'The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program' Error

Few Windows users have been lucky enough to never encounter the 'The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program' error. It appears when you are trying to manipulate (move, rename, delete, etc.) a certain file or folder. While not particularly serious, the error can be a source of great frustration and annoyance because in most cases it doesn't state the specific program that is interfering with the action. As a result, users can spend quite a while trying to find the culprit. To save time, take a look at the suggestions outlined below and see if one of them won't be able to resolve the problem.

Restart File Explorer

File Explorer is one of the underlying processes of the entire Windows system. A good starting point is to restart it and see if the file or folder becomes unlocked afterward. 

  1. Open Task Manager by pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE on your keyboard and selecting it from the available options.
  2. Locate 'Windows Explorer' in the list of active processes.
  3. Right-click it and select 'Restart' from the menu.
  4. Check if the error has now disappeared.

Set Folder Windows to be Opened as Separate Processes

The default behavior of File Explorer is to open windows in a single process. By adjusting it to now open separate processes could lead to improved stability while also potentially eliminating the 'The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program' error.

  1. Open File Explorer by pressing the Windows key + E on your keyboard.
  2. Select the 'View' tab.
  3. Open 'Options.'
  4. In the 'Folder Options' window, select the 'View' tab.
  5. Find the 'Launch folder windows in a separate process' options and check its corresponding box. 
  6. Click 'Apply' and then 'OK' to save the changes.

Perform A Clean Boot

To eliminate a great portion of the programs that might be causing the ''The action cannot be completed because the file is open in another program' error, you can do a clean boot of your system. Doing so will start Windows with a minimal number of apps and drivers. 

  1. Type system configuration in the search field on the Taskbar.
  2.  Open the top result. 
  3. Go to the 'Services' tab.
  4. Click on 'Open Task Manager.'
  5. In the new tab, disable all listed applications one by one.
  6. Close Task Manager and click 'OK' in the 'System Configuration Startup' tab.
  7. Restart the computer system.
  8. If the error has been resolved, that means that one of the disabled programs was causing it. You can proceed to enable them one by one until you find the malfunctioning app.