How to Empty the Recycle Bin

In this guide, we show you how to empty the recycle bin. We also explain what the recycle bin is and how to change the functions of the recycle bin to suit your needs. We also show you how to recover items you deleted by accident.

How to empty the recycle bin

What is the recycle bin?

When you choose to delete an item it will go to the Recycle bin. The recycle bin acts as temporary storage of items you have chosen to delete. It acts as a safety net as anything you delete is sent there first rather than permanently deleted.

Where can I find the recycle bin?

You can find the recycle bin icon on the desktop of your computer as shown below. The icon on newer versions of windows is interactive. It will look empty or show contents when full.

Manually locate the recycle bin folder

  1. Press the Windows key to activate the text box on the taskbar
  2. Type File Explorer and press Enter to select. 
  3. The file explorer window will open.
  4. Delete everything in the Address bar, identified above.
  5. Type shell:RecycleBinFolder into the address bar.
  6. Press Enter.
  7. The Recycle Bin folder will open.

If the above method does not work, make sure you have spelled Recycle bin exactly as shown. Additionally, you can get to the recycle bin by the below method.

  1. Press the Windows key to activate the text box on the taskbar
  2. Type Recycle bin and press Enter to select. 

How to open the recycle bin

  1. Go to the desktop
  2. Locate the Recycle Bin

The recycle bin

  1. Double left-click the Recycle Bin to open it

How to recover deleted files

If you have accidentally deleted an important file or folder you should be able to restore the deleted item from the recycle bin. Please note this method will not work if you have emptied the recycle bin.

  1. Go to the desktop
  2. Locate the Recycle Bin

The recycle bin

  1. Double left-click the Recycle Bin to open it
  2. A window will open which displays the deleted items.
  3. Note the original location of your file, as this is where the file will be returned to.
  4. Right-click the file you wish to recover and select Restore.
  5. restore-file-from-recycle-bin
  6. The file will disappear from the recycle bin and return to the original location.

Note: If you accidentally deleted a folder which contained a file you wanted, you will need to restore the entire folder to retrieve the file.

How to empty its contents

The recycle bin will become large over time and need to be emptied. It is very simple to empty the recycle bin but you should note that emptying the recycle bin is permanent.

  1. Go to the desktop
  2. Locate the Recycle Bin

The recycle bin

  1. Right-click the Recycle Bin
  2. Select Empty Recycle Bin
  3. A warning box will appear advising this is permanent.
  4. Select Yes to empty

How to change the properties of the recycle bin

It is possible to bypass the recycle bin altogether and choose to delete items permanently rather than sending items to the recycle bin. Although this saves time we do not recommend using this option as the recycle bin is a nice safety net.

If you want to set this up you can do this in the recycle bin properties. You can also choose to set the amount of space allocated to the recycle bin and change the notifications you receive.

  1. Go to the desktop
  2. Locate the Recycle Bin
  3. Right-click the Recycle Bin
  4. Select Properties

Recycle Bin Properties

  1. In the Properties window, under Settings for the selected location, you will be able to select a custom size (the amount of hard disk space the recycle bin can use) or choose to delete items permanently instead of using the recycle bin.
  2. You can also choose whether to be warned when you select delete items by ticking the Display delete confirmation dialog. We recommend leaving this on in case you accidentally deleted an item.

History

The recycle bin first appeared in Windows version 95 although it had been in MS-DOS 6 under a different name, Delete Sentry.

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