In my article Unlocker – Solving the Locked File Problem, I wrote about an experiment with Unlocker, which several readers had recommended. This week, longtime subscriber Dan wrote to about my test:
Regarding Terry’s 6/29 Unlocker experiment: the techies among us will understand this testing of a powerful tool by intentionally misusing it but, for the “point & shoot” user, a little more info. Unlocker is intended to unlock (by closing file handles) files or folders which have been left locked after their managing applications are closed; stealing an active program’s file handles can lead to unpredictable results and is NOT recommended. The biggest offender requiring Unlocker’s use is Explorer. After copying/moving/deleting files, many file handles, especially those for the containing folders, may be left open even after all the Explorer windows involved have been closed, at which time these handles can be safely closed.
Terry also activated the optional Unlocker Assistant, which automatically opens the Unlocker window whenever its use MIGHT be appropriate. If you prefer not to activate this feature, you open the Unlocker window by right-clicking on the target object when it is needed.
It’s a great tool which has saved me many reboots but, to protect your data, always close the owning application properly if possible before using Unlocker on its files or folders.
Dan is absolutely right on this one. The only time you ought to use any tool that "unlocks" a file that Windows is protecting, is when it’s still locked but no program should be using it.
If you use Unlocker to unlock a file that a program is using, the program may malfunction (like Word did last week). Or, it may even become unstable and bring your system down, or damage the file if you attempt to save it, or fail to operate properly in some other way.
Since Windows is really pretty good about cleaning up after itself, we don’t often have this locked-file problem. (Of course, when it does happen, it’s always at the most inopportune time.)
In my test, I took the risk of an undesired consequence by using Word to lock a file so that I could test Unlocker. As the television advertisement says, "Don’t try this at home."
As Dan wrote, always close the program, if possible, before using Unlocker to unlock it. Unlocker, of course, will tell you which program has locked the file — it’s up to you to close that program.