Q: My son finally got his own computer. Now I am trying to clean his junk off ours. There is a file named dmt-shaun.avi that is 716 megabytes...

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My son finally got his own computer. Now I am trying to clean his junk off ours. There is a file named dmt-shaun.avi that is 716 megabytes. It defies all attempts to delete it. I can right-mouse click on it, choose Delete, and it says it is in use by another program or service and that I need to stop that program before I can delete it.

I have started the machine in safe mode and tried to delete it with the same result. I have used Startup Manager to try and identify some application or service that may be running this file, to no avail.

I thought it could be some Trojan horse or some such thing, but SpyBot, Ad-Aware and Norton Antivirus do not have any issues with it. I tried to rename the file and delete it and it won’t let me. Any suggestions?

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— Michael Henderson


Strange, isn’t it? Windows does prevent users from deleting certain files. In some cases, that’s a good thing.

If you delete a system file in use, for example, you might end up corrupting the operating system.

But there are other files, including videos, that receive this treatment for no apparent reason. That AVI file you’re dealing with, by the way, is a video file.

In general, here’s what to do:

First, make sure, as you have, that no program is using the file. If it’s a Word file, for example, close down Word. Even if you think the file isn’t open, Word might think it is.

Secondly, and this you have also done, try renaming the file, then deleting it.

Third, reboot your computer, and try deleting the file before loading any applications.

Finally, you can try using a utility called MoveOnBoot. This free tool allows you to move, copy or delete files before Windows loads. You can download the utility at: www.snapfiles.com/get/moveonboot.html


Spysweeper tells me I have a DLL running in memory. The latest version of the software fails to get rid of it. When I open the DLL in Windows Explorer and try to delete it, I’m told I can’t. Is there a way to get rid of this?

— Robert Mays


It’s funny how often readers’ questions “cluster.” I haven’t gotten a question about deleting files in months, and this is the second one within days.

You may want to talk to Spysweeper tech support. But I can tell you most DLLs are just fine, and you don’t want to delete them.

By the way, DLL stands for Dynamic Link Library and they are support files for Windows applications. If it’s a legitimate file and you delete it, you might be making it so that one of your applications won’t run properly anymore.

If you’re absolutely sure this a file you want to get rid of try the steps outlined above.


My problem is unwanted pictures on the screensaver of my new Dell 8400 that mysteriously appeared shortly after I received it.

I have deleted them numerous times from the My Pictures folder, then deleted them from the Recycle Bin and even dragged them to another folder, all to no avail. They are back the next time I reboot the machine.

I know I could select another screensaver but I have made considerable effort setting up this file with my favorite pictures. I suspect there is a simple solution — if only I knew what it is!

— Merle Hanley, Seattle


I’m assuming you’ve selected the “My Pictures Slideshow” as the screensaver in the Display utility located in the Control Panel.

When you do that, the screensaver will sequentially load images in the My Pictures folder under your user profile.

My guess is you’re deleting the files in the My Pictures folder under a different user profile.

When you boot Windows, notice which user you are logging on as. Then go to the Documents and Settings folder and locate the user name you logged in under. Look for the My Pictures folder under that user name.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.