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 Windows Tips & Tricks

Recycle Bin
February, 2003

Bill Beverley is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and intermediate computer enthusiast. Early in his military career he was on the ground floor in the development of the U.S. Army's Field Artillery Tactical Fire Direction System (TACFIRE), a forerunner of subsequent digital computers / communications within the army.

The Recycle Bin is the place old files, folders, and programs go to be deleted from your computer by you.  It stores these deleted items until you permanently dump them. The Recycle Bin’s menu lets you open the Bin’s folder to browse its contents. There’s a Recycler folder on every drive which works just like the Recycle Bin desktop icon. The Explore menu option starts the Windows Explorer program with the contents of the Recycle Bin displayed in the right-hand list box. The Empty menu option lets you take out the trash without first opening the Recycle Bin’s folder. You can just drag-and-drop files onto the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop or you can use Find on the Start Menu to find and delete them. The Recycle Bin is also a simple tool for restoring your deleted files. It reveals the file name, size, type of document, original location, and the date and time deleted to the Recycle Bin. Most icons can be easily dragged to the Recycle Bin and eventually deleted. The exceptions are My Computer or Network Neighborhood. So, it may now surprise you to learn that the Recycle Bin doesn’t actually exist as a physical place on your computer to store temporary files. Rather, it is a hidden folder in which Windows stores a set of files and folders with names such as Dc1.url, one folder per physical drive.  Microsoft has made it very difficult to get directly to them. The first six tips below are similar to one another with a slight twist to each other.

Recycle Bin
When you delete a file, it goes to the Recycle Bin but is not really eliminated from your computer. You can however permanently delete a file skipping the Recycle Bin altogether by holding down the Shift key while clicking Delete. Because this trick removes a file completely from your computer, you will have to confirm that you really want to delete it by pressing Shift + Delete when the little window appears on your computer screen.

Deleting Junk Files
To delete files or folders in Win98/Me, open the folder that holds the files to be deleted and select those to be deleted from your computer. Now choose File, Delete on the menu bar or press the Delete key. You can also drag the selected items to the Recycle Bin and choose the Yes button in the Confirm File Delete dialog box that asks whether you want to send the selected file(s) to the Recycle Bin.

Deleting Files Immediately
In Win98 you can set a Recycle Bin property to remove files immediately when deleted. When you delete a file, it is not moved to the Recycle Bin but is immediately purged from the system: To set the properties of the Recycle Bin, right-click the Recycle Bin icon or the Recycle Bin folder window and choose Properties. The Recycle Bin dialog box appears. In the Recycle Bin properties dialog box, choose  whether you want the files to be removed immediately when deleted or not. You can set the maximum size of the recycled folder on all or any of the hard disks. Once you’ve made these decisions, click OK.

Delete Once, Delete Twice
If you delete a message from any folder other than Deleted Items, that message just jumps over to the Deleted Items folder. However, if you want to get rid of a message once and for all, just follow these steps: In the Deleted Items folder, select the message you want to delete. Choose Edit, Delete, or press Ctrl+D or press the Delete key. Now you will be asked if you truly want to delete the message permanently. If you click Yes, the message is deleted and it won’t be found in the Windows Recycling Bin.

With WinXP, to bypass the Recycle Bin on a file-by-file basis, click the file you want to delete and press Shift-Delete. If you are ready to permanently delete the file, click Yes. On the other hand, to keep the file around, click No. You don’t want to hold down Shift each time to delete a file. To bypass the Recycle Bin permanently, right-click it and click Properties and the Global tab. If it isn’t already selected, click the Use One Setting For All Drives radio button. Put a check in the “Do Not Move Files To The Recycle Bin Remove Files Immediately When Deleted” checkbox and click OK. Now when deleting files, you’ll see a confirmation message in a dialog box. Click OK and Windows will permanently delete the file.

Permanent Deletion
If you want to permanently delete files without using the Recycle Bin, right-click the Recycle Bin icon, select Properties, and click on Do Not Move Files To The Recycle Bin. Another way to delete a file permanently is to press Shift+Delete on the keyboard and then click Yes.

Deletion Confirmation
Turn off the “Are you sure?” message every time you send something to the Recycle Bin if seeing this message annoys you. From the desktop, right-click the Recycle Bin icon and select Properties. In the resulting dialog box, deselect Display Delete Confirmation Dialog, and then click OK. The next time you delete something, it will go straight to the Recycle Bin.

