Emptying the Recycle Bin

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Recycle Bin
Recycle bin in Windows Vista

In a Windows PC (personal computer), the Recycle Bin (the trash icon) holds your recently deleted files. Just like a trash bin in your kitchen, the Recycle Bin holds your unwanted stuff (computer files). When the trash bin is full, it is emptied to hold new unwanted stuff. This also applies to Recycle Bin. If you through something in the trash bin by mistake, you want to take out for further use. This is also true with the Recycle Bin.

When you delete files from your PC, the files are moved to the Recycle Bin, assuming the Recycle Bin has enough capacity to hold what you are deleting. If the Recycle Bin does not have the storage space to hold what you are deleting, your computer will alert you that the files will be deleted immediately and permanently (thus won’t be held in the Recycle Bin). Emptying the Recycle Bin can help increase its storage space. Alternatively, you can also increase the storage capacity of the Recycle Bin.

Recycle Bin
Recycle bin in Windows XP

To emptying the Recycle Bin (this means permanently deleting files from your computer), follow these steps (for Windows XP):

  • Click on the Recycle Bin. This will open Recycle Bin window.
  • To delete a selection of files, select the files you want to remove from the Recycle Bin window. Click on File on the top Menu Bar. Next click delete. This will delete selected files. Alternatively, after you have selected the files to delete, hit the delete key on your keyboard. Confirm the deletion from the message box to delete the file.
  • Click on the Empty the Recycle Bin button on left to permanently delete all files.

See the graphics in the figure 1 to visualize the steps and for more information.

Figure 1 permanently deleting files from the Recycle Bin

A Recycle Bin window showing the files currently in Recycle Bin.
#1. A Recycle Bin window showing the files currently in Recycle Bin.


Deleting selected files
#2. Deleting selected files from the Recycle Bin using the File | Delete menu options.


Deleting all the files from the Recycle Bin
#3. Deleting all the files from the Recycle Bin using the link button on the left. Read the note before deleting: it says "Permanently removes all items in the Recycle Bin and frees up disk space."

Important note

Even though you are permanently deleting files when you empty the Recycle Bin, the files can still be recovered. This, however, requires that you or someone else interested in recovering the information on the hard-drive of a computer go to data recovery specialists. These computer professionals have the tools and the skills to recover deleted files (and any other content on a hard-drive). So don’t assume if a file has been deleted from the Recycle Bin cannot be later recovered.

Because files from the Recycle Bin can be undeleted (or stored back to the PC location where they were deleted from), it may be a good idea to periodically empty the Recycle Bin. If others have access to your computer, one of the important places they don’t want to miss seeing is the content inside the Recycle Bin. They know files can easily be restored with a few clicks yet you thought the files were deleted (the files just moved to Recycle Bin). It takes another step to permanently delete files and that is emptying the Recycle Bin.

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