Unlocker vs LockHunter: which one should you get for your “file unlocking” needs?

Most of us know, or have heard about, Unlocker. On the other hand relative few of us have heard of LockHunter. Yet, both are excellent “file unlockers”. So, which one is better to have, and why it is better? Lets find out.

Before I delve into the discussion on Unlocker and LockHunter respectively, let me explain really quickly what I mean by “file unlocker” for those that are confused. Have you ever tried to move, delete, rename, or modify a file (or folder) and were slapped on the wrist by Windows because either the file (or folder) “is in use by a program”, you are “denied access” (even though you have administrator access to the computer), or something similar? I know I have run into this problem many times. Most of the times whenever this problem happens, it seems like even if you close all possible open programs you can think of, you are still unable to move, delete, rename, or modify that bloody file. Windows can be nasty like that (often times there is useless activity, that you are not aware of, related to handles, DLLs, blah, blah going on in the background even after you stop using a program). So to combat this problem, “file unlockers” were created. A file unlocker, in layman’s terms, terminates all open connections/links to the file in question and allows you to do what you want with the file. Now if you continually and repeatedly get an error when trying to move, delete, rename, or modify files, you most likely have malware installed on your computer and a file unlocker will not solve all your problems (it can still help though). However for the every now and then stubborn file, file unlockers can be very useful.

Now onto the core part of this article: Unlocker vs LockHunter. The first thing you should know about these two utilities is Unlocker is somewhat of a “veteran” while LockHunter is the “new kid on the block” (in fact LockHunter is still in Beta). However, in LockHunter’s defense, has been actively developed in 2009 than Unlocker (Unlocker’s last release was in 2008). That being said, Unlocker and LockHunter both can do the following:

  • Detect and display all processes, DLLs, files, programs, etc. currently locking the file (or folder) you want to unlock
  • Unlock the file (or folder) in one click
  • Selectively close detected processes (or close them all)
  • Delete the file (or folder) once unlocked

Additionally, both Unlocker and LockHunter create right-click context menu entries so you can easily unlock files (or folders).

As you can see, the core features of Unlocker and LockHunter are the same; both will give you the similar ability to unlock files or folders. There is only one major difference between the two…

  • LockHunter officially supports Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/Win7 and works on 32-bit and 64-bit.
  • Unlocker officially supports Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista (although it seems to work fine on Win7) but only works on 32-bit.

…and a few minor differences:

  • When LockHunter deletes a file, it deletes it to Recycle Bin so you have a chance of recovering it if you decide later on deleting it was a mistake or whatever. Comparitvely, Unlocker deletes it to… well I don’t know; wherever prema-deleted files go to I guess. What I am trying to say is, files deleted with Unlocker do not go to Recycle Bin.
  • LockHunter has a much more aesthetically pleasing and organized interface than Unlocker.
  • Unlocker has some sort of “assistant” that is supposed to you do something, which I was unable to test because it doesn’t work in Vista or Win7, while LockHunter doesn’t.
  • Unlocker allows you to rename or move files from within the program (in addition to deleting them) while LockHunter does not (however you can always rename or move files using native Windows commands after you unlock them).
  • Unlocker does not have much of an interface outside of initiating it via the context-menu whereas you can always launch LockHunter separately or via context-menu.
  • Unlocker is a 255 KB download while LockHunter is ~1.2 MB.

One potential pro Unlocker may have over LockHunter is Unlocker is able to complete any task after a reboot if it is unable to perform the task right then and there. I don’t know if LockHunter is able to do this or not because the developer does not specifically state the feature nor have I run into an issue (yet) where LockHunter told me to reboot my computer.

So, in conclusion, both Unlocker and LockHunter are very similar, and very useful programs. What will be the ultimate factor in a decision of Unlocker vs LockHunter is “which one works on my computer”. Personally, since I run 32-bit user and have a choice of both, I like LockHunter’s superior interface (why not have eye candy when it is available) and therefore prefer it over Unlocker. Which one do you use? Feel free to comment below.

You can grab Unlocker and LockHunter from the following links:

Unlocker

Version Reviewed: 1.8.7

Supported OS: 32-bit only Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista

Unlocker homepage [direct download]

LockHunter

Version Reviewed: 1.0 Beta 3

Supported OS: 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/Win7

LockHunter homepage [direct download: 32-bit | 64-bit]

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48 comments

  1. Anthony Vanover

    Personally, I think unlocker is far superior. Things unlocker does which LockHunter does not: unloads dlls, deletes index.dat files, auto delete/rename/move, handles invalid file names, delete/rename/move on reboot, command line access. For those of you that still prefer LockHunter but want the reboot feature then I would recommend FileASSASSIN by Malwarebytes.

