ToolTips: Unlocking Files with Sysinternals Process Monitor

Recently, I stumbled over a very simple yet effective trick.

I guess everybody has experienced (and hates) the locked-file-problem. Let’s suppose you would like to edit a file that is locked by another process. The result is this annoying window:


For a long time, I was a huge fan of unlocking tools such as Unlocker or Lockhunter. However, the problem is that very often in the crucial moment, the tool was not available. Could be that I am working on a customer system or I don’t have the necessary rights.

Sysinternals Process Explorer (procexp) can fill the gap. In my opinion this is a tool of such high importance that you should have it, know how to use it and take it EVERYWHERE you go!  🙂

So, how does it work:

1. Open procexp.exe as an administrator  from your disk or directly from
2. Click Find –> Find Handle or DLL… or hit Ctrl-F


3. Enter the name of the file you would like to unlock and hit “Search”.


Process Explorer shows you the process that has handles to your file and thus blocks it.

4. Select the first handle in the search result window. When selected, the handle will be highlighted in the bottom window.


5. Right click the handle in the bottom window and select “Close Handle”. Confirm the warning and repeat for every handle in the search result list.

BOOOM, your files are free!