The Windows 10 Recycle Bin: All you need to know

Using the Windows 10 Recycle Bin is unavoidable. If you remove something either on purpose or by accident from your Windows 10 computer or device, you can get it back from the Recycle Bin. This tutorial illustrates all you need to know about the Windows 10 Recycle Bin, answering questions like "What is Recycle Bin?" or "Where is the Recycle Bin in Windows 10?". We also show you how to hide Recycle Bin, how to remove Recycle Bin from Desktop, how to empty the Recycle Bin, and more:

What is Recycle Bin?

It's easy to define the Windows Recycle Bin as a special folder with a fancy icon that stores deleted files and folders. When you delete items from your computer or device, they are not permanently removed; they are first moved to this folder. Windows does this as a precaution in case you deleted something by mistake or if you discover you still need a certain discarded file or folder.

The Recycle Bin icon when files are stored in it

Physically, deleted files occupy the same space on your hard drive(s). However, once an item is deleted, you can't see it in the same location on your system anymore, and Windows now displays it inside the Recycle Bin folder. To put it simply: the Recycle Bin is the place where the references towards your deleted files and folders are kept, until the items are permanently removed from your system. To learn more about deleting files, read 5 ways to delete files (temporarily or permanently) in Windows 10.

Where is the Recycle Bin in Windows 10?

By default, you should find the Windows 10 Recycle Bin on the top-left corner of your Desktop. All the files you delete appear in this folder. The Recycle Bin icon changes to reflect whether there are files stored in it or if it's currently empty.

The Recycle Bin icon when no files are stored in it

Each hard drive has a Recycle Bin, but all the files you delete are displayed in this one folder on your Desktop. If the folder is missing, you can continue reading to find out how you can restore it (three sections down), or reach the Recycle Bin location another way.

To change the Recycle Bin icon, read How to change the icon of any shortcut in Windows 10.

How to hide Recycle Bin in Windows 10

To hide the Recycle Bin in Windows 10, it's easiest to hide all the desktop icons. Right-click or press-and-hold on an empty area of your Desktop and access View from the contextual menu. Uncheck the "Show desktop icons" option by clicking or tapping it.

Hide all the desktop icons by unchecking the option

How to remove Recycle Bin from Desktop in Windows 10

In Windows 10, you can also choose to only remove the Recycle Bin icon from your computer or device. The Windows 10 Recycle Bin icon you see on your Desktop is one of the predefined standard Desktop icons. Find out how to remove it by reading How to add or remove desktop icons (shortcuts) in Windows 10.

Remove Recycle Bin from Desktop

How to restore Recycle Bin in Windows 10

If the Windows 10 Recycle Bin is missing from your Desktop, it's easy to bring it back. You can restore Recycle Bin just like you would any other standard icon, and you can revert it to its original look. Learn how you do that in Windows 10 by reading How to restore default Windows shortcuts and their icons.

Restore the Recycle Bin on your Desktop

NOTE: If you still can't get the Recycle Bin icon back, make sure that your device is not in Tablet Mode. Desktop icons are not displayed on your Windows 10 device when in Tablet Mode. To learn more, read What is the Tablet Mode in Windows 10, how to use it and configure it.

How to recover deleted files from Recycle Bin in Windows 10

In Windows 10, there are multiple ways to recover deleted files from Recycle Bin and restore them to their original location. Learn all about it from our tutorial 5 ways to recover deleted files from the Recycle Bin in Windows 10.

Restore a deleted file from the Recycle Bin

How to empty Recycle Bin in Windows 10

In the Windows 10 Recycle Bin, you can select the files and folders that you want to delete permanently and press Delete or use the shortcut Ctrl + D on your keyboard. You can also right-click or press-and-hold on your selection to open a contextual menu, and then click or tap on Delete.

Press Delete from the contextual menu

Alternatively, go to the Home tab of the ribbon and press the Delete button. This way, you can delete some files from the Windows 10 Recycle Bin and keep others.

Press Delete on the ribbon to permanently remove items from the Recycle Bin

If you are sure you want to get rid of all your deleted items permanently, you can choose to empty the Recycle Bin. Right-click or press-and-hold on any Recycle Bin folder or shortcut, and then click or tap on "Empty Recycle Bin" from the contextual menu.

Press Empty Recycle Bin

You can also open the Recycle Bin and press the "Empty Recycle Bin" button from the "Recycle Bin Tools" tab.

Click or tap Empty Recycle Bin

Regardless of how you choose to permanently delete files from the Recycle Bin, you are required to confirm your choice. Click or tap on Yes, and the items are permanently deleted.

Press Yes to confirm your choice

If you like using Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant, you can ask her to empty the Windows 10 Recycle Bin. Make sure she can hear you, and say "empty recycle bin." Cortana asks you to confirm the action.

Empty Recycle Bin with Cortana

Say "Yes," and she clears the contents of the Windows 10 Recycle Bin for you.

Cortana tells you she emptied the Recycle Bin

TIP: If the space on your hard drive is running low or you reach Recycle Bin's storage limit, deleted files and folders might be permanently removed from your device. We recommend that you empty the Windows 10 Recycle Bin regularly and that you don't use it as storage.

How to recover files deleted from the Recycle Bin in Windows 10

If you realize that you permanently deleted files or folders from the Windows 10 Recycle Bin, and you still need them, there are steps you can take to recover them. First, it might be a good idea to read What happens to deleted files? Why can you recover some of them?. If enabled, you can then use File History to get a backup. Otherwise, try a free third-party recovery tool, like Recuva.

How often do you use the Windows 10 Recycle Bin?

You can think of the Recycle Bin as an intermediary step before permanent deletion. We use it to store the images you see in our tutorials while our articles get revised and published, so some pictures do get restored sometimes to clarify certain details. What about you? How often do you delete files only to find out you need them again? Let us know in a comment below.