    @etim: You can find that information on the website. “What is Unlocker Assistant? Unlocker Assistant stays in your system tray bar and automatically launches Unlocker if you are trying to delete/rename/move a file that is locked. So for those who use Unlocker Assistant, no need to right click files or folders anymore. This feature can be deactivated during the install.”

  2. Frank

    I have run into a couple cases where unlocker did not work. – I had been using unlocker for years, but now for the last 6 months I have been using both lock hunter and EMCO UnLock IT. between those two I have been able to kill most anything, Also,  hate that UNLOCKER installs ebay short cuts and I believe an ebay adware type program that insist on being added to my startup items. When I decline it, it trys to do it again later. Probably harmless stuff, but when I have those other two apps to use, that are some times also more effective, I now avoid Unlocker.

  3. Jonathan

    From the unlocker website:

    Unlocker Assistant stays in your system tray bar and automatically launches Unlocker if you are trying to delete/rename/move a file that is locked. So for those who use Unlocker Assistant, no need to right click files or folders anymore. This feature can be deactivated during the install.

    To me this is the feature that makes Unlocker better.

  4. janet

    @rezidue:

    Wow! A million thanks! I moved it to my Avira AntiVir folder, which is on my H disk (ext HD). I imagine that will be much more efficient(?)! I have a very old (small) system, so I have all my dotTech and GOATD programs on the ext HD……

  5. rezidue

    @janet: Hello again! You can change the directory under Extras -> General -> Directories, so you could put it’s application directory to another partition or possibly even an external drive/usb/sd card etc. But it would have to always be available for Avira to read/write.

  6. janet

    @rezidue:

    Hmmmmmm…..mine is exacftly the same size as yours…..! I guess you were right—it’s not a regular temp file….Especially if it came back at the same size…..Guess there is no point in deleting it, but I still would like to find out if it is possible to move it off the system drive…..

  7. janet

    @rezidue:
    The Avira guy on their forums also said Extras -> Configuration -> General -> Security and then uncheck the boxes under Product protection and then delete.  But I can’t delete it.  My LockHunter tells me that avguard.exe is locking it, and nothing I can do in either TaskManager or AnVir will kill the process…..I can’t find a way to turn Avira AntiVir off!

    I think that it is a regular temp file that keeps growing if you don’t delete it. I imagine it should be deleted periodically and then will come back empty when the program is restarted and will once again start filling up. All I need to do now is get my computer to allow me to delete it …:-)

  8. rezidue

    @Janet: Hi – I don’t know if you found the answer (or if you’ll see this!).
    You would need to go to Extras -> Configuration -> General -> Security and then uncheck the boxes under Product protection. You’ll also need to stop avgnt avgaurd and avshadow in task manager. You should then be able to delete that file. Don’t forget to go back and re-enable the protection though.
    Regards,
    Damian

  9. cityblondechic

    I can only use LockHunter because I’m a 64bit Vista user and it was simple and effective, I never would have known about it without you. Thank you so much, this is a great site and I’m so glad I found ya’ll!! I just know I’m going to learn tons here, I can’t wait for more…..

  10. 11bravo

    I’d forgotten how USEFUL Ashraf’s articles are. This one a prime example. Thanks, and I hope you’ve cloned yourself several times, given all the work you do getting this articles out. Appreciated.

  11. Leland

    I am one of those users who does not care for eye candy; just results. That is why I prefer Unlocker. However I have tried LockHunter on a 64 bit machine I have worked on and find it ok and will use it on any 64 bit machines I use. Supposedly a 64 bit version of Unlocker is supposed to be in the works, but only time will tell that story. Thanks Ashraf.

  12. etim

    Also–if you want to delete something using Unlocker but are afraid to get rid of it completely, you can choose to ‘move’ it to the recycle bin temporarily till you can see if it is safe to get rid of.

  13. Janet

    @Ashraf:

    As I said in my post, C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Avira\AntiVir Desktop\TEMP\avguard.tmp is usually a HUGE file that takes up lots of space on your C drive….Judging by the Avira forums, LOTS of folks want to get rid of it for this reason (including me) given that you apparently can’t move its folder to a different partition….

  14. Bill Gates II

    @Ashraf:
    LOL
    Yea, in general I try to use things that are part of Windows in the first place to do stuff, it’s there any ways, why get something else that takes up extra resources (I admit that there are times when other things do it better but sometimes I think that the better is not worth it).

