Locked for editing by ‘another user’

Published on October 3, 2012 by in General, SysAdmin


You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, and even our end users have seen it. That wonderful and informative message that causes our application to throw its hands in the air, and then pout in a corner when we try to open a locked document. What’s a user to do?




While this error message is not the end of the world it can spell death to users productivity who are trying to access a shared file just so they can continue working. This annoying message can pop up for a number of reasons and might be difficult to determine exactly what is causing it. When we open a Word document to edit, Word will create a temporary file in the same location as our file, this temporary file contains who the “owner” of the file is. In this instance, the “owner” is the person who is editing the file most recently and applies a lock on the file so no other users can edit it. This lock normally gets deleted when the user finishes using the application and closes it properly.

The owner file name uses the following convention: It begins with a tilde (~), followed by a dollar sign ($), followed by the remainder of the document file name. The file name extension is .doc. For example, the owner file for ILikeCookies.doc is named ~$ikeCookies.doc


Some causes for this error message include:

  • Word quits improperly and the Owner file does not get deleted
  • Another instance of the application has the file open in it
  • The shared document is open by an actual other user


As a user your options are limited on what you can actually do to remedy this error. One of your options would be to verify if the file is open by another user, if it is then open the document as a read-only. Provided no other users have this file open, close out all instances of Word and then delete the owner file.


As a server admin you have more options available to be able to find what is causing this issue and to resolve it. Log in to the server where the file is being hosted, open Computer Management, expand System Tools, and click on Open Files. Look in the jumbled mess of files to find the path and file name of the file your user is trying to open for editing. Verify the username listed under Accessed By tab, check if the user still has the file open. If they do ask them to save their work and exit the application, ask your first user to check if they can now edit the document. If the listed user reports they no longer have the document open, highlight the item, right click and select Close Open File.


This will free up the document from the share and allow another user to edit the document without being prompted to save a local copy or deny them access.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.