How do I get rid of a directory when it "refers to a location that is unavailable?"
June 12, 2008 10:30 PM   Subscribe

On my external hard drive there's this empty file folder that I can't delete. Every time I try to delete the folder, I get a message saying that it doesn't exist. I'm not very tech-savvy. What do I do?

So I tried to extract a compressed file--I can't remember if it was a .zip or a .rar. Nor do I remember the program I used to extract it--it wasn't WinZip, it was something I found for free on (Don't look at me like that.)

The upshot is that the zipped file was messed up somehow, but the extractor went ahead and created a directory for the potentially unzipped file. But the extraction didn't work, so it left this ugly directory just lying there, indestructible and pointless.

I did all this on my external hard drive, so when I couldn't delete the directory with the hard drive attached to a computer running Windows XP, I tried it on a computer running Vista. I keep getting the same response, about how it "refers to a location that is unavailable."

I don't know a whole lot about the inner workings of Windows operating systems. The mature thing would be to just ignore the stupid superfluous directory, but it drives me crazy. Is there something I can do? (It's a FAT32 file system, whatever that means.) Some kind of clean-up--other than the disk cleanup/defragment options in the system tools? And could I maybe get very simple, step-by-step instructions, so that I don't ruin anything? (Just a heads-up: any mention of "algorithms" and I'm lost.)
posted by suimin to Technology (11 answers total)
I had the same problem with an empty folder, except it was on a partition in an internal drive. After defragmenting the partition, I was able to delete the folder. It sounds like you may have tried defragmenting already, but that's what worked for me (though I dunno why that fixed it).
posted by yeoja at 10:40 PM on June 12, 2008

Are you up to date on patches? This KB article (first google hit for "refers to a location that is unavailable") mentions that the issue is fixed with 'the latest service pack'.
posted by datacenter refugee at 10:45 PM on June 12, 2008

Previously me!
posted by baserunner73 at 10:58 PM on June 12, 2008

Try Unlocker... It's for a different problem, but see if it helps you out.
posted by cyanide at 11:31 PM on June 12, 2008

Yeoja- Yeah, unfortunately the defragmenting thing didn't work for me.
Datacenter- I am completely up to date as far as I know.

Baserunner- I hate to admit this, but you're assuming a level of computer-competence I just haven't reached. The dialogue in response to your question left me bewildered and slightly queasy. A lot of the terms flabdablet used are completely foreign to me. I did, for example, download the Trinity Rescue Kit .iso file, and put it on a USB disk, as the website suggested. (I think.) But I have no idea where to go from there. Both flabdablet and the Trinty website just dive right in to what I assume must be commands or prompts of some kind, but I need to know how to get there, first. Do I just double-click on it, or what? How do I make it work? Also, even if I could make sense of flabdablet’s answer to your question, would his steps be the same for removing a directory, rather than an actual file?

I'm sorry--this is probably very basic knowledge for most people.
posted by suimin at 11:55 PM on June 12, 2008

Cyanide- Thanks, that worked perfectly!
posted by suimin at 11:57 PM on June 12, 2008

Cyanide- Okay, just kidding. It looks like the directory is still there, after all, even though the program said it had successfully removed it. But I'm still grateful for the suggestion.
posted by suimin at 12:15 AM on June 13, 2008

I would run chkdsk on the drive. Sounds like the disk's structure is a little messed up.

Failing that, see if you can view the properties of the file (right click on the file, choose properties). If it lets you see that, see what the security settings are and if you can add your username as a full control user on that file.
posted by gjc at 5:09 AM on June 13, 2008

This Microsoft Support page gives several possible causes for this problem and how to fix them. But note that not all causes have cures short of reformatting the entire disk and reinstalling everything (not worth it).

I have one such stuck file. It shows up when Rootkit Revealer is run, and its properties dialog has no Security tab. (Right click filename, choose 'Properties'. Normal files have a tab labeled 'Security'.)
posted by hexatron at 6:01 AM on June 13, 2008

Something that worked for me: in DOS, move the dir to the top level of the drive and rename it: move yadayada e:\blah. I had tried other desperate measures before that, so ymmv.
posted by gregoreo at 6:24 AM on June 13, 2008

What's the name of the folder? Is it a long name? Does it have wierd characters? Is it pretty far down in the directory tree (eg. c:\program files\folder 1\folder 2\really long folder name\)? If the length of the full folder name (like the one I just typed) is longer than 256(?) chars, or if it has non-standard characters, then Windows has trouble deleting it and will give an error like the one you noted.

If that's the case, you can delete it from outside of Windows; let us know and we can try to walk you through that process.
posted by inigo2 at 8:06 AM on June 13, 2008

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