder

Following these steps will allow you to successfully remove stubborn folders in Windows using the powerful Remove-Item cmdlet in PowerShell. Just be sure to carefully test and validate before using -Force in production environments.

Example Script to Force Delete a Folder

Here is an example PowerShell script that force deletes a folder if it exists:

$folderToDelete = "C:\WorkFiles\OldReports"

If (Test-Path $folderToDelete) {

  Write-Host "Deleting folder $folderToDelete"

  Remove-Item -Path $folderToDelete -Recurse -Force

  if ($?) {
    Write-Host "Folder deleted successfully" 
  else {
    Write-Host "Error deleting folder"

else {
  Write-Host "Folder $folderToDelete does not exist"

This first checks if the folder exists using Test-Path. If it does, it force deletes the folder and all its contents recursively. It also provides some output messages reporting the status. You can save this script as DeleteFolder.ps1 and execute it when needed.


In summary, Remove-Item with the -Force and -Recurse parameters provides a powerful mechanism to delete stubborn folders in Windows that refuse to be removed through normal methods. It allows you to override locks and sharing violations. But use proper caution when forcing folder deletions as you could disrupt other users and processes. Test first without -Force, verify with -WhatIf, and have a recovery plan just in case.