As most astute PC users know, when you delete a file, it typically remains in Windows’ recycle bin until you empty the bin — or until the bin fills up with newer deleted files.
But there are other ways to manage your file deletions — including bypassing the Recycle Bin altogether. These tips and tricks work with all current versions of Windows, unless otherwise noted.
Many ways to trash docs, photos, and other files
When Windows users want to delete a file or folder, most probably simply hit the Delete key or right-click the file and select Delete from the context menu. But here’s a quick reminder of other ways to send unwanted data to the trash — some possibly more convenient, depending on the circumstances.
- Drag and drop one or more files, folders, or icons into the recycle bin.
- Depending on the application, click File/Delete from the menu bar.
- In Windows Explorer, click Organize/Delete
- In File Explorer, select Delete from the Quick Access Toolbar drop-down options.
However you do it, Windows will typically ask its fail-safe nag — “Are you sure …?” (See Figure 1) — but not always; depending on your settings and the media, files might go straight to the “permanent” trash.
File Explorer’s ribbon adds more user control over Delete: Its drop-down context menu lets you select either “Recycle” or “Permanently delete.” A third option is “Show recycle confirmation.” If selected, you’ll get the aforementioned nag; if unselected, the file will simply disappear from its original location (more on this below).
The reason we have a recycle bin is, of course, to recover files we accidental trashed. But its capacity isn’t unlimited. If you want to change its size, right-click the Recycle Bin icon and select Properties. Next, enter the maximum size in megabytes in the “Custom size” section. (You might want to use this option if you temporarily needed a bit more drive space.)
While you’re in the Recycle Bin properties, note that each drive has its own bin space. Also, with removable media, Windows can be a bit weird as to whether a deleted file/folder goes to the recycle bin. For example, files on my flash drives were “permanently deleted” but files on a portable, USB-attached hard drive were sent to the bin. Be sure to check the warnings before you click “Yes.”