Solved: Error “Unable to Delete System Files on the Hard Drive”

System files are classified as Operating system files that help in the overall functioning of the computer. Some of these system files are unnecessary as they only add to your disk space, without being useful. You can therefore choose to get rid of them but these system files can sometimes be difficult to delete. While deleting, you may get an error message prompting that the file is corrupt or unreadable.In some cases, you may not see a Delete option altogether. In this blog, we have addressed this error with the best possible solutions. 

Unwanted System Files

As introduced above, there are many system files which you don’t really need. You can delete them to increase the disk space in your computer and/or to make your system faster. Some of these unwanted system files include: 

  • Temporary files

These temporary files are created by programs and applications for a specific purpose and for a limited duration. After a certain period of time, these files become useless. All temporary files are stored in a specific folder. You can access it here: C:\Windows\Temp

  • Recycle Bin

Recycle Bin is a place where files which are meant to be deleted are stored. Clearing the Recycle Bin helps you get rid of the unwanted files and also helps you clear some of the space in your hard drive. You can find the Recyle Bin folder icon on your desktop. 

  • Downloaded Program files

Your computer saves program files for the files you download from the Internet. These downloaded program files are not useful and you can choose to clear them. You can locate the folder here: C:\Windows\Downloaded Program Files

  • Old Windows Folder

When you upgrade from an old operating system to a new one, your computer keeps a folder with old OS files. The contents of the folder are unnecessary and you can delete them. You can locate the folder here: C:\Windows.old

Why can’t you delete some system files on your hard drive?

The error can happen due to several reasons. Sometimes, the file might be open in another program at the same time or is virus-infected,resulting in this error. Below are some other probable reasons: 

  1. The hard drive is write-protected.
  2. A virus has infected the hard drive.
  3. Another program is currently using the file.
  4. Not having the required permission to handle the file on the drive. 
  5. The file system is corrupt. 

How to solve it effectively?

Before we look into the resolutions, please make sure that another program is not using the file in question. If another program is using it, close that program and then attempt to delete the file again. If you still can’t delete the file, follow the below resolutions.

Solution 1: Access the file as an administrator

Sometimes an error in deletion might be due to access issues. Some files are protected, and if you wish to delete them, you would need to login as an administrator. Below are the steps to do that.

  1. Right-click on the file you wish to delete and choose Properties.
  2. Next, click the Security tab.
  3. Click Advanced And select the Owner tab.
  4. Go to edit and then enter your username. Make sure you replace the owner’s namein the sub-container. 
  5. Next, click Apply, and then click OK.
  6. Then go to Permissions, and under this option,click onChange Permissions.
  7. Click Add. In the box, enter your username, and then click OK
  8. Under Full Control, select the Allow checkbox. Then, click OK.
  9. Next, select Replace all child permission option.
  10. Finally, click OK,and then click Apply

Solution 2: Fix errors with the Check Disk tool

This solution will work if the file is corrupted—Run Window’s Chkdsk utility to fix this error. The steps are listed below.

1.Go to the File Explorer and select the drive where the file resides. 

  1. Right-click on the drive and select Tools from the options. 
  2. Once you click Tools, a Check button will appear. Click on that. 

The system will then scan the drive, check for any errors, and fix them. 

Solution 3: Erase the file with Safe Mode

The system under Safe Mode will locate and delete files, which were previously locked. Follow the steps below to erase the file using the Safe Mode option.

  1. Open the Settings tab on your Windows.
  2. Clickon the Update and Security option and then click Recovery.
  3. Under Advanced Setup, click on Restart Now button
  4. Next, click Troubleshoot, and then go to Advanced options. 
  5. Select the Startup Settings.
  6. Select the Restart button.
  7. Under Startup Settings, press F4 to start the system in Safe mode. 

Solution 4: Use a third-party file erasure tool

If all the above-listed methods fail, you can simply use a third-party file erasure tool like BitRaser File Eraser, which can securely and permanently erase any type of file, even the undeletable ones. Follow the step-by-step guide on how to use BitRaser File Eraser to delete undeletable system files.

  1. Download and install BitRaser File Eraser.
  2. On the main software interface, you will see a list of all your connected drives.
  3. You can select the file from the required drive to erase it.
  4. Next, click the Erase Now option to start erasure.


Multiple reasons contribute to the “Unable to delete system files on hard drive” error. Nevertheless, there are appropriate built-in measures in your Windows, which can help you resolve this issue. And if all remedies fail, consider wiping out your file(s) with the help of a File Erasure tool such as BitRaser File Eraser.