How To Recover Deleted Files From Recycle Bin

If you have been using the Windows operating system for a while, then you are most likely familiar with the Recycle Bin. It may seem like a pretty straightforward tool preloaded on your Windows OS, but there is actually a lot more to it than you might think.

Regardless of what version of Windows you currently use, using the Recycle Bin is pretty much inevitable. Whether you are clearing out old and junk files or deleting old photos that have already been backed up to a cloud service, there will always be a reason to free up space on your PC. Even if you are a Mac user, you have a designated Trash folder that functions in the same manner.

Today, we will talk about a well-known yet overlooked utility tool that you are familiar with using. You might already know how to recover deleted files from Recycle Bin, but do you know how to recover files that have been “permanently deleted”? In any case, knowing how to utilize and get the most out of your PC’s trash folder can be very helpful down the road.

Young businessman working on his laptop in the office, selects the icon Recover deleted files (from recycle bin) on the virtual display

What is The Windows Recycle Bin?

You may be familiar with the various icons from different versions of Windows, but for the most part, it’s pretty simple to find the Recycle Bin on any PC–the icon is a literal recycle bin. It is a location on your PC that stores deleted files, folders, and programs. So when a user deletes an item, it is transferred to the trash rather than being permanently removed from your computer. The folder acts as an in-between location for deleted files that can still be easily recovered until you manually or automatically empty the Recycle Bin.

There are multiple ways to trash files, but the most common ways on Windows 10 and 11 are by either right-clicking the unwanted file and choosing Move to Recycle Bin or dragging the unwanted files directly into the bin. The Recycle Bin icon and folder can be found in the upper left-hand corner of your desktop, the default location for most versions of Windows. If there are no current files in the Recycle Bin, the icon will appear empty; if there are deleted files in the folder, the bin will appear to have crumbled-up pieces of paper in it.

Understanding How Deletion Works

Before we get into ways to recover deleted files, it is important to understand how deletion on a PC works. Understanding this process makes it easier to understand how files are able to be recovered, even if the bin has emptied.

Keep in mind that deleted files are never permanently deleted on a hard drive unless you have used hard drive scrubbing software or had your hard drive shredded. Even if you have deleted your trash folder or emptied your recycle bin, deleted files are simply moved or hidden somewhere else on your hard drive, waiting to be recovered or replaced. If you have a larger storage on your PC, you will have more of a grace period to recover “permanently deleted” files, but if you are low on space, the chance of your hard drive replacing the deleted files is significantly higher.

How To Recover Deleted Files From Recycle Bin After It Has Been Emptied

If you need to recover a deleted file from an already-emptied recycle bin, there are still a few ways to retrieve those files. Some recovery methods require recent backups of your files, and if you don’t have a backup system enabled, it may not be possible.

  1. Data Recovery Software (recommended)
    If you want to avoid running into issues with backups and get your files fast, the most efficient way to recover deleted files is to use data recovery software, such as iolo’s Search and Recover.
    Once you download the software, the entire process is quick and easy, and you can recover lost files in no more than a couple of clicks.
  2. Using File History on Windows
    If you have a recent version of Windows, then you automatically have access to File History, a built-in backup tool. The backup feature can restore files from a recent backup but in order for this tool to work properly, users must have enabled or activated this feature before the files were deleted.
    Here are the steps to recover deleted files using the File History:

    1. Launch Start Menu
    2. Type “restore your files” in search bar
    3. Select Restore your files with File History
    4. You can search for the name of the file you are looking for in search box, or use left and right arrows to browse through different versions of various folders and files on your PC
    5. Select what you want to restore to its original location, and then select the Restore button

Remember that it is possible to recover deleted files, as long as you are willing to take the necessary steps. If you use built-in features or cloud services, recovering files is pretty simple, but if you haven’t backed up your system, file recovery is still possible with Search and Recover.

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