A new computer tip every day for a year
Day 85 / 365
Recycle Bin General Operation
This article describes the recycle bin’s default operation. Tomorrow you will learn how to configure the recycle bin to make it work the way you want it to. When a file or folder is deleted, the item or items are automatically moved to the recycle bin. You can recover any items that are in the recycle bin (restore them to their original location).
The recycle bin icon is different depending on whether the bin is empty or contains items. The standard icon is a garbage can. The icon shows an empty can when it is empty, and shows papers in it when not. Different themes available will show different recycle bin icons.
For the most part, the recycle bin is automatic and you don’t have to worry about it. It quietly sits in the background and automatically saves deleted files. When you accidentally delete a file or folder, or delete something you think you don’t need anymore, it is real handy to be able to go and “get the file or folder out of the trash” to use it again. You don’t have to worry as much about deleting items because you can recover them later if you need to.
To recover (restore) deleted files or folders, open the recycle bin. This can be done by double clicking the recycle bin icon on the desktop. It can also be opened in Windows Explorer by navigating to the recycle bin folder (the “recycled” folder in some versions of Windows). The recycle bin is simply a special folder on the hard drive and the recycle bin program is simply a special version of Windows Explorer showing the recycle bin folder as the current location. Notice that this version of Windows Explorer has a different File menu list. The topmost option under the File menu is a Restore option.
There is a properties submenu on the file menu. This menu item shows you general information about the selected item(s). This is not the same as right clicking on the recycle bin icon on the desktop and choosing Properties.
Deleting files (and moving them to the recycle bin) can be done in the following ways.
- When the items to be deleted are selected, hit the DELETE key.
- Right click on the file, folder or selection and choose Delete.
- Drag the selected items onto the recycle bin icon.
- Drag the floppy disk icon onto the recycle bin. This will delete the entire disk contents.
When deleting items, they are quietly, automatically sent to the recycle bin in the background (unless your recycle bin settings are such that items are permanently deleted).
What happens when the recycle bin runs out of allocated space? If the recycle bin is full (all allocated space is used up), the oldest files, or the ones placed there the earliest, are deleted to make room. This is convenient because they are likely the ones that you need the least or you would have already pulled them out of the recycle bin.
Emptying the recycle bin occasionally to make sure it doesn’t fill up is not necessary. You can just let it fill up because it will keep the files as long as possible before deleting them. Recycle bins usually have plenty of allocated space. Even when it is full the oldest item can be months old even if you use your recycle bin a lot. Contrast that with saving your kitchen garbage until it is months old, to make sure there’s nothing in there that you decide you need!
To restore selected files or folders (move them back to their original location), do one of the following:
- Click File | Restore. If no items are selected, this option will Empty the Recycle Bin.
- Right click on the selected item(s) and select Restore.
- Click on the Restore this item option in the left frame (this only shows if the folder toolbar button is not depressed (enabled).
Items in the recycle bin can also be moved to another location. Dragging items to the desktop is an example of moving files out of the recycle bin to another location. Note that dragging items from the recycle bin will always move them. You can’t copy something (or create a shortcut) from the recycle bin to another location.
To delete selected items from the recycle bin (and permanently discard them), do one of the following.
- Right click the selected recycle bin items and choose Delete.
- Click File | Delete on the recycle bin menu bar.
- Select the items to be deleted and hit the DELETE key on the keyboard.
- Click on the Empty the Recycle Bin option on the left side of the recycle bin window to delete all items.
Note that items deleted from the recycle bin are permanently deleted and cannot be recovered unless you have a special utility to ‘undelete’ them.
Deleting items from the recycle bin will always invoke an “are you sure...?” dialog box. This cannot be turned off.
When an item is selected in the recycle bin, the status bar at the bottom of the window tells you the original location of the item. If more than one item is selected, it tells you how many are selected. If no items are selected, it indicates the total number of items currently in the recycle bin. If the status bar is not visible, click View | Status Bar to display it.
Deleting items from a command prompt (DOS window) will permanently delete the items and will not move them to the recycle bin. This is how DOS worked before Windows existed, and it still does, so be careful.
Use caution when deleting files from floppy, network and external drives. They do not have a recycle bin and will therefore permanently delete files.
Come back soon for another tip in this 365-tip series.
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