Delete Problems
By default, the Recycle Bin uses approximately 10% of the available space on your hard drive. When you exceed this amount, the Recycle Bin will automatically delete files to make room for new ones by applying a first-in, first-out process. To increase the size of the Recycle Bin, you should right-click on the Recycle Bin and select Properties. If you want to set each drive’s Recycle Bin separately, make sure the “Configure Drives Independently” option is selected. Move the slider to the desired size and click Apply. When deleting a file, Windows has a little quirk that could potentially get you into trouble. The Recycle Bin is set up to hold files automatically until you confirm the deletes by emptying the bin. But the Recycle Bin has limited storage capacity that is determined by the little slider located within the Properties option on the Recycle Bin list. If for example you choose 10% of a 10-gigabyte hard drive, then the Recycle Bin will be able to hold up to 1-gigabyte. If you then choose to delete a file that is 2 gigabytes, Windows will NOT place it into the Recycle Bin and you cannot recover the file. 

To add to the confusion, the above scenario assumes that all 10-gigabytes are available. In reality, the Recycle Bin uses the percentage you set of the available free space, not the entire drive. If you have very large files and are not sure about deleting them, create a folder and label it "Hold." Doing so will save you from accidental deletions of large files.

Remember, when the Recycle Bin becomes full with deleted files, the oldest files will be deleted until the storage space available is not maxed out with the newer files. Check your Recycle Bin regularly to see whether you have anything to save in it. If not, delete it. If so, then pull out the files immediately. While attempting to empty the Recycle Bin, you may receive an odd error indicating you have inadvertently opened a file or folder that has a share lock on a file or folder. This situation usually occurs when browsing your hard drive in Explorer, but it poses no problem. Close Explorer and then retry emptying the Recycle Bin.

File Recovery
If you delete a file and then have a need for it, do not panic unless, of course, you have emptied the Recycle Bin since your deletion. To restore a file to its original location, switch to the desktop and double-click the Recycle Bin icon. Now locate the file you would like to “undelete,” right-click it and select Restore. If you catch your mistake immediately, there is a second way to undelete an item. Assuming you have not performed any mouse operations since the deletion, right-click the location from which you deleted the item and select Undo Delete. In the same way, you can undo a Move, Copy, or Rename. Just right-click the desktop or window in which you performed the operation and select Undo for whatever command you just used. Alternatively, press Ctrl+Z to undo the most recent operation.

This tip is for someone who accidentally deleted his/her Recycle Bin icon. However, it is not a tip for the inexperienced computer user. Therefore, anyone using this tip should exercise caution because to fix this problem requires editing the Registry. As always, back up your Registry files (System .dat and User .dat, hidden files) on the root of your hard drive before proceeding with this fix. Open the Registry Editor by selecting Start, Run, and then type regedit and click OK. Now navigate your way to HKEY-LOCAL-MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\explorer\Desktop\ NameSpace. In the left pane, right-click the NameSpace key and select New, Key. Now type exactly {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E} and press Enter. You can save some typing by copying the above line to your clipboard, pressing Ctrl-V after selecting New, Key. In the right pane, right-click Default and select Modify. In the resulting Edit String dialog box, on the Value Data line, type Recycle Bin and press OK. Finally, close the Registry Editor, click the desktop once, press F5 to refresh, and you should see your Recycle Bin icon again.

Move the Recycle Bin
In WinXP the Recycle Bin is located down in the lower right corner of your desktop. You can move this icon over with all of the others to any other position on the desktop by dragging and dropping it like any other Desktop icon, or right-clicking anywhere on the Desktop and selecting Arrange Icons By.

Name Change
In WinXP you can change the name of the Recycle Bin. However, to do so, you must access the Registry. Again, exercise caution and don’t enter the Registry unless you are very computer literate. In the Registry go to My Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\ Explorer\CLSID\{645FF040-5081-1018-9F08-00AA002F954E}. You know you have the correct Class Identification (ID) key if its default value is set to Recycle Bin. Right-click on Default and choose a name.

Obscured Recycle Bin
If the Recycle Bin is obscured in WinXP, just drag the files or folders to be deleted onto a blank space on the far right of the Toolbar.

It’s a good idea to select and permanently delete files from the Recycle Bin on a regular basis because they take up valuable hard drive space. Keep in mind, though, that some of the files you delete to free hard drive space and protect your privacy are still there. Windows may have overwritten some of the deleted files, but others are still on the hard drive and considered free space by Windows because the Delete function simply removed the pointers used to identify these files. If you have sensitive data that you want to erase permanently from your computer, there are specialized software and tools that can find these files and expose their contents. One of them, for example, is CyberScrub <www.cyberscrub.com>. It is a powerful and customizable wiping (data destruction) program that overwrites the files many times, scrambling the files beyond recovery. You should take great care in using these software programs and tools.

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