Going through the recycle bin

FI-Log-On-With-Larry-SchneiderDear Larry,

How does the Windows Recycle Bin work?

T. M.


Dear T. M.,

The Windows Recycle Bin represents file and folder heaven. It’s where unwanted documents go after they’ve lived a long, satisfying life (or maybe a short, first-draft type of life).

It’s important to remember than when you delete a file, folder or shortcut icon under Windows, nothing is deleted at all. In fact, there’s no immediate impact on your hard drive capacity whatsoever. All that happens is that the object you’re deleting is moved from where it was to its new temporary housing which is the recycle bin folder.

Presumably you already know how to delete an unwanted icon — be it a file, folder or shortcut. But did you know that if you prefer to delete something and not have it end up in the Recycle Bin at all, you can hold down the Shift key while you delete it in the normal fashion? Don’t worry, Windows will be certain to ask you to confirm the permanent deletion.

So how do you restore something you wish you hadn’t removed in the first place? First, determine if a trip to the recycle bin is even necessary. If you “just” deleted the file and haven’t performed any other action since such as deleting, moving, or renaming another file, you should try right-clicking a blank portion of the Windows desktop or the white space of any folder. If one of the choices in the menu that pops up is “Undo Delete,” you should left-click it and then check to see if what you deleted has rematerialized in its original location.

If, on the other hand, you conclude you must scour the garbage in search of your lost treasure, roll up your sleeves and open the Recycle Bin icon on your Windows desktop. If you remember the name of the file that you unintentionally scratched, then simply look it up — the files and folders in the recycle bin are probably listed in alphabetical order. If not or if you’d find it easier to search based on when you think you deleted the file, try changing the sort order. You do that through a right-click on the white space of the recycle bin folder, then left-click arrange icons and select “by name” (to arrange alphabetically), “by delete date” (to sort according to the date the files were deleted) or perhaps “by type” (to group the files by program). Whatever works for you.

Once you locate the file or folder in question, right-click it, then left-click restore — it will disappear from the recycle bin and reappear from whence it came. If you prefer to “undelete” something to someplace else, just click and drag it out of the recycle bin and drop it wherever you please.

Unlike a member of your family, Windows will never nag you to empty the trash (unless you start running out of disk space). Generally speaking, emptying the recycle bin will not help speed up your computer. But should you decide to recover the space occupied by files residing in the Recycle Bin, it’s as easy as right-clicking the Recycle Bin icon and left-clicking on the “Empty Recycle Bin” menu option.

Now won’t somebody please take out the recycling?

This is Larry Schneider, logging off.


Larry Schneider is the owner of Accent on Computers, a Greenwich-based consulting firm now in its 15th year of business catering to individuals, businesses and professional offices. PC and Mac services include computer setup, training, troubleshooting, virus resolution, networking, Internet, database and programming. Call 625-7575, visit accentoncomputers.com, or send email to [email protected]

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