  15. Bill Gates II

    @Ashraf: If you have your hands on a Windows 7 Machine (RC or RTM) (I don’t think it matters what version, but being as I have Ultimate I can’t really say) when you open Task Manager up go to the perfomance tab. On that you should have a button that says Resource Monitor.

    If you don’t have access to one though I hope this helps:
    Windows Resource Monitor is a system tool that allows you to view information about the use of hardware (CPU, memory, disk, and network) and software (file handles and modules) resources in real time. You can filter the results according to specific processes or services that you want to monitor. In addition, you can use Resource Monitor to start, stop, suspend, and resume processes and services, and to troubleshoot when an application does not respond as expected.” – The Helo Manuel. That’s what it is in nut shell, If you wana know more about a feature just ask.

  16. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Liam K: Bleh! :)

    @etim: Let me know when you find out LOL!

    @gmon: Cool; gmon has nice tastes. :P

    @tejas: You are welcome.

    @Ozzie: You are welcome.

    @Ron: How you liking Win7 Pro? I love it although something is causing it to crash often on me after my recent reformat… I need to figure out what before it kills my HDD.

    And you are welcome.

    @Quro@75: You will probably like LockHunter.

    @Paul D: I agree… with the system tray icon comment that is.

    @Roy Smith: Ya I noticed that. I was sure to uncheck it. Thanks for alerting everyone; I probably should have done that.

    @janet: This Ashraf guy sounds like hes really awesome. :P

    @grooveygirl: What do you mean “why files in a folder will occasionally rearrange themselves”?

    And you are welcome.

    @Geek CSI: You are welcome.

    @J. L.: Ah, finally someone enlightens! Thanks. :)

    @Josh: LOL!

    @janet: I agree with Josh on the file size thing; it is most likely the eye candy.

    @Bill Gates II: What Resource Manager is it exactly? I would say I will Google it but… ya.

    @Jeanjean: Cool; I will look into it – thanks.

    @jumbi: I am pretty sure Unlocker is clean but hey who knows.

    @Janet: o_O Why do you want to delete it?

    @Paul D: Thanks for the info.

    @Josh: I agree.

    @John Kula: I am thinking it is a false positive but welcome on board the LockHunter train. :)

    ————-

    Seems like most dotTechies are Unlocker fans. However, I do suggest all you guys give LockHunter a try. You may not appreciate the “eye candy” but you most likely will appreciate how it organizes its results (the files/processes locking the file/folder you want to unlock) better than Unlocker. If not, just uninstall it.

  17. Josh

    @Janet

    Janet: Thanks for pointing out the error about my GUI statement. I still prefer the simpler right click interface of Unlocker. These tools are purely for convenience and a kind of necessary evil, so why burden your machine? The “eye candy” and “delete to recycle bin” features probably account for some of the bulk in LockHunter, in addition to 64-bit support. A matter of personal choice, I suppose.

  18. Janet

    I’ve got a good project for you guys:

    Can anyone manage to delete avguard.tmp located at
    C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Avira\AntiVir Desktop\TEMP?

    I was unable to with LockHunter. This is an interesting known issue at Avira…It apparently appears at thaqt location even if your AntiVir has been installed to a different directory. It’s usually a very big file taking up space on your C:…..Does Unlocker allow to delete it?

  19. jumbi

    just a minor note:
    Eset Nod32 and another couple of antivirus find unlocker.exe as a trojan.
    This is a small percentage between (3 to 40) antivirus which find it clean (so most probably a false alarm), but nevertheless I thought to mention, as I respect Eset results.

  20. Jeanjean

    I use Unlocker and I will continue to use it unless LockHunter would be more effective.
    I also have(Win XP SP 3) “GIPO Move On boot” just in case … (It’s a veteran too !).
    For those interested, I just found “Emco UnLock IT” (3,28 Mb) and “Emco Move On boot” (latest version of 02/09/2009) and i’ll try the last.(http://www.emco.is)

  21. Bill Gates II

    I’m running Windows 7 x32 and 7 has this lovely feature called Resource Monitor, which is some what like Task Manager Advance. One nice feature is that it can show u every file that is being accessed and what process is doing so, allowing me to just deal with the problem directly, and then it never happens again. So lovely sounding programs, but I’ll skip.

  22. janet

    @Josh:

    JOSH: BOTH open a small window from a r-click. One window isn’t any more a GUI than the other. The only difference is the graphics of the window.

    I don’t get why one prog is so much heavier than the other. I’m speaking of the 32-bit ones only.

