Notes To Myself: Fix for Windows 7 can’t delete file/folder on network drive (“in use”)

Problem: When trying to delete or rename a folder, typically on a network drive, Windows 7 reports the action can’t be performed because a file is in use, even when you definitely don’t have any files open in that folder (or even have a subfolder displayed in another Explorer window), and haven’t for quite some time. Typical error message popup:

“The action can’t be completed because the file is open in Windows Explorer. Close the file and try again.”

Apparently it is a longstanding bug in Windows explorer (that M$ has known about but will not fix!) where Windows creates hidden files (thumbs.db) to cache image thumbnails, but sometimes forgets to close them.

Workaround: Disable thumbnail caching:

  • Run ‘gpedit.msc’ (Click Start -> Run, type gpedit.msc in the search box and hit enter)
  • Drill down to User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Windows Explorer
  • Highlight “Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files”. Right-click this entry and choose ‘Edit’, and then enable this setting.

You probably have to reboot for this to take effect (mainly to clear any existing thumbs.db files that are already locked open). Don’t fiddle with any other gpedit settings.

It may also help to disable thumbnails on network drives entirely – folders with images will display much faster! To do this, enable the setting named “Turn off the display of thumbnails and only display icons on network drives” in the same location. Note there are two similarly named options (one omits the “…on network drives” part), so be sure to select the one you want.

This fix comes from a rather lengthy exchange about the bug on Microsoft’s forums.

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