Technology Advice by Ryan Taylor Adams

Getting Around the “cannot Read From the Source File” Error

July 14th, 2008 · No Comments · Printer Friendly Version


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There are 2 situations where Windows will present you with a “cannot read from the source file” error:

  1. You try to open/view/edit/delete a file which has already been moved or deleted.
  2. You try to delete a file (or folder) which is still present on your computer.

In the first case, the solution is simple, return the file to its original location. However, if you get the error when trying to delete a file or folder which does exist, keep reading for a fix.

This error is most often caused by a file or folder that contains an invalid character in it’s name. Windows doesn’t like folders/files to contain question marks, tildes, and several other characters. Under most circumstances, Windows won’t even allow files to be created if they have such a character in their name. Unfortunately, some programs, other operating systems, or hackers will “go behind Window’s back” can create such a file anyways. When you go to delete said file, Windows freaks out becasue in its opinion, such a file can’t exist. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. It’s a good idea to do a backup before attempting this. IF done right, nothing bad will happen, but since we are trying to delete a file, you want to have a backup in case you delete the wrong one.
  2. Go to your Start Menu and click “Run…” A small window will open.
  3. Type cmd del “\\?\C:\path\badfilename” . You will need to replace “c:\path\badfilename” with the path to the file/folder you want to delete.
  4. Press “OK”.
  5. If the file/folder is still there, go back to the “Run…” window and type cmd /C RD /S /Q “C:\path\badfilename” again replacing “c:\path\badfilename” with the location of the folder you want to delete.
  6. Press “OK”.

That should do it.