Can I Delete This File?

Category: Windows

As a fairly new computer user, I find that deleting files is a problem for me. When I want to delete a file, I get a message that I should check to see what the file does before I delete it because I could cause a problem and there is no correction for it. Where do I go to find out what a specific file does?

Let's start with first things first. If you're getting that kind of message, then as a novice user you may be poking around in places that you're better off leaving alone. For example, if you're clicking around in your folders, find a large file on your hard drive and decide to delete it to regain a bit of disk space, you may well be deleting an important part of the operating system. The warning message you mentioned in your question is there to make sure you don't shoot yourself in the virtual foot.

A good rule of thumb for inexperienced users is this:

Don't delete ANYTHING unless it's a file you know you created. If you do word processing, work with spreadsheets, graphics, email, etc. then open the program that created the files, and use it to find and delete the file. In most cases, you can use File -> Open to locate the file, right click on it, then select Delete.

If you are familiar with Windows Explorer, you can use it to navigate to the folder that contains your files and delete them from there. But again, only delete files that you recognize as ones you created.

If you no longer need a software package that has been installed on your computer, DO NOT try to remove it by finding and deleting the folder where it resides. You'll probably end up deleting only a portion of it, and Windows will complain about missing files next time you start up. Instead, go to Start -> Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs, and remove the software package there.

If you're concerned about your hard drive filling up, take these steps:

  • Follow the instructions above to delete any personal files or software packages that are no longer needed.
  • Empty the Recycle Bin (right-click on the icon and select Empty).
  • Do a Disk Cleanup. Click on My Computer, right-click the C: drive, select Properties, and then click on the Disk Cleanup button.

    If you want to learn more about file extensions (DOC, EXE, DLL, etc) and what they mean, visit This site will tell you what kind of data the file contains, what created it, and what it's purpose is.

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    Most recent comments on "Can I Delete This File?"

    Posted by:

    23 Aug 2005

    I use a couple tools called movefile and pendmoves. movefile can delete a file by typing movefile file "" pendmoves shows pending file moves/deletes. It works by telling windows to move or delete the files when the computer first starts before any of them are in use. A drawback is that it could delete files that Windows needs to function.

    Posted by:

    18 Apr 2006

    I use for looking up file extensions. It has more information and a better interface than

    Posted by:

    24 Sep 2009

    Use CCleaner to clean out the recycle bin an all temporary file in 1 simple operation. I know how to do this all menually but Crap Cleaner is so much faster and easier, and if you're a relative newbie it's absolutely safe. (stick with the cleaning option as the other options require a bit of knowledge to use safely).

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