How to Restore Deleted Files From the Recycle Bin

Easily retrieve files you've already deleted

Empty and full recycle bin icons
Edward Grajeda / Getty Images

There's a very important reason that Microsoft called this tool the Recycle Bin and not the Shredder - as long as you haven't emptied it, it's easy to restore files from the Recycle Bin in Windows.

We've all deleted files accidentally or simply changed our minds about the necessity of a particular file or folder.

Follow these easy steps to restore deleted files from the Recycle Bin back to their original locations on your computer:

Note: These steps should apply to all Windows operating systems that use the Recycle Bin including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and more.

How to Restore Deleted Files From the Recycle Bin

Time Required: Restoring deleted files from the Recycle Bin in Windows should only take a few minutes but it depends mostly on how quickly you can find the files you want to restore as well as how large they are.

  1. Open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking or double-tapping on its icon on the Desktop.
    1. Tip: Can't find Recycle Bin? See the How to Show or "Unhide" the Recycle Bin Program/Icon directions at the bottom of the page for help.
  2. Locate and then select whatever file(s) and/or folder(s) you need to restore.
    1. Tip: Recycle Bin doesn't show the files contained within any deleted folders you might see. Keep this in mind if you can't find a file you know you deleted—it may be in a folder you deleted instead. Restoring the folder will, of course, restore all the files it contained.
    2. Note: There is not a Windows-provided way for restoring files that were deleted by emptying the Recycle Bin. If you've truly deleted a file in Windows, a file recovery program may be able to help you undelete it.
    3. See How to Recover Deleted Files for a start-to-finish tutorial on how to tackle this problem.
  3. Note the Original Location of the files you're restoring so you know where they'll end up. You'll only see this location if you're viewing Recycle Bin in "details" view (you can toggle that view from the View menu).
  1. Right-click or tap-and-hold on the selection and then choose Restore.
    1. Another way to restore the selection is to drag it out of the Recycle Bin window and into a folder of your choice. This will force the file to be restored wherever you choose.
    2. Note: If you use the Restore option (and don't drag them out), all files will be restored to their own respective locations. In other words, you can restore all of the files at once but that doesn't mean that they'll go to the same folder unless, of course, they were deleted from the same folder.
  2. Wait while Recycle Bin restores the deleted files.
    1. The time this takes depends mostly on how many files you're restoring and how large they are all together, but your computer speed is a factor here, too.
  3. Check that the files and folders you restored are in the location(s) that were shown to you back in Step 3, or that they're located wherever you dragged them to in Step 4.
  4. You can now exit Recycle Bin if you're finished restoring.

How to Show or "Unhide" the Recycle Bin Program/Icon

Recycle Bin doesn't have to sit on your Windows Desktop all the time. While it's certainly an integrated part of the Windows operating system and so can't be uninstalled, it can be hidden.

You, or maybe your computer maker, may have done this as a way to keep the Desktop a bit cleaner. It's perfectly fine that it's out of the way but, of course, that makes it hard to use.

Here's how to show the Recycle Bin again if it's been hidden:

  • Windows 10: Open Desktop Icon Settings via Settings > Personalization > Themes > Desktop icon settings. Check Recycle Bin and then tap or click OK.
  • Windows 8: Search for desktop icon settings and then choose Show or hide common icons on the desktop from the results. Check Recycle Bin and then tap or click OK.
  • Windows 7 & Vista: Right-click anywhere on the Desktop and choose Personalize. Click the Change desktop icons link on the left. Check Recycle Bin and then click OK.
  • Windows XP: There is no built-in ability to hide the Recycle Bin in Windows XP but it is possible via a program called Tweak UI. If you're using Windows XP but don't see Recycle Bin, it's probably because this program was used to hide it, which you can also use to "unhide" it.

If you'd prefer that the Recycle Bin stays off the Desktop, another way to access it is via searching for recycle bin via Cortana (Windows 10) or the search bar (most other versions of Windows) and then opening the program when it appears in the list of results.

You could also start Recycle Bin by executing start shell:RecycleBinFolder from Command Prompt, but that's probably only helpful in the rarest of circumstances.

How to Stop Windows From Instantly Deleting Files

If you find yourself recovering deleted files from the Recycle Bin more often than you probably should, there's a chance that your computer is set up to not prompt you for a confirmation when you delete files.

For example, if you delete a file in Windows 10 and it immediately goes into the Recycle Bin without asking you if you're sure you want to delete it, then you might like to change that so that you'll be given a chance to say No if you accidentally delete a file or folder.

To do this, right-click or tap-and-hold on the Recycle Bin icon and select Properties. If there's an option there called Display delete confirmation dialog, make sure it has a check in the box so that you will be asked if you're sure that you want to remove any files and folders that you delete.