The Ins and Outs of the Recycle Bin


Key to Instructions

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Q. I really like the Recycle Bin because it gives me an opportunity to change my mind after I delete a file—except for the last time I tried it, which is why I’m asking you for help. I deleted a file just as I usually do, and then a day later when I realized I still needed it, I went into the Recycle Bin, and to my surprise, my file wasn’t there. What’s going on? Can I get it back?

A. Well, you apparently failed to read the fine print about the recycle function. The Recycle Bin is great—up to a point—but it appears it reached its tipping point. When the bin gets too full—as measured by a percentage of your computer’s hard disk—it empties itself without warning, and that’s apparently what happened. You can change the tipping point by right-clicking on the Recycle Bin , clicking on Properties and then adjusting that percentage.

I would suggest you go into the Recycle Bin every week or so and clean out the files you definitely don’t want so you don’t get into such a bind again.

Now, on to your next question: The answer is yes—you may be able to get the file back.

Some background first: When you delete a file, its code is not immediately destroyed. It’s simply renamed and hidden, and Windows identifies it as empty space. However, when that space is needed, it gets written over with a new file, and then it really does disappear. So if you can get to the space in time, you might be able to retrieve it.

There are utilities designed for that purpose, but they’re not free. However, if all you want is to get back that one file, you can download a free demo copy of Final Data ( ); it will let you try to recover up to three deleted files.

The other option—the one I would suggest—is to invest in a software tool such as Norton Utilities. Among its many functions is UnErase ; its name describes what it does and the screenshot of its wizard (below) shows how easy it is to use.


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