I am having trouble with the last phase of a script for a script tool: I cannot figure out how to delete my temporary gdb to close out the script. Having the program that's executing the script open retains a lock in the gdb...for instance when I close Jupyter (or VS code, or IDLE) I can see the lock file in the gdb disappear. How can I construct my code so this isn't an issue when made into a script tool?

The general advice that I have seen has been to add an arcpy.env.overwriteOuput = True, and that has not been effective. I have also seen suggestions to work in memory but I would rather be able to review the intermediate outputs.

The code that creates the gdb:

#Create temporary Workspace
arcpy.AddMessage("\nCreating temporary workspace")
tempName = "incorp" + outVersion + "_TEMP"
tempGDB = os.path.join(outFolder, tempName + ".gdb")
arcpy.management.CreateFileGDB(outFolder, tempName)
arcpy.env.workspace = tempGDB
arcpy.env.overwriteOutput = True

The script then goes on and does several operations within that temp gdb, clipping, erasing, querying, adding fields, etc. Then when I go to delete it...

#Delete intermediate data
arcpy.AddMessage("\nDeleting intermediate data")
todel = (tempGDB, union, lastIncorp_xml)
for dataset in todel:
if arcpy.Exists(dataset):

I get ERROR 000601 - Cannot delete [path].gdb. May be locked by another application. Failed to execute (Delete).

Any thoughts on what can be done so the tool can clean up after itself?

  • Where is it that you clear the default workspace?
    – Vince
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 4:28
  • I am not sure what you mean by 'clear the default workspace.' In the first code block I set the workspace as the tempGDB that I ultimately try to delete (clear?).
    – TravisB
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 14:19
  • Setting the env.workspace locks it open. You can't delete an open workspace. You must first remove the lock by assigning a different default workspace.
    – Vince
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 14:29
  • This does not appear to be accurate, unfortunately. I altered the script to re-assign the workspace and the lock is still active. I also have another script where the env.workspace is assigned to the tempGDB in the same way but it can be deleted without being reassigned.
    – TravisB
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 15:00
  • Have you tried using an OS browser to look in the FGDB folder at the lock file?
    – Vince
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


I ended up just using "memory" as the workspace and that did the trick. I still don't really understand what was holding it open but this change did the trick.

An example...

#Set memory workspace
arcpy.AddMessage("\nCreating temporary workspace")
memory = r"memory"
arcpy.env.workspace = memory
#Clip by boundary layer
arcpy.AddMessage("\nClipping to state boundary")
boeClipped = os.path.join(memory, "boeClipped")
arcpy.analysis.Clip(boeDataSet, boundary, boeClipped)

And a note to rookies like me you still have to delete the in-memory layers to close out the script, otherwise you won't be able to run the tool twice.

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