Can not delete PDF files in Windows File Explorer

I am reviewing files in Windows File Explorer with the Preview Pane active so I can see what the file is. When I want to delete a file I do right click/Delete or use the Delete button on the Ribbon. However, when I come to a PDF file that I no longer need I can't delete it. I get a message that says "File in Use". "This action can't be completed because the file is open in another program. Close the File and try again." 

If I click "try again" sometimes after 4 or 5 tries the file finally is deleted. It seems that with the Preview Pane active File Explorer thinks the PDF is open in another program. How do I fix this problem so I can delete PDFs in Windows File Explorer with the Preview Pane active?

Thanks for all the suggestions. The one that fits my work flow well is Amr's .

"Simply choose the file with your mouse, hold down the shift button then click on "Delete".

It will permanently delete the file, which is fine."


Question Info

Last updated November 10, 2019 Views 75,963 Applies to:

Hi Jerry,

Thank you for posting in Microsoft community.

This issue might occur if any third party program is accessing the file.In regards to the issue, I require additional information to make sure that helps us to resolve the issue easily:

  1. How are you trying to delete these files?

As a first step, I suggest you to restart the computer multiple times and check if that works. Because, restarting computer will close the applications that are running in the background and fixes many issues.

I also suggest you to refer the suggestion provided by Tomfly13 on April 29, 2013 and check if it helps.


Please reply us on the status of the issue to assist you further


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