How to find process locking file on Windows 11 (easy way)

PowerToys' File Locksmith tool makes it super easy to find the processes locking a specific file, and here's how to use it on Windows 11.

Windows 11 find process locking file
Windows 11 find process locking file

On Windows 11, sometimes, you may have to delete or move a file to another location, but at the time you take action, you will get a warning saying that you can’t complete the action because another program is using the file.

Usually, it can be obvious to determine the app using the file, but other times, you will get a warning when you don’t have any application running on Windows 11. When this happens, you can use the File Locksmith tool available on PowerToys 0.64 and higher to identify the process and unlock the file.

This guide will teach you the easy ways to find out the process (program) locking a file on Windows 11 with the PowerToys File Locksmith. (These instructions should also work on Windows 10.)

Determine process locking file on Windows 11

To identify which process is locking a file on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open PowerToys on Windows 11.

  2. Click on File Locksmith.

  3. Turn on the Enable File Locksmith toggle switch.

    Enable File Locksmith

  4. Open File Explorer.

  5. Browse to the location with the locked file.

  6. Right-click the file and choose “Show more options.” Or Shift + right-click the file to open the classic context menu.

  7. Select the “What’s using this file” option.

    What's using this file

  8. Click the process (program) locking the file to view its Process ID, User, and Files.

  9. (Optional) Right-click the File Locksmith icon in the Taskbar, and right-click on PowerToys.FileLocksmith, and select the Run as Administrator option to run the tool as an administrator to view the process from all users. Otherwise, you will only see the processes locking the file from the current user.

  10. (Optional) Click the End task button for each process to unlock the file on Windows 11.

    Windows 11 unlock file

Once you complete the steps, you can move the file to another location or delete it from Windows 11 (or 10).

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me. Email him at [email protected].