A few weeks ago, I was getting an issue when trying to delete a Master Page from the master page gallery in SharePoint 2013. As I tried to delete the file, I was presented with the error “The item cannot be deleted because it is still referenced by other pages”.
The master page was no longer in use, and it didn’t have a HTML master page associated with it. If you get this error when you have a HTML master page associated with your “.master” file, make sure you disassociate this first, or delete the “.html” file. It did have a preview file with it to allow it to work in a composed look, which I deleted, but still got the same error.
In the end, I remembered that the Master Page had been used as part of a Composed Look. Even though the composed look wasn’t being used anywhere, it was holding a lock on the file. To solve this, I went to the Composed Look list (/_catalogs/design/AllItems.aspx) and deleted the list item. Once this was gone, I was free to delete the master page.
To summarise, if you’re having this problem try the following steps:
- Change the Master Page of all sites in the Site Collection to something other than the master page you’re trying to delete
- Delete any associated HTML files
- Delete any associated Preview files
- Delete the Composed Look list item
As a side note, while looking into this issue, I saw a number of posts where this was a problem in 2007 /2010 which referenced this support post. I also gave this a try, which didn’t help at all.