  23. Josh

    Unlocker does everything you need on a 32-bit XP Pro machine, with or without the “assistant”. I removed the “assistant” from start up and I don’t see any difference in how fast the app works. For me it’s one of the “absolutely-must-have” little gems which use almost zero resources on a PC. I see no sense in a GUI for an application like this; the right-click does it all. Of course, 64-bit users will have to use LockHunter. BTW, I sense Ashraf being a bit snide about Windows locking files – I, on the other hand, blame Ahsraf for having to use Unlocker so often. It’s because of all those bloody programs he entices me to test :-)

  24. J. L.

    The assistant unlocks locked files/folder automatically on my old XP Pro 32-bit machine. If the file/folder isn’t locked when you’re trying to move/rename/delete/modify it, the assistant won’t do anything.
    I prefer to use the send to shortcut though, not like you’ll see a locked file or folder every day.

    Now, on my Windows 7 x64 machine, I use LockHunter.

  25. Geek CSI

    @grooveygirl: Windows has its own idea of how your files should be arranged. I disable all file options but my own and STILL have to hunt for things. System generated files are the worst and I have simply adjusted to the place it puts them. I’m about to multi-boot two of our PCs and will begin running a Linux distro. Good luck keeping your files in order. Keith

  26. Geek CSI

    I recently discovered Lock Hunter but have not had a need to try it yet. Many of the GOTD downloads place “services” in the background which do need to be unlocked as they are attached to the IE browser. I don’t run IE except as “ordered” by installs such as GODT. The Unlocker right click menu option often requires a reboot to kill the file. You could always try Recuva to find a deleted file but, if I use Unlocker/Reboot to get rid of it I care not where it went. Thanks Ashraf, I read your comments/reviews on a regular basis – daily.

  27. grooveygirl

    I have been using Unlocker for awhile now and have found it to be a very useful tool to have. Now unless Unlocker does something to tick me off I’ll be staying with it. Now if only I can figure out why files in a folder will occasionally rearrange themselves then I’ll be set. Thanks Ashraf.

  28. janet

    I almost skipped this review ’cause I thought it was some specialized function regarding intentionally locked files (for security/privacy). Since i’m the only one on the computer, I figured it didn’t apply to me….But I had the nagging feeling that I should NOT miss an Ashraf article….:-)….As it turns out, this is a type of program I would LOVE as I often run across this problem!

    Thanks (as usual) to Ashraf!

  29. Roy Smith

    BE AWARE EVERYONE

    I downloaded Unlocker from the Unlocker website and installed it and it also installed an 87KB eBay shortcuts application onto my pc at this address C:\Users\Roy\AppData\Roaming\Desktopicon with a 1KB shortcut to that app on the desktop too!

    I uninstalled it and reinstalled and looked more carefully and discovered that the first time I’d missed a checkbox for the ebay application in the installer.

    The eBay app is already checked to be installed so I unchecked it this time and the eBay app was NOT reinstalled with the Unlocker app.

  30. Paul D

    The assistant is supposed to speed up the process, and I believe it does, marginally. I seem to be waiting longer for Unlocker to do its thing since I stopped the assistant. But hey, who needs another icon in the tray?

  31. Quro@75

    I’ve been using Unlocker for years (I think..), and this is absolutely my favorite. LockHunter? Never heard about it (maybe coz I never want to know before). Well… alright, maybe I’ll take a try with this “new kid on the blok” LockHunter.Who knows, maybe I like it.

  32. Ron

    I’ll take a look at Lockhunter, but Unlocker is on every machine I own or maintain. Imo pretty GUIs aren’t necessary to get the job done, but they can enhance the experience for many users. Unlocker does work on Win 7 Pro 32-bit for me, but I haven’t tried it on Ultimate. (As a TechNet subscriber, I have both, but find Pro is my preferred version, atm.)

    Thanks, Ashraf

  33. Ozzie

    Greetings all! I’ve been a long-time user of Unlocker. It’s always done the job and I see no reason to fix what ain’t broken (even if the other does have nicer eye candy!). But I appreciate you drawing attention to the new kid on the block!

  34. gmon

    Unlocker is one of the first programs I install on any new toy, I mean pc, but I will always go for eye candy, so thanks for the info on Lockhunter. I am going to play with 64 bit Windows 7 soon, so it should come in handy.

  35. Liam K

    The assistant doesn’t seem to do anything on Windows XP Pro either :/

    “Unlocker allows you to rename or move files from within the program (in addition to deleting them) while LockHunter does not (however you can always rename or move files after you unlock the files).”

    That does it for me. Interface shminterface :P