[Fix] “Could not find this item” When Deleting a File or Folder in Windows

When you attempt to delete a file or folder on your Windows computer, the “Item not found” error may appear. Here is the full error message:

Could not find this item.

This is no longer located in [path]. Verify the item’s location and try again.”

could not find the item when deleting a file or folder

This article explains how to fix the error when deleting a file or folder in Windows.

Fix “Could Not Find This Item” When Deleting a File or Folder in Windows

First, make sure you refresh the screen by pressing the F5 key. This is to check if the file or folder really exists, or if it has been already deleted by some program and only the ghost icon appears. If the file or folder appears even after refreshing the screen, then try one of these methods to delete the file or folder.

Method 1: Delete the file or folder from Command Prompt

  1. Press and hold the Shift key and right click on the file or folder
  2. Select Copy as Path in the context menu.
  3. Open a Command Prompt window (cmd.exe)
  4. Type the following command to delete the item:

    If it’s a file:

    del [drive:\path\filename]

    could not find the item when deleting a file or folder

    If it’s a folder:

    rd /s /q [folderpath]

    could not find the item when deleting a file or folder

    (In the above example, the Office Docs folder along with all the sub-folders and files will be deleted.)

    tips bulb iconIt’s always better to include the complete path to the file or folder when deleting. Note that you can paste the file/folder path from the clipboard (which you copied in Step 2 above) to the Command Prompt by pressing Ctrl + V.

Method 2: Delete the file or folder from Command Prompt Using Short File Name format

Use the 8.3 (short file name) file/folder name to delete the item from Command Prompt. Follow these steps:

  1. In the Command Prompt window, change to the parent directory of the file or folder.
  2. Type DIR /X to find the short file/folder name (8.1 name). For example, the short file name for a file named togglethumbs.vbs may be something like toggle~1.vbs.
  3. Then delete the file or folder using its short file name from the Command Prompt.

Method 3: Rename the file or folder

Once you find the short file/folder name, you may try renaming it. To rename a file or folder, use this command-line syntax:

  1. Open a Command Prompt window.
  2. Then, use the following command-line syntax to rename the item:
    REN drive:\path\OldName Newname

    For example:

    REN drive:\path\toggle~1.vbs  toggle.vbs
  3. Exit the Command Prompt.
  4. See if you can delete the file via File Explorer.

Method 4: Dealing with File/Folder Names ending with DOT or Space

When the file or folder name contains reserved characters or the names end with a dot (.), or space, deleting the file or folder may cause the above-said error.

If you find (using DIR /X command) that the file or folder name has a trailing space or a dot (.) at the end, use the following syntax (“\\?\“) to delete the item:

In the Command Prompt window, type:

To delete a folder:

rd /s "\\?\D:\bad\folder\path "

(Note the trailing space)

rd /s "\\?\D:\bad\folder\path."

(Note the trailing dot)

Examples:

rd /s "\\?\D:\Shared\folder1 "
rd /s "\\?\D:\Shared\folder1."

To delete a file:

del "\\?\c:\path_to_file_that contains a trailing space.txt "

(Note the trailing space)

del "\\?\c:\path_to_file_that contains a trailing dot."

(Note the trailing dot)

(Example) Deleting folders with reserved names or having invalid characters in the name.

In this example there are three invalid folders namely Con, Conduct. and LocalState..

delete folder reserved or invalid characters in name

(Note that the word con is a reserved name, and shouldn’t be used in file or folder names.)



Attempting to normally access the folder with a reserved name (e.g., con) causes the following error:

Location is not available

path:\con is not accessible.

The handle is invalid.

the handle is invalid - invalid file or folder name

To delete the folder, we’ll now run the following command from administrator Command Prompt:

rd /s "\\?\C:\con"

The other two folders namely conduct. and LocalState.. have invalid characters (.) in the file name. Let’s run the following commands to delete those folders:

rd /s "\\?\C:\conduct."
rd /s "\\?\C:\LocalState.."

delete folder reserved or invalid characters in name

Voila! The three folders are now removed.

delete folder reserved or invalid characters in name

For more information on dealing with files containing reserved or invalid characters, see Microsoft article You cannot delete a file or a folder on an NTFS file system volume.

Advanced Methods

tools icon

If none of the above options help, check out article How to Delete a Stubborn Undeletable File or Folder in Windows? to learn about other methods to delete the stubborn, corrupted or undeletable file or folder. Here are some of the options discussed in that article:

  • MoveFile.exe method
  • Process Explorer method
  • Using “Unlocker”
  • Disk error checking
  • Dealing with incorrect NTFS Permissions
  • Dealing with invalid or reserved characters in file/folder name

That’s it! Hope one of the methods discussed in the article helped you successfully delete a file or folder without getting the “Could not find this item” error message.


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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.

12 thoughts on “[Fix] “Could not find this item” When Deleting a File or Folder in Windows”

  1. The best guide, really fixed my problem!! no one else had these answers so readily available and well explained, thanks very much!!!

  2. Many thanks! This guide did the trick in helping me delete a pesky file with no extension and a trailing space! Much appreciated ❤

  3. THANKS! Method 4 worked for me, after method 1, 2 and 3 failed. (the folder was originally called “C:\delete this” delete as part of the name is a reserved name?

    In file explorer (win 10 pro), I tested just now – right clicked, new, folder and called it delete this

    Then tried to delete it. It deleted fine (yeah, there were no files / folders in it).

    And what’s that syntax \\? !?!?!? Never saw that before : )

    Thanks!

  4. Whew – the rd /s “\\?\D:\bad\folder\path ” method worked for me. There was a buried subfolder with several . (dots) in the name. You are the best!

  5. Somehow got robocopy to create a folder with a space at the end on Windows 7. This worked great! Still not sure why Windows Explorer isn’t smart enough to delete these files/folders from the GUI if they know enough to populate them in the tree.

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