A new computer tip every day for a year
Day 86 / 365
Article four in this series on the recycle bin. Go to the previous article.
This article explains how to configure the recycle bin. When you have read this article you should have a very good understanding of how to set up the recycle bin. It is a good idea if you do each step on the actual recycle bin as you read this to get an understanding of how each option works.
Setting properties in the recycle bin
Right click on the recycle bin icon and choose properties. The following options are available so you can configure the recycle bin the way you want to.
- Configure drives independently. Each drive can have its own recycle bin settings. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to configure each drive separately, but you can if you want to.
- Use one setting for all drives allows you to set all drives the same. The “Use one setting…” option makes the most sense; setting up different discard options on each drive can be confusing.
- Maximum size of recycle bin. This setting is calculated as a percentage of the drive space. It defaults to 10% which means that 10% of the drive is set aside for discarded files which is usually overkill. Drives today are over 200 gigabytes in size, so 10% of even smaller drives is a lot of space (at least 20 gigabytes). The maximum recycle bin size can be changed to as low as 1%. But be careful if you delete files that are larger than the size of the allocated space – if they don’t fit, they will be permanently discarded, not put into the recycle bin.
- Checkbox – Do not move files to the recycle bin. This checkbox allows you to remove files immediately when deleted. If this checkbox is checked, files are discarded rather than put in the recycle bin. This is not recommended. The recycle bin can automatically and quietly save your files in case you change your mind about deleting them. If you delete them without moving them to the recycle bin they are gone as soon as you delete them. It is a nice feature that sits in the background collecting files. If you accidentally erase a file or you change your mind after deleting one, you can easily retrieve it. That is unless this checkbox is checked.
- Checkbox – Display delete confirmation dialog. This box, if checked, opens a window that asks “Are you sure you want to send <filename> to the recycle bin?” and you can choose yes or no. The default is to ask the “Are you sure…” every time you delete a file. Uncheck this option and you will not see this question.
Recommended checkbox settings
The following shows the four possible combinations for the two checkbox options in recycle bin properties and what happens for each combination.
The first option (both boxes unchecked) is the recommended setting. This is the most convenient. You will not see the “Are you sure…” message every time you delete a file but your file will be placed in the recycle bin.
The next option is the default (“Display delete confirmation dialog” checked and the other one not checked). You will always see the “Are you sure…” message and the file will be placed in the recycle bin.
The next option (check the “Do not move files to the recycle bin” checkbox and uncheck the “Display delete confirmation dialog box) is very dangerous. The file is permanently deleted without any “are you sure…?” message. This is NOT recommended.
The last option (both boxes checked) will ask “are you sure…?” Then permanently delete files if you click yes.
Extras and Tips
These last paragraphs give you more tricks and ideas on how to use the recycle bin and more information about how it works.
To permanently delete files without moving them to the recycle bin (regardless of the state of the “Do not move files to the recycle bin” checkbox), hold down the SHIFT key when deleting the file(s). This is especially handy when you are using a public or shared computer and want to permanently delete personal files so others can’t access them. Note that deleting files while holding the SHIFT key down will always ask “Are you sure…?” regardless of the “Display delete confirmation dialog” checkbox.
You can sort the recycle bin contents by name, date, etc. It is recommended that you sort by date/time deleted in descending order (newest deletion at the top). This will keep the most recently deleted items at the top and in easy view (you are usually interested in one of the last items deleted). This selection should stick even after rebooting your computer.
Folders (and all their contents) in the recycle bin are unfortunately a single entity and cannot be viewed. To view folder contents, they must be restored (moved back to their original location) or moved to another location by dragging and dropping. If you need to view them, it may be a good idea to move them to the desktop for viewing and then delete them again to move them back to the recycle bin. Note, however, that doing this will change the “original location” to the desktop and change the deletion date and time to the time you deleted it from the desktop.
Files use the same amount of disk space on the hard drive when moved to the recycle bin as they did before they were moved. The recycle bin does not set aside the allocated space; it simply uses it when files are moved there.
Emptying the recycle bin will free up space. Some administrators suggest that you empty the recycle bin regularly, but setting the maximum size to a small percentage and letting the bin “fill up” is a better option. 1% of the total disk space isn’t really that much.
Come back soon for another tip in this 365-tip series.
Get notified every time I write an article. Sign up by clicking “+Subscribe” above.
Click “Harold Nolte” at the top of this page for over 400 articles on Using Computers.