In my never-ending quest for good Windows utilities, I’m always on the prowl for cool tools. In trolling over TenForums recently, I came across mention of a utility called LockHunter. As the blog post title says, LockHunter reports locked Windows files. That is, it identifies the Windows process that is locking a file. It can also schedule such a file for deletion the next time the system reboots. From time to time this sort of thing comes in handy, so I took the tool for an extended spin. I liked what I found, so I’m recommending it here.
When LockHunter Reports Locked Windows Files, What Does It Do?
That turns out to be a pretty good question. If the file really is locked, LockHunter reports something that looks like this:
In Windows, a running process locks files it needs and uses.
In setting up the preceding screenshot, I used the File Explorer shell extension that LockHunter adds to the right click menu for filenames. That menu entry reads “What is locking this file?” and it shows the Lockhunter icon, like so:
If you click on this menu entry, LockHunter launches itself with the selected file as its focus. To produce the first screenshot, I launched Task Manager, then ran LockHunter against the .exe file for the program itself. Because running programs are always locked to keep them working, I knew this would report a locked file. And by no coincidence at all, the Task Manager process is responsible for the lock on its own executable file!
At this point, you could choose to unlock it (not wise for a running .exe file, but something worth trying for a file subject to a “mystery lock”). You can also choose to delete that file (not wise for a Windows OS component). Other options available include:
- Delete at Next System Restart
- Unlock & Rename
- Unlock & Copy
- Terminate Locking Processes
- Delete Locking Processes From Disk
Helpful stuff, all the way around.
What If the File Isn’t Locked, But You Can’t Delete It Anyway?
Sometimes a file may resist deletion even if it isn’t locked by a process. I set up a typical example by creating a file named Test test test.docx in Word, and left it open in that program. Windows won’t let you delete open files, even if they aren’t locked. Thus, I wanted to see what would happen using LockHunter against an open file. When I right-clicked that file and picked the “What is locking…?” option, then tried to delete it, here’s what showed up on my desktop:
Windows won’t let you delete an open file, either. The application that opened it must close it before Explorer can do anything to it.
LockHunter can still work on this file, though it can’t delete it immediately. As the button at the bottom of the screencap states, it can schedule that file for deletion at the next system restart. The remaining “Other” options from the programs bottom control button may also be applied to the file as well. Again: good stuff!
A Bit of Background on LockHunter
LockHunter comes from Crystal Rich Ltd, a software development company based in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation. This might raise an eyebrow or two, or at least, prompt some security concerns. No worries. VirusTotal.com reports that 0 out of the 64 virus check engines it ran against the utility report cause for concern on the downloadable .exe file, LockHunter_v3.2.3.exe. It also comes recommended on TenForums.com and MajorGeeks.com, two sites I’ve found completely reliable. Don’t let its country of origin stop you from using this excellent tool. It’s a great addition to the Windows admin toolkit.