How the Recycle Bin Stores Files

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Article ID: 136517 - View products that this article applies to.
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When you delete a file in Windows Explorer or My Computer, the file appears in the Recycle Bin. The file remains in the Recycle Bin until you empty the Recycle Bin or restore the file.

Older files are also removed from the Recycle Bin when newer files are deleted and the Recycle Bin exceeds the maximum size allocated in Recycle Bin properties.


Each hard disk contains a hidden folder named Recycled. This folder contains files deleted in Windows Explorer or My Computer, or in Windows- based programs.

When you delete a file, the complete path and file name is stored in a hidden file called Info or Info2 (Windows 98) in the Recycled folder. The deleted file is renamed, using the following syntax:
D<original drive letter of file><#>.<original extension>
New file name:

Dc1.txt = (C drive, second file deleted, a .txt file)

INFO file path:


New file name:

De7.doc = (E drive, eighth file deleted, a .doc file)

INFO file path:

E:\Winword\Letter to Rosemary.doc

Each drive has a Recycled folder. Files deleted from compliant programs are moved to the Recycled folder on the drive from which they are deleted. Double-clicking the Recycle Bin icon displays the folder listing of deleted files available for restoration.

Clicking a file and choosing Restore causes the original path to be read from the INFO file, and the file to be renamed and restored to its original path.

Damaged or Deleted INFO File

If the INFO file is damaged or deleted, no files appear in the Recycle Bin. However, the renamed files still exist in the Recycled folder. Even though the files in the Recycled folder have been renamed, they are not changed in any other way. For example, a text file is still viewable as a text file. To restore such a file, you can manually search for the file in the folder and rename it.

If the INFO file is deleted, it is re-created when you restart Windows. If the Recycle Bin becomes damaged and stops functioning, deleting the hidden INFO file in the Recycle folder and restarting Windows may enable you to again access files in the Recycle Bin. The INFO file is a hidden file. To delete the INFO file follow these steps:

  1. Open a command prompt window
  2. Type cd recycled
  3. Type attrib -h inf*
  4. Type del info

Damaged Files in Recycled Folder

No files may appear in the Recycle Bin if the files in the Recycled folder are damaged. If this is the case, create a copy of the Recycled\ Desktop.ini file in another folder, and then delete the entire contents of the Recycled folder. Then, restore the Desktop.ini file to the Recycled folder. Note that doing this deletes all files in the Recycle Bin.

If the Desktop.ini file is not present or is also damaged, it can be recreated by adding the following information to a blank Desktop.ini file:

Damaged Recycled Folder

The Recycled folder itself can become damaged. Files are moved to the folder and the Recycle Bin on the desktop appears full, but you cannot view the contents and the Empty The Recycle Bin command is unavailable. Deleting this folder and restarting Windows will re-create this folder and restore functionality:
  1. Restart to a command prompt.
  2. Type attrib -s -h recycled.
  3. Type del recycled.
  4. Restart the computers.


Article ID: 136517 - Last Review: January 19, 2007 - Revision: 2.2
  • Microsoft Windows 95
  • Microsoft Windows 98 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 Developer Edition
kbinfo kbui KB136517

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