Windows Recycle Bin has been a part of the operating system since its early days. The bin is a special folder that temporarily holds deleted files and folders. It has helped millions of users over the years by making it possible to quickly restore a file that was mistakenly deleted.
How to Recover Deleted Files From the Recycle Bin
The Recycle Bin is the first place to look when searching for deleted files. It is a special folder that the operating system uses to temporarily store recently deleted files and folders. Here are the easy steps to follow to attempt this data recovery method.
Open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking on its icon.
Locate the items you want to recover from the list displayed in the Bin.
Right-click on the item you want to retrieve and choose the Restore option. This will recover the deleted item to its original storage location.
Recovering Deleted Files From the Recycle Bin in Windows 11
While the next generation of Windows, called rather unimaginatively Windows 11, has yet to be officially released, we’ve had the opportunity to test a leaked work-in-progress version and thoroughly test its implementation of the Recycle Bin.
Instead of featuring a radically different user interface design, Windows 11 is best described as a gradual evolution of the same user interface Windows 10 users know and love. The biggest changes you’ll immediately notice when you open the Recycle Bin are the new icons and the rounded corners of the Recycle Bin window itself.
Besides these two changes, the Windows 11 Recycle Bin looks, at least in the leaked work-in-progress version, identical to the Recycle bin in Windows 10. But does it also function the same way? Yes, it does.
Here’s how to recover deleted files from the Recycle Bin in Windows 11:
Open the Windows 11 Recycle Bin by double-clicking its desktop icon (notice that the icon has been slightly redesigned).
Select the files you want to recover. Just like in Windows 10, you can hold the CTRL button on your keyboard and click on individual files to add them to your selection. If you want to select all files, you can press the CTRL + A key combination.
Right-click any of the selected files and click Restore. The files will return back to their original locations. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the selected files to any location you want.
As you can see, you don’t have to learn anything new to recover deleted files from the Recycle Bin in Windows 11 if you’re already familiar with how the Recycle Bin works in previous versions of the Windows operating system.
Why is it Possible to Recover Files from an Emptied Recycle Bin?
The Windows Recycle Bin is just a folder that is essentially the same as any other folder on your machine. When a file or folder is deleted from your computer, it is logically moved from its original location to the Recycle Bin. When the Bin is emptied either automatically or manually, the logical links to the data are deleted by the operating system.
This makes the data inaccessible by any applications but does not immediately physically remove it. The space that had been occupied by the items in the emptied Recycle Bin is now available to the operating system to store new information. Untill the OS uses this space and overwrites the previous data, files can be retrieved with data recovery software.
How to Recover Deleted Files from an Emptied Recycle Bin
There are several ways to recover files from an emptied recycle bin. An application is usually the most user-friendly way, but there are a few other ways too. For instance, you could use the Windows File Recovery tool or use the built-in Backup and Restore feature in Windows.
Recover Files using Data Recovery Software
A data recovery application can restore files that have been permanently deleted from your computer, an option that is not offered by the operating system. Follow steps below in order to use Disk Drill to recover deleted files after emptying the Recycle Bin.
Download and Install Disk Drill.
Download and install Disk Drill for Windows, but DO NOT use your computer’s main disk. This is where the Recycle Bin is located, and you risk overwriting the data you want to recover if you use it before completing the recovery. We suggest using a flash drive or external USB drive for the download and installation to preserve your lost data. You may need to provide system-level credentials during the installation. You will be guided through the installation process by pop-up windows.
Launch Disk Drill and Select the Disk.
Start Disk Drill and choose the disk that contains the Recycle Bin from the app’s disk list. This will usually be your C: drive.Scan for Deleted Data.
Click the Search for lost data button to start scanning for deleted data. We recommend that you let Disk Drill scan the entire drive using all of its algorithms, but you can select the scan type if you wish. As the scan proceeds, a status bar shows its progress. You can pause the scan at any time and view files already found while the scan continues.Preview Recoverable Files. As Disk Drill identifies recoverable files, they will be listed in the appropriate folder based on their file type. You can then preview the files in the Pictures, Video, Audio, Documents, or Archives folders to make sure they are the files you want to retrieve. This is where you select the specific files that will be restored. You can also choose to recover all files found by the tool. Perform the Recovery. Click the Recover button after making your selections and Disk Drill will perform the recovery. You will be prompted for a safe storage location where the recovered data can be saved. Once again, we advise you not to use the disk where the Recycle Bin is located. Save the recovered files to an external disk or USB drive to preserve the data you wish to recover. Using the C: drive risks overwriting or corrupting the files before they can be restored.
