Weird XP issue (can't delete files)

Just looking for thoughts/ideas on this odd issue I had come up today.

One of my users has two files on his desktop that he can’t delete. Both filenames are giberish with a “.” at the end, with no file extension. If you try to delete, rename, copy, or move the file, you get “Unable to read from source file or disk”. File size is 0. I tried using Hijack This to delete the files on startup, but no luck. No errors from Hijack This, but the files are still there.

Googling has turned up the following fixes, none of which have worked.

Try to delete in Command Prompt, but put \?\ at the beginning of the file name (so del “\?\C:\Documents and Settings\user\Desktop\filename.” I get “Unable to find” the file, same as when I use the del command without \?\ at the beginning.

Set it to open with Notepad and then open it. You get the error “This file does not exist. Would you like to create a new one?”. Click Yes, type something, then save. It’s supposed to overwrite the broken file with a new one that you can then delete. But when I tried it just created another copy on the desktop with the same filename (which shouldn’t even be possible). I can delete the copy I make this way, but still can’t delete the original.

Open a Command Prompt, then open Task Manager. Kill explorer.exe (so the Start button, task bar, etc disappear). Use Alt-Tab to get to your open command prompt window, and delete using the del command. This is supposed to bypass Windows Explorer’s file indexing, which is theoretically causing the problem. I still get the “unable to find” error when I try this.

Open Notepad. Go to File - Open, browse to the file, then right-click and choose Delete. This is also supposed to bypass Windows Explorer’s file indexing. This gives me the same “unable to read from source” error as when I try to delete from the desktop.

I’m starting to think the only way we’re getting rid of it is to reinstall Windows, which of course he’s not in a big hurry to do since this is mostly just an annoyance right now. This is driving me nuts. Any ideas?

I suggest you try a program called, “Unlocker”. It will either unlock the files in question, or kill the process that is preventing those files from being deleted. Here is the link:

http://www.download.com/Unlocker/3000-2248_4-10493998.html?tag=mncol&cdlPid=10838644

You can try File Assassin
www.malwarebytes.org/fileassassin.php

It probably won’t delete because there are “special” characters in the filename. There’s a program called Delete FXP Files that was specifically designed for this kind of thing: http://www.jrtwine.com/products/dfxp/index.htm

I’ve had to use this before when our anonymous FTP got tagged by warez kiddies. The software is free, you won’t need any of the “upgrade” features.

Or Ccleaner.

Open a command prompt and go to c:\Documents and Settings*Username*\Desktop and delete them from there.

And do a scan for malware.

Can you do a delete using a wildcard? For example if the file is named “abcdefg.” (and assuming there’s some kind of hidden characters after the “.”), do this from the command prompt:

DEL abcd*

That should kill it regardless of what the last few characters of the name are.

ETA - there are also some switches you can use with DEL, like /A H to kill “hidden” files. Do a DEL /? to see a list of options.

Another possibility is that the files are corrupted. Run a disk check on your disk if the above methods don’t solve the problem.

I’d try a registry cleaner first.

Thanks for the suggestions. I sent the user an email asking him to let me know when he has some time for me to try some more stuff. I’ll let you know how it goes!

You didn’t mention rebooting the suspect computer, but if it’s a file that is locked by an app, that should release the lock. Just to be sure, disable all items in the startup group, then reboot. That way, no ordinary app will have a chance to re-assert the lock.

My money’s on the illegal/invisible chars in the filename. Someone is trying to prevent you from removing it.

Yay, the files are gone!

Those files had actually been there a few weeks before he called, so he’d already rebooted a bunch of times and still couldn’t delete them, and I forgot to mention in my OP that I had already tried check disk. I tried using a wildcard and the delete hidden files switch on the del command, but that didn’t work. Then I tried yevgeny’s Delete FXP Files link, and that finally got rid of the bastards!

I’ve got a malware scan running now just in case.

I came in to mention that I had a similar situation (though it looks like the OP has solved it now). Nothing and I mean NOTHING would touch those folders. Not even any of the Kill-Bits guaranteed to delete any file programs worked. I even did clean install of my operating system (the folders were on the D: Drive) and that didn’t help. Interestingly when I installed windows 7 the error it gave me was slightly different (it gave me an error stating I need the permission of the file’s owner with some name I can’t remember) The way I ended up getting rid of them was to move all my stuff off the drive FORMAT it.

Mine appeared shortly after a Windows update and to start with it did have some temp files in it. I was able to delete the files inside of it fine just not the folder. I don’t think it was a maleware issue as they were never flagged on a virus scan and I’m pretty sure they appeared after a service pack update.