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The Windows Recycle Bin.

The Recycle Bin has been a feature of every version of Windows since Windows 95. It’s just as important in the latest releases (Windows 10 & 11) as it ever was.

In this guide, we’re going to look at what the Recycle Bin is and how you can use it.

What Is The Recycle Bin?

The Recycle Bin is a special folder that is a part of the Windows operating system.

Whenever you delete a file or folder, it isn’t actually deleted. Instead, it will be sent to the Recycle Bin. This happens automatically. You, the user, don’t have to do anything, other than delete the file/folder.

On your screen, the item will disappear, as if it’s been removed, but in the background, Windows will simply move the item to the Recycle Bin folder.


Why Does Windows Move Deleted Items To The Recycle Bin?

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase “there’s been a computer error” when something’s gone wrong. Computers get blamed for just about everything. But the truth is that computers don’t make mistakes. People make mistakes. We make mistakes. We all do, and sometimes we’ll delete something that we really shouldn’t have.

Which is where the Recycle Bin comes into its own. Anything that you delete is moved to the Recycle Bin. Then if you change your mind, or realise you’ve made a mistake, you can get it back again.


Restoring Files From The Recycle Bin.

If you need to restore a file or folder from the Recycle Bin, double left-click its icon on your desktop.

If you can’t see the icon on your Desktop, you can search for it. Click the Start button and then type recycle bin.

Recycle bin icon on desktop.
Double left-click the Recycle Bin to open it.
Recycle bin, best match on Windows start menu search box.
Click Recycle Bin (App).

Get Your Recycle Bin Icon Back.

Sometimes the Recycle Bin icon will go missing from your desktop. There could be several reasons for this happening. To get your bin back on the desktop where it belongs read The Windows Recycle Bin Is Missing.


Once you’re inside the bin, it works exactly the same as any other folder on your computer.

To restore a file or folder, scroll through the list and find the item you’re looking for.

When you find the one you want, left-click it once to select it, then right-click on it to open the context (options) menu.

On the menu, left-click RESTORE.

Recycle Bin folder open. Item selected. Restore indicated on context menu.
Click Restore from the options menu.

Restored Items.

Note that when you restore (recover) an item from the Windows Recycle Bin, that item will be moved from the bin and returned to the folder from where it was deleted.

For example, if you deleted a picture from your Pictures folder and then restore that picture. It will be returned to the Pictures folder.


Change The File View To Find Images.

When the Recycle Bin opens, it will often default to the Details view (it shows the file names). That’s usually OK when looking for deleted documents, music and folders, but not so good when looking for images.

To change the file view, left-click VIEW on the menu bar. Then, on the menu that opens, left-click either Medium Icons, Large Icons or Extra Large Icons.

Folder view has been clicked. The options Medium, Large and Extra Large icons are marked.
To see image thumbnails, click VIEW then select either Medium, Large or Extra Large Icons.
Image thumbnails are shown.
Your images will show as thumbnails, sized appropriately as Medium, Large or Extra Large.

Restore A Deleted Item To A Different Location.

When you restore (or recover) an item from the Windows Recycle Bin, by default, it will be returned to its original location. But that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes, you won’t actually know which folder it was in when you accidentally deleted it.

So there is another way to restore items from the bin. You can use Cut & Paste to recover any file/folder. Using Cut & Paste, you can restore the item to any folder on your computer.

In this example, we want to restore an image file. But we want to place it on the desktop rather than in its original folder.

Left-click the file to select it, then right-click to open the context menu.

On the context menu, instead of clicking on RESTORE, this time, click CUT.

Cut is indicated on options menu.
Select the CUT option to restore a file to a different location.

Now simply navigate to the folder where you’d like the item to be placed and Paste it in.

In this example, the image is Pasted (placed) on the desktop.

Item restored from Recycle Bin to desktop.
Paste your file wherever you want it to be.

How To Delete Files Without Using The Recycle Bin.

You can delete items from your computer permanently and completely without having them simply moved to the Recycle Bin.

There are two ways to do that. You can either bypass the recycle bin on just the odd occasion or you can set Windows to always bypass the bin, in effect, turning the Recycle Bin off.

To delete an individual item without it being moved to the bin, hold down the SHIFT key on your keyboard while you’re deleting the item.

To disable the Windows Recycle Bin completely, right-click its icon on the desktop.

On the menu that opens, left-click PROPERTIES.

Properties option indicated on context menu.
Select Properties from the menu.

Select the option “Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted”.

Click the OK button when you’re done.

"Don't move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted" option indicated.
To turn off the Recycle Bin.

Quick Note

Although you can disable the Recycle Bin, that doesn’t mean you should. From personal experience, I can tell you that the bin has saved my day on more than one occasion.

I’d strongly suggest that you leave the bin enabled and use the SHIFT delete option when deleting sensitive files.


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