Windows 8 – Folder In Use

Originally posted at


Since using Windows 8, I’ve had continual issues when trying to move folders around. It’s the normal message saying “Folder In Use – The action can’t be completed because the folder or a file in it is open in another program”

File in Use

I’d get this continually, and quite confident that I didn’t have anything actually open. Eventually I’d try again and after a few tries, it would finally move my folder. I was fed up with this, so thought it was about time to work out what was going on. Someone (thanks Barb) reminded me that Process Explorer was a good way to work out what file was open. I ran Process Explorer, moved a few folders until I recreated the error and did a search for the folder that was in use. I found that explorer.exe had the thumbs.db file open, even though I hadn’t navigated inside the folder.

Thumbs.db? It’s been around for ages (since Windows 95!) and is a thumbnail cache file used for Windows Explorer’s thumbnail view. This was also deprecated from Windows Vista and above, replaced by a centralised thumbnail location instead of dropping the Thumbs.db files all over your hard drive. The problem is, Vista and above still create the old Thumbs.db by default!

Windows 8 seems to be even worse, in that it still creates the file but then keeps it open for a rather long time. After finding this thread on Technet, where I learnt a lot of the above, I enabled the setting “Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files” under > User Configuration > Administrative Templates  > Windows Components   > File Explorer.

After doing this then rebooting, my “Folder In Use” issue seems to have completely cleared. I can understand why this is enabled by default (backwards system compatibility), but it does seem strange that Windows 8 keeps the file open for such a long and random time.

So, as long as you don’t have anything below Vista accessing your files, go ahead and enable the setting.

Update: More detailed instructions from AJ below.

Hit Win+R, type gpedit.msc in the Run window and click OK. The Local Group Policy Editor will be launched.
Navigate through the tree to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > then either Windows Explorer (Windows Vista/7) or File Explorer (Windows 8)
In the right-hand pane, double-click “Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files”.
Select Enabled (don’t make my mistake of choosing “Disabled” — you’re enabling the switching off of Thumbs.db. Not particularly intuitive, Microsoft!)

Update 2: You can also use this registry setting:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00



Update 3: For those of you unlucky enough to have a Windows 2000 server still, there is an option in Windows 8 allowing connections to 40 bit fileservers. Check this post for details:

Update 4: Here’s a screenshot of the registry after being modified. You can ignore the other entries under ‘Explorer’:


About Adam Fowler

Adam Fowler is a systems administrator from Australia. He specializes in Microsoft technologies, though he has a wide range of experience with products and services from other vendors as well. Adam is a regular contributor to WeBreakTech, but he also writes for other technology magazines such as The Register and SearchServerVirtualization.
Adam has earned a position of respect resulting not only in a rising profile amongst his peers on social media but a strong following on his personal blog.

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