Win XP – How do I delete “zero byte” file where the second character of the name is a colon

45 pts.
Tags:
File management
Microsoft Windows XP
Moving Picture Experts Group
MPEG
VLC media player
Windows XP
Zero Byte files
I used the program VLC to create a .mpeg file, and foolishly named it with a color character as the second character of the file name. VLC let me do this, even on windows! In Explorer, the Size shows zero bytes, but in DOS it is MUCH bigger, which is why I really would like to delete it. I've tried everything...but any ideas would be appreciated.
ASKED: October 20, 2008  10:41 PM
UPDATED: October 28, 2008  3:44 PM

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In Windows XP, there are a couple ways to remove an undeleteable file, a manual way, and a couple automated ways using some freeware programs. First, I’ll show you the manual way.

Manual Method

If you already know the path to the file, please skip to Step 7

1. Click on Start, Search, All Files and Folders
2. Type the name of the undeletable file in the box shown
3. Make sure the Look In box shows the correct drive letter
4. Click Search and let the computer find the file
5. Once the file is located, right-click on it and choose properties, make a note of the file location. Usually this is something similar to

c:\windows\system32\undeleteablefilesname.exe

6. Close the search box
7. Click on Start, Run, and type CMD and Press Enter to open a Command Prompt window
8. Leave the Command Prompt window open, but proceed to close all other open programs
9. Click on Start, Run and type TASKMGR.EXE and press Enter to start Task Manager
10. Click on the Processes tab, click on the process named Explorer.exe and click on End Process.
11. Minimize Task Manager but leave it open
12. Go back to the Command Prompt window and change to the directory where the file is located. To do this, use the CD command. You can follow the example below.

Example: to change to the Windows\System32 directory you would enter the following command and Press Enter

cd \windows\system32

13. Now use the DEL command to delete the offending file. Type DEL <filename> where <filename> is the file you wish to delete.

Example: del undeletable.exe
14. Use ALT-TAB to go back to Task Manager
15. In Task Manager, click File, New Task and enter EXPLORER.EXE to restart the Windows shell.
16. Close Task Manager

Programs to automatically delete a file

Remove on Reboot Shell Extension
This is a nice extension that loads into the right click menu. All you have to do is right-click on a file and choose “Remove on Next Reboot” and the file will be deleted the next time the computer restarts. Although it probably should only be used by more advanced computer users since it may be TOO easy to delete files using this program.

Pocket Killbox
A simple .exe file that you can use to delete undeleteable files, although the program will also delete temporary files, edit the HOSTS file, and more. A definite must have program when you are fighting an annoying spyware or adware program that won’t remove.

Unlocker
Unlocker is another program that runs from the right click menu. Its simple and very effective. The website even has a side by side comparision of other programs that accomplish this task.

Using one of the three tools shown above, you should be able to remove those annoying undeleteable files once and for all.

Discuss This Question: 9  Replies

 
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  • Theliquid6
    That's a very good answer, for other problems, but it doesn't solve this problem at all. The file isn't in use or something. The problem is that the second character is a colon. Unlocker, Kill Box, and the thing that the Sysinternals people have that does the same thing don't help. The file isn't in use...the name makes it so that Windows thinks you are referring to a drive whenever you type it. It takes the file name "5:15 Video.mpeg", and thinks it should look on the drive "5" to find the file "15 Video.mpeg".
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  • Dwiebesick
    Open a command prompt (CMD) and go to the directory that has the file you want to delete. Use DIR /X to see what the 8.3 short name is. Use that name to delete the file. See if that helps as I have had to do this when people use extremely long names with 'bad' characters to prevent you from deleting it. let us know dmw
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  • Theliquid6
    Surprisingly, despite the spaces in the file name, and the colon, 'dir /X' gives me the same file name. I don't really understand that, but I can say that I also tried a little utility that is supposed to delete invalid files (the name was a short version of that like delInvFile.exe). That utility tried to delete it by both the short name, and the UNC name, and both of those failed. I also found some Microsoft article that said to use the full path with \\.\ in front of c:\, and another that said to put \\?\ in front of c:\. Anyway, deleting using the full path didn't work, and prefixing the full path with those two strings didn't work either. I've, of course, tried using *.mpeg, and 5?15 Video.mpeg (so, using wild cards), and in both of those scenarios DOS says that it found a file matching my wild card search, but then that it can't delete it. I've also tried deleting from Linux (via Nautilus), and that didn't work. Either did renaming the file from Linux. I've also tried deleting or renaming the file via Cygwin on Windows. I thought that was going to do it, but it didn't. It's like I need something more low level, that goes around windows, because anything that tells Windows to delete the file fails. Which would lead me to booting with the Ultimate Boot CD and trying something in there.....if only my hard drive wasn't encrypted. If I don't boot to windows, the drive is more or less unreadable. That, clearly, makes this more challenging (or....impossible maybe). If it wasn't a 10 gig file, I wouldn't care. Dang you VLC!
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  • Koohiisan
    Can you remove the encryption at all to allow you to boot into it without using Windows?
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  • Fanki
    Hi Try this: Create a subfolder within the directory Move the "semi colon file" by drag an drop into the newly created folder delete the folder This should help. Fanki
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  • Theliquid6
    1) No, I can't remove the encryption. Only an edict from the President of the United States can get a machine decrypted at my company. 2) Tried to copy the file to a sub-directory - "Can Not Move file: Can not read from the source file or disk"
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  • Fanki
    Next try: Move all the others file to a new folder (1 level up) and remove the one with the "smi colon file" inside. If this does not work, the file ist still in use. I can not explain otherwise.
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  • Theliquid6
    The file is absolutely not in use. I have tried 15 tools that move or delete in use files. The file has a semi-colon as the second character in the name, and that is the issue. Windows thinks a path like 5: means the "5 drive", like c: means the "C drive".
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  • Koohiisan
    Here's a thought...since VLC was obviously not playing by the file-system rules well enough in letting you create that filename...what if you go into it, bring up the open file or save file dialog box (whatever gets you a file listing) and try right-clicking and deleting the file (or renaming, etc) from there?
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