Recover Files with Windows File Recovery Tool
Windows File Recovery tool is a command-line utility from Windows that can help you recover files from an emptied recycle bin. However, it’s only available if you’ve installed the May 2020 update of Windows 10 or a newer Windows version. We’ll walk you through the steps you need to follow to use the Windows File Recovery tool.
Download and install the Windows File Recovery tool from the Microsoft Store. Click on Get and let the app install.
Win + X and select Windows Terminal (Admin) from the list that pops up. Alternatively, you can also launch the Command Prompt as an administrator by pressing Ctrl + R, typing cmd, and pressing Ctrl + Shift + Enter.Once it’s installed, press
winfr in the utility. This will also give you a list of switches you can use.To make sure the utility has been properly installed, type
Next, type the following command in the terminal:
winfr C: D: /regular /n \$Recycle.Bin\%SID%
What this command does is it scans the recycle bin, and recovers the file to the D drive. You can change the command based on the path you want to scan and the drive where you want to recover. Note that the SID is different for all users. If you’re not sure what your SID is, you can use the following command to find out a user’s SID.
wmic useraccount get name,sid
Recover Files Using Backup and Restore
If you’ve turned on File History on your PC, you can recover your files that you’ve deleted from your recycle bin using File History in the Control Panel.
To check if you have File History enabled, navigate to Control Panel > System and Security > File History > Save backup copies of your files with File History.
If it’s enabled, go to Control Panel > System and Security > File History > Restore your files with File History. You’ll see a window pop up. Here, navigate to the recycle bin folder, select the file you want to recover, and click on the green button at the bottom to recover the file.
If you didn’t find the recycle bin folder in here, it’s probably because that folder isn’t backed up by File History.
Recover Files with Windows Previous Versions Tool
Windows has a built-in tool for recovering previous versions of a file. The tool requires that you at least have the file on your PC.
This is only possible if you’ve turned on System Protection and have the files backed up elsewhere. Alternatively, if you’ve deleted the file from your recycle bin, you’d first need to recover it using one of the prior methods. If the recovered file doesn’t work, you can recover the file’s previous version.
The tool isn’t always effective though. Plus, the tool works only if you have either created a restore point or activated file history. However, it’s still worth a try.
To see if you can recover the file’s previous version, navigate to the file’s location, right-click on the file, and select Restore previous versions.
If there’s a previous version available for a file, you’ll see it listed in the File versions section. Select a version you want to restore and click the Restore button.
Why Deleted Files May Not be in the Recycle Bin
The Recycle Bin can be extremely useful for recovering recently deleted files. There are, however, several conditions that can result in a deleted item not appearing in the Recycle Bin. Configurable limitations regarding storage space and elapsed time instruct the operating system to permanently remove items from the Bin. You can also permanently delete files using a specific keystroke combination. Here are the factors you need to keep in mind concerning the Window Recycle Bin and why your deleted file cannot be found.
📏 Space limitations
The Recycle Bin is sensitive to storage space in two ways. By default, the Recycle Bin takes up about 5% of your main disk space. You can configure this as you wish to allow more space to be used. This can be beneficial to address the potential issues that can be caused by limited Recycle Bin space.
Space is kept available in the Recycle Bins by rolling off the oldest files to make room for newly deleted items. This can result in files being deleted much sooner than expected if the space allocation is too low. Similarly, a file will not be sent to the Recycle Bin if it exceeds the Bin’s size. This can also lead to files that are not available in the Bin when that is where you expect them to be located.
⌛ Time limitation
Windows automatically removes items from the Recycle Bin after a designated number of days. By default, data is retained in the Bin for 30 days. This number can be modified as you wish and you can opt for files to never be automatically deleted from the Bin. In this case, you need to manually empty the Bin periodically or risk running out of space for newly deleted items.
✂️ Permanent File Deletion
Using the Shift-Delete keystroke combination bypasses the Recycle Bin and essentially permanently deletes the item. Data recovery software may be able to restore files and folders that have been deleted in this way.
Common Recycle Bin Problems
Missing Recycle Bin Icon
Recycle Bin is Corrupt Error
Recycle Bin file association error
- Navigate to the folder where the file was located before deletion.
- Click on the Home tab, then click History.
- Cycle through the different versions using the left and right-pointing arrows until you find one you want to restore.
- When ready, click on the green Restore button with a circling arrow. Restored files can be found in their original location.
- Open the Recycle Bin.
- Select the file you want to restore. If there are multiple, hold CTRL and select all of the files you want to restore.
- When ready, right-click one of the selected files and click Restore.
- Right-click your desktop screen and click Personalize.
- Select Change desktop icons.
- Tick the checkbox for Recycle Bin. Click OK.