So last night sometime I had tweaked a few services on my Windows 7 machine, everything was fine until today when I turned my computer on. I ran into a weird issue with the application experience service which I thought I would write about to save someone in the future wasting a few hours on this like I did.

If you ever run into the problem where you cannot delete any EXE / executable files and you cannot even take ownership of the files then you have likely also disabled the "Application Experience" service. What is this service? Well here is the description.

"Processes application compatibility cache requests for applications as they are launched".

It seems when this service is disabled and a user tries to delete an EXE file it firstly looks for it in the "application cache" and basically screws up the the deletion. Process monitor shows the file is "DELETE PENDING", which basically means it's marked for deletion it just isn't deleted yet. The most common reason for this is a handle to the file still existing somewhere. However with "Application Experience" service disabled there is no visible handle, at least that can be seen in tools which show these things. The file does get deleted after some time, from 30 seconds to 30 minutes later, instead of being instantly deleted (as users would expect it to be) with the service enabled.

For most users they will likely never experience an issue with this because how often do they need to delete EXE files? For someone that uses Visual Studio or any compiler then it will rear its head. So the moral of the story is Microsoft has a shoddy service that breaks, there are hundreds of stories related to this problem going all the way back to Vista. You think Microsoft could have fixed it by now because it most certainly is a bug, I guess they just rely on the fact most people don't disable these crappy services.

11 responses to Can't delete EXE files in Vista / Windows 7 (SOLVED)

unfnknblvbl wrote:

9/4/2009 3:03:31 PM

Question:

Why are you disabling services? It's not as though Windows 7 is a slug like Vista, and on the beast of a machine you have, it should even come pretty close to outperforming Windows XP...

RetroRalph wrote:

9/4/2009 8:21:04 PM

Windows 7 is almost as bad as Vista in my opinion. It simply streamlines a few of the things people hated about Vista. Resource use is still high, it still has plenty of useless drivers designed to stop you doing things you may want (either under the DRM cloud or "malware will get you if you don't").

For the very few things Vista/Win7 improved over XP they added a lot of junk that is simply bloat. As to why I disable services, with the amount of programs I have running (VMWARE, program compilation/profiling/editing, video/sound editing, etc) the services that just stick around for no reason annoy me not only for their RAM/CPU usage but for other reasons. So I often disable as much as possible to keep the system lean and ensure attack vectors are lowered. Since no one else seems to have found this application experience issue it wasn't listed anywhere that it caused the issue I found. I recommend people disable as much as possible though, even if you have 6GB of RAM and 8 cores. :)

yxstuff wrote:

11/17/2009 12:06:57 AM

Thanks, this does help.
Disabling this services also gives problem updating software. My steam client refused to update because "Steam.exe was deleted but still there" error.
Thanks.

RetroRalph wrote:

11/18/2009 11:18:07 PM

No problem. :) Yes any auto update software would also be affected since they commonly update their EXE files, especially software like Steam that has many games and many EXE files to update.

It is a bit funny that a software like RetroCopy has also uncovered other obscure bugs to do with Windows and OpenGL, it is a bit unique in what it does though so I shouldn't be surprised.

tajz wrote:

2/7/2011 3:59:15 PM

Thank you !
Now I know why MinGW'ing is so painful these times : I disabled AE 10 days ago.
But I hav'nt understand if you find a _salvation_ other than enabling again AE ?

I hate all crappy services, I disable all I can (the expensive PC I bought is not for parasitic processes).
I love deleting EXE files, as much as every "./configure" script loves it, building and deleting several dozen times the same "conftest.exe".

RetroRalph wrote:

2/8/2011 3:19:27 AM

Yeah it seems with every Windows release there are even more services you can no longer remove. There are no known alternatives other than re-enabling Application Experience.

It's one of the good things about Linux how much you can tweak it (but Linux has other issues so).

korbeille wrote:

3/11/2011 9:54:31 AM

Thank you a lot!!! I looked for tip like this since a very long time!! I compile a lot and this was a pain in the ass believe me! I was reduced to create several compilation profiles to generate different executable names as I did not know the solution! So disabling services to save small portions of memory is not always a good idea :-)

zalathel wrote:

1/26/2012 6:19:29 PM

you can also try deleting them wit LongPathTool. it works for me in this kind of situations.

ahaider7 wrote:

6/8/2013 4:25:53 AM

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Faced the same problem in Windows 8 Pro. I had disabled the application experience service in an effort to optimize windows performance. Now this issue was causing extreme frustration. Renabled the service and everything is smooth again.

denbkh wrote:

6/26/2013 5:01:54 PM

You disable cache check in group policy editor(gpedit.msc). After that you can disable "Application Experience" service without problems.

The settings are located in:
Local Computer Policy -> Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Application Compatibility

Select Turn Off Application Compatibility Engine
Select Enabled under the Settings tab
Select Turn off Program Compatibility Assistant
Select Enabled under the Settings tab

tnx to blackviper dot com site

denbkh wrote:

6/26/2013 5:03:59 PM

You _can_ disable cache check in group policy editor(gpedit.msc). After that you can disable "Application Experience" service without problems.

The settings are located in:
Local Computer Policy -> Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Application Compatibility

Select Turn Off Application Compatibility Engine
Select Enabled under the Settings tab
Select Turn off Program Compatibility Assistant
Select Enabled under the Settings tab

tnx to blackviper dot com site

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