Home » The Windows Recycle Bin Is Missing.

The Windows Recycle Bin Is Missing.

The Windows Recycle Bin sometimes goes missing. It just seems to disappear from your Desktop. In this guide we’re going to restore the missing Bin in Windows 10 and 11.

Restoring The Windows Recycle Bin.

If your Recycle Bin has suddenly disappeared from your Desktop, there are 3 common reasons. We’ll go through each and try to restore your missing Bin.


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1. Hidden Desktop Icons.

Can you see any Desktop Icons at all? Have all your Desktop icons gone missing?

The Recycle Bin is a Desktop icon, and so if you’ve hidden your Desktop icons, either accidentally or deliberately, you simply won’t be able to see it. The option to show Desktop icons is the same in both Windows 10 & Windows 11.

Show Desktop Icons.

If you can’t see any Desktop icons, you’ll need to turn them back on in order to restore the Recycle Bin.

Right-click on your Desktop and the options menu opens.

Move your pointer onto the word VIEW and a second menu opens.

Is there a tick beside “Show Desktop Icons”? If there is a tick, then you should be able to see the icons and this isn’t the problem with the Recycle Bin.

If there isn’t a tick beside “Show desktop icons” then this is the issue.

Left-click on “Show desktop icons” and a tick will appear and so will all your icons including the missing Recycle Bin.

Steps to restore missing Recycle Bin. Right click options menu is open. Show Desktop Icons option is highlighted

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2. Recycle Bin Has Been Disabled.

If the Recycle bin is missing from your Desktop but all the other icons are still there, then it may have been disabled.

Windows 10 and 11 have an option to disable the Recycle Bin which removes it from the Desktop, without hiding all your other icons. It’s one of those settings that may have been done deliberately and then forgotten about, or accidentally and not noticed at the time. Either way, this is how to restore the Recycle Bin.

To Re-Enable The Recycle Bin In Windows 10 & 11

In Windows 10, left-click the START button and type

themes

Left-click “Themes and related settings (system settings)” at the top of the menu.

Note that when searching like this in Windows 10, you don’t need a search box to type into, it appears as soon as you begin typing.

Themes and related settings on the Windows 10 Start menu.
Windows 10

If you’re using Windows 11 it’s very similar, click the START button and then type

themes

Into the search box at the top of the menu.

Left-click “Themes and related settings (system settings)” when it appears.

Themes and related settings on the Windows 11 Start menu.
Windows 11.

On the Themes page, under Related Settings, left-click Desktop Icon Settings

Note that depending on your screen size, you may have to scroll down the page to find the Related Settings section, or it may be over on the right-hand side.

Themes page in Windows 10. Related settings is highlighted and arrow indicates scrolling down.
Related settings section positioned on right of screen.
related settings option in Windows 11 is marked.

When the Desktop Icon Settings window opens, check to see if there is a tick in the box next to Recycle Bin. If there isn’t a tick in the box, then the Bin has been disabled and this is the reason that it’s missing from your Desktop.

To restore the Bin left-click once in the box to put a tick in it and click the OK button. The Recycle Bin should re-appear on your Desktop.

Recycle Bin is disabled. No tick in box.
Recycle Bin re-enabled. Tick is in box.

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3. Using Windows In Tablet Mode.

This one is more specifically a Windows 10 issue. Assuming you’re using a computer (either a Desktop or a laptop) and not an actual tablet device, in Windows 10 you have the choice as to whether you want to run Windows in Desktop mode or Tablet mode.

In Tablet mode, the Recycle Bin is removed from the Desktop. So if you’ve set your machine up in tablet mode, that’ll be the reason the Recycle Bin is missing.

So you have two choices, you can either stop using Tablet mode and return to Desktop mode, in which case the Recycle bin should just return. Or keep using Tablet mode and access the Recycle Bin by searching for it.

We’ll look at both options below.

Searching For The Recycle Bin.

If you want to keep Windows in Tablet mode, then you can’t actually restore the missing Recycle Bin to the Desktop. But you can access the contents of the Bin in order to restore a file from it or to simply empty it.

From your Desktop simply start typing

recycle bin

Sometimes you need to click on the search icon (the magnifying glass) on the Taskbar before you can start typing.

Left-click on “Recycle Bin (App)” on the menu.

Searching for the Recycle Bin in Windows 10 Tablet mode.

That will take you directly into the Recycle Bin.

From here you can use the buttons at the top left of the window to empty the Bin or restore all the files from the Bin.

Or you can right-click on any individual file and left-click your choice from the options menu.

Recycle Bin folder open.

Switching To Desktop Mode to Restore The Recycle Bin.

The other option is to switch your computer to Desktop mode.

From your Desktop type

tablet

Again you might have to click the search icon on the Taskbar before you can start typing.

Left-click “Tablet Settings (System Settings)” on the menu.

Searching for Windows tablet mode settings.

On the Tablet settings page, click the downward-facing arrowhead beneath “When I Sign In”. On the menu that opens, click “Never use tablet mode”.

You’ll need to restart your computer for the change to take effect but once you’re back at the Desktop you should find that the missing Recycle Bin has returned.

Drop down arrowhead indicated.
Tablet mode options menu is open and "Never use tablet mode" is indicated.
Never use tablet mode is selected and has a green tick beside it.

Tablet Mode & Windows 11.

This isn’t, or at least it shouldn’t be, an issue with Windows 11 because you can’t manually set Windows 11 into Desktop or Tablet mode. If you’re using a touch-enabled screen (monitor) with Windows 11, it automatically drops into Tablet mode when the keyboard is disconnected. Re-connecting the keyboard should enable Desktop mode again.


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Restoring The Missing Recycle Bin – Conclusion.

Most of the time when the Recycle bin goes missing it’s down to accidently hiding your icons or disabling it in the Desktop Icons Settings.

Changing your Windows theme can also sometimes cause it as too can Windows updates.

Fortunately, as you’ve seen, restoring the Bin is an easy fix.

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