Understanding the Windows Recycle Bin

I have found that many computer users do not fully understand the purpose, or the features, of the “Recycle Bin”.  It is one of the first places I visit when assisting someone.  It serves as a visual indicator of what level the user manages their files and folders; and often provides clues when troubleshooting.

Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, knew that there would be those occasions where a computer user would accidentally delete a file or folder.

Recycle Bin
Some things you should know about the recycle bin:

  • The “Recycle Bin” is a catch all area for files and folders that you, as the user, manually delete (in most cases).
  • Files that you delete on removable disks (i.e. flash drive, SD Card, floppy disk), network drives and in compressed zipped folders do not go to the “Recycle Bin”.
  • The main launching point for the recycle bin is the recycle bin icon on your desktop; however, you can also preview the contents in the recycle bin through Windows Explorer.
  • You can bypass the recycle bin, when deleting a file, by holding down the “Shift Key”.  For example, when selecting your file(s) for deletion, hold down the “Shift Key” while you press the “Delete” key.
  • Windows maintains a quota (space allocation) on how much data can be stored in the recycle bin.  Typically, Windows allocates approximately 7.5 percent of a disk’s space for the recycle bin. Data is cycled when the space allocation limit is met. It is “out with the old, and in with the new”. The default allocation limit can be customized by right clicking the recycle bin icon on your desktop and choosing properties on the menu.
  • You can choose to not remove any files to the recycle bin, when deleting files, by right clicking the recycle bin icon on your desktop and choosing properties on the menu; however, I highly recommend you keep the recycle bin activated.
  • You can reclaim disk space by emptying the recycle bin. To empty the recycle bin, right click the recycle bin icon on your desktop and choose “empty recycle bin”.
  • To restore a file or folder from the recycle bin, double click the recycle bin icon on your desktop and highlight the file or folder with a mouse click; then, right click the mouse and select restore.

Tip: In the event you delete a file and you are unable to recover the file from the recycle bin, there is the chance you can reclaim the file by using file recovery software.  A  “free” poduct that I have used, for file recovery, is called “Recuva” by Piriform  – [ GET IT HERE ] .

Recuva (pronounced “recover”) is a freeware Windows utility to restore files that have been accidentally deleted from your computer. This includes files emptied from the Recycle bin as well as images and other files that have been deleted by user error from digital camera memory cards or MP3 players. It will even bring back files that have been deleted by bugs, crashes and viruses!


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6 thoughts on “Understanding the Windows Recycle Bin

Add yours

  1. Hello Rick,

    Recuva is a super little utility tool and I keep the portable version on a usb drive along with the portable version of CCleaner and Defraggler, all from Piriform. Plenty of good tools to include on any usb drive for use on other PC’s.


    1. Colin,

      Thanks for dropping by… I agree, “ALL” of the Piriform software creations are winners. I too, carry those utilities on my flash drive.

      Thank you for your support and comments.



  2. What a great article!

    When working with even average computer users, I find they really don’t understand the Recycle Bin. Your article is a great tutorial.

    Good one Rick.


  3. Bill,

    Thankyou… Need all the fluffing I can get (LOL). I’m hoping I can do more tutorials; not only for my readers to “learn”; but for my benefit, as well.



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