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Chain of events:

  • Empty Recycle Bin silently fails. Tried it repeatedly.

  • Selected ranges of items in Recycle Bin and deleted them (some didn't work), narrowing down until only one item was left: a folder called Container.

  • Attempting to delete Container, restore it, or Empty Recycle Bin all silently fail: nothing happens, no error message.

  • Logging in as Administrator, that user sees a different recycle bin, that doesn't contain Container.

How to delete this folder from the Recycle bin without destabilising the system?

(On Windows Vista.)

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The fact your unable to delete a folder within a profile's recycle bin already is evidence your system is unstable.already –  Ramhound Jan 7 at 12:13
@Ramhound It's quite stable. It crashed only once over the last three years and typically can last for a couple of months of uptime between restarts. The inability to delete a file is just another bug in Windows. It seems like it should be pretty easy to fix, so you might wonder why it hasn't been done yet, with so many users coming across the issue again and again. If their code had no flaws, they wouldn't be able to sell support! Either that or it's a minor issue stuck in a backlog of a million bugs. –  Evgeni Sergeev Jan 8 at 0:44
I have never encountered this problem and have had migrated the same system image since 2001 across multiple systems. I was a just pointing out the user profile obviously corrupted –  Ramhound Jan 8 at 3:59

1 Answer 1

What worked for me was:

  • Shift + right click Command Prompt and Run as Administrator.

  • cd C:\$Recycle.Bin

  • Now, using dir says "File Not Found", but autocompletion still works, so we can find the names of the directories here by typing, for example dir then pressing Tab repeatedly.

  • Thanks to this answer, rd /s (remove directory recursively) on each of the folders in the C:\$Recycle.Bin. For me, they have names starting with "S" and followed by numbers and hyphens, like "S-1-2-3-1234567-12344-121212".

  • After that, the recycle bin is back to normal and the stuck folder is gone.

This may be related to a path of a file or folder in the Recycle Bin being longer than some limit. Some alternatives are suggested in this answer: (a) dealing with long file names using UNC \\.\... path notation and (b) using RoboCopy.

What was also useful is enabling Windows Explorer to show hidden system files and folders, like C:\$Recycle.Bin (may be called different on different systems, such as "Recycler"), by: pressing Alt to show the menu in Windows Explorer, Tools | Folder Options, View tab, uncheck Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).

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It was C:\RECYCLER in XP - btw you should accept your answer :) –  Mr_and_Mrs_D Nov 9 at 23:03

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