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Unlocking Your Problems With Unlocker

Name: Unlocker
Version Reviewed: 1.8.8
Operating System: Windows XP, Vista, 7
Price: Completely free.
Site: http://ccollomb.free.fr/unlocker/
http://www.filehippo.com/download_unlocker/ (download)
Good: Helps solve one of the great mysteries of Windows – what the @!&$!!% is locking my file!?!
Easy enough to use for non-geeks (Yes mom – even you…)
Bad: Very simple for a utility, takes a smidgen of knowledge about Windows process to be used for anything more than unlocking files.
Verdict: Get it. Install it. Loose some stress.

Unlocker LogoA Small Utility For A Big Annoyance

You’re working on some files – say some dlls or .class files if you are a geek, or Word and Excel files if you’re mortal, and you need to move them.  No problem since you’ve moved files before – heck, anyone can move a file!  You right-click on the file to get the context menu, left-click on “cut”, right-click in the destination file, left-click on “paste”…

FileLockError
(Play music clip to get full experience of horror and rage)

At this point you are asking yourself what digital god you pissed off to curse you so. Now I’ve seen some people try closing everything they are working on at the time and then see if they can move the file, which in itself is usually destructive to the mindset you were in to get work done at the time. Unfortunately for us, the ancestors of the old TSRs (That’s “terminate and stay resident” programs, not “tactical studies rules” for those of you that are more RPG geek than code geek) can sometimes keep running in the background in a moronic attempt to “help” end users with fast starting and remembering what files you were working on – Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat, I’m looking at you guys! This usually leaves you with either opening up the task manager and trying to figure out what process to end in order to free the file, and if you have no idea what that last part means, then closing everything and restarting your computer. Both answers, to put it in highly technical terms, “suck”.

Unlocker In MenuEnter Unlocker, which is actually one of a number of utilities that are supposed to help with problem files like this. I’ve used a few of them, and so far Unlocker has treated me the best. Unlocker is a very simple little tool that even my mom could use (sorry mom!) which really only has two modes of operation. The first is to monitor file operations in Windows explorer, and if it detects a failure in any move, delete, rename, etc… operation, it will pop up and show you what programs or processes are locking the file you were working on. The second mode is to give you an added option in the context menu, allowing you to choose a file and see if it is locked by anything.

As you can see below, when a locked file is detected, you are given the options to either unlock it or kill the process locking it.  Sometimes this is just a really quick and dirty way to figure out what the hell the process is that is locking your file, because as you probably know, Windows sucks… at telling you what process is currently molesting any given file.

Unlocker Dialog

Non-geek Info

Using the “Unlock” options will be enough to fix your problem.  Those buttons do not do anything untoward to your running programs except tell them “No – not yours!” and have them release the file that was locked.  That may make your program mad if you then move it away from where the program is looking for it, and any unsaved changes you have may be put in jeopardy.  If you don’t have the program open, however, then I wouldn’t worry about any back-end process locking it.  The “Kill Process” button, however, is your option of last resort, and may make the digital gods annoyed with you.  If, however, the file you want is locked and the unlock option isn’t working and you absolutely need to move it no matter what, then the kill button is your only hope short of restarting your computer.

In closing…

I’d say get this and install it.  It’s free and it will be more useful than you can guess – even if it’s just in letting you know that you’re not crazy, and that even though you closed Word, it really is still locking your file.  As one of my favourite detectives is fond of saying, “You’ll thank me later”.

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