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I have a $RECYCLE.BIN folder on my external hard disk that takes up space and contains files that should be deleted permanently. I know that I am allowed to delete this folder, but how do I do that?

  • I see the $RECYCLE.BIN folder and its files in Defraggler while it is defragmenting these useless (big) files.
  • However, the Windows recycle bin appears to be empty.
  • Doing a disk cleanup from the Properties-dialog of the disk shows the recycle bin as containing 0 bytes of data and doesn't remove those files.
  • I cannot see (and therefore not delete) this folder in Windows Explorer, not even when I can view hidden files.
  • I can't format the external hard disk as it contains lots of files I want to keep.
  • It is an NTFS-formatted external platter hard disk of a bit less than 1 TB.
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@Karan The question has been reopened. Could you turn your comment into an answer? – Virtlink Mar 12 '13 at 20:59
I'd love to, but wouldn't I be essentially duplicating what erik has already suggested, i.e. use a Linux LiveCD? – Karan Mar 12 '13 at 23:52
@Karan I actually meant your first suggestion about ensuring that protected system files are also visible. I didn't know that and it did the trick for me. – Virtlink Mar 13 '13 at 14:55
Ah, gotcha. Added it as an answer as you suggested. – Karan Mar 13 '13 at 18:25
up vote 9 down vote accepted

In Windows Explorer's Folder Options dialog, along with ensuring Show hidden files, folders, and drives is selected, you need to ensure the Hide protected operating system files option is not selected.


This should show you all the Recycle Bin folders/files marked with +H and +S attributes.

You can get rid of the entire $Recycle.Bin folder if you're an admin user or via a Linux LiveCD, but Windows will recreate it once you delete some more files on the same drive.

share|improve this answer
And what if you create a file called $Recycle.Bin. Doesn't that stop Windows from overriding it? – Pacerier Apr 25 '15 at 17:02
@Pacerier: I suppose it might (haven't tried it myself), but in this case the OP simply wanted to know how to show and delete it. – Karan Apr 25 '15 at 18:47
Yea I haven't tried but I'd guess it'd work since Windows is pretty dumb. – Pacerier Apr 25 '15 at 20:42
@Pacerier: I wouldn't term not automatically deleting the file as dumb when it might potentially contain important user data. Windows could prohibit the creation of files with such names I suppose, but for whatever reason the devs chose not to implement such a restriction. – Karan Apr 25 '15 at 20:46

The $RECYCLE.BIN directory can be deleted from Windows command line rmdir /q /s C:\$RECYCLE.BIN as described in the first answer to this similar question, although as a system virtual folder care should be taken. Also, it will get recreated upon deletion of files from the drive containing it.

share|improve this answer
Is there any way to stop it from recreating? – rr- Feb 23 '15 at 22:04
@gm2, Well, the thread you linked seems to say that it's possible. – Pacerier Apr 25 '15 at 17:02
This solved my issue. I had multiple recycle bin folders from a backup of a customer's old MS-DOS system. I could not delete them from the Windows Explorer GUI, they would go away and then immediately come back and prevented me from deleting the parent folders. Opening an administrative command prompt and using rmdir /q /s {PATH} worked like a charm. Thank you. – Slicktrick Jun 24 at 14:28

When your external hard-drive is plugged in to your computer, you should be able to find the recycle bin on this external drive in windows explorer. Right click on it and emtpy recycle bin (as far as I remember, I have no windows right now).

Or the little more complicated, but always working, way: Download a very small linux live CD (e.g. and copy it on a USB pendrive (e.g. with Unetbootin). Reboot your machine with the linux live system on the pendrive. The system will start from this pendrive and you’ll be able to delete all files you want on your external hard-drive.

share|improve this answer
None of my drives have their own Recycle Bin icon. – Virtlink Mar 12 '13 at 2:14

In Windows 7 to empty the Recycle Bin on your external hard-drive, go to "Computer" click on the hard-drive, then right click on the hard-drive and select 'Properties." On the General tab, click Disk Cleanup. It then shows the space you will save by deleting contents of the Recycle Bin. You can view the files or delete them. The message on this tab "The Recycle Bin contains files you have deleted from your computer. These files are not permanently removed until you empty the Recycle Bin.

Ramona Grimsley

share|improve this answer
He's asking whether it's safe to delete the folder. – Pacerier Apr 25 '15 at 16:49
No, he's asking how to delete this folder. The problem with this answer is that Disk Clean Up does not delete it. It deletes lots of stuff, but no the $Recycle.bin folder. – Paul Jan 18 at 9:51

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protected by Community May 30 '14 at 12:03

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