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I have 2 drives on my windows 7 machine. C and D. C is my main drive with the OS, D is a media drive where all my downloads and rips go.

My recycle bin is empty, but right now the C:\$RECYCLE.BIN is 2.5G and the D:\$RECYCLE.BIN is 6.8G! What exactly are these folders? I figured it's where recycled files live, but if my bin is empty, why aren't these?

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Did you try opening them and looking at what’s inside? (I usually find that level of residual deleted files after using Windows Update.) – Synetech Jun 30 '11 at 1:35
up vote 4 down vote accepted

It could be that those are recycled files from another users. Windows 7 stores each's user recycle bin as a subdirectory.

Do notice that, if you did reinstall without formatting drive, you might have "orphaned" user in recycle bin from your previous installation.

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Looks like it was the other user, at least for the C drive. What's weird is the D drive's recycle bin folder didn't change at all. I just deleted it manually. – ryeguy Jun 30 '11 at 1:36

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