Win32 File API DeleteFile function

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Deletes an existing file.

To perform this operation as a transacted operation, use the DeleteFileTransacted function.


BOOL DeleteFile(    LPCTSTR lpFileName  );  



The name of the file to be deleted.

In the ANSI version of this function, the name is limited to MAX_PATH characters. To extend this limit to 32,767 wide characters, call the Unicode version of the function and prepend "\?" to the path. For more information, see Naming a File.

Tip  Starting in Windows 10, version 1607, for the unicode version of this function (DeleteFileW), you can opt-in to remove the MAX_PATH character limitation without prepending "\\?\". See the "Maximum Path Limitation" section of Naming Files, Paths, and Namespaces for details.

Return Value

If the function succeeds, the return value is nonzero.

If the function fails, the return value is zero (0). To get extended error information, call GetLastError.


If an application attempts to delete a file that does not exist, the DeleteFile function fails with ERROR_FILE_NOT_FOUND. If the file is a read-only file, the function fails with ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED.

The following list identifies some tips for deleting, removing, or closing files:

  • To delete a read-only file, first you must remove the read-only attribute.
  • To delete or rename a file, you must have either delete permission on the file, or delete child permission in the parent directory.
  • To recursively delete the files in a directory, use the SHFileOperation function.
  • To remove an empty directory, use the RemoveDirectory function.
  • To close an open file, use the CloseHandle function.
If you set up a directory with all access except delete and delete child, and the access control lists (ACL) of new files are inherited, then you can create a file without being able to delete it. However, then you can create a file, and then get all the access you request on the handle that is returned to you at the time you create the file.

If you request delete permission at the time you create a file, you can delete or rename the file with that handle, but not with any other handle. For more information, see File Security and Access Rights.

The DeleteFile function fails if an application attempts to delete a file that has other handles open for normal I/O or as a memory-mapped file (FILE_SHARE_DELETE must have been specified when other handles were opened).

The DeleteFile function marks a file for deletion on close. Therefore, the file deletion does not occur until the last handle to the file is closed. Subsequent calls to CreateFile to open the file fail with ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED.

Symbolic link behavior—

If the path points to a symbolic link, the symbolic link is deleted, not the target. To delete a target, you must call CreateFile and specify FILE_FLAG_DELETE_ON_CLOSE.

In Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, this function is supported by the following technologies.