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I had an old HDD with Windows 10 on C drive (let's call it Old Windows) and media files on D drive. I deleted 5GB of files from old D drive which would of course go into the hidden Recycle Bin folder of tthe old D drive.

Then I purchased a new HDD, connected it along with the old HDD and did a clean install in its C drive of Windows 10. When I'm logged into the new Windows, and go to the media partition of the old HDD (which is now called F drive instead of D, of course) and make 'protected system files' visible, the Recycle Bin doesn't show the files deleted when the Old Windows was active. The F drive showed 111 GB free. Then I went to the BIOS and activated the old HDD, logged into the old Windows 10 installation, and emptied the Recycle Bin there. Now when I'm back to the new Windows, I see the free space is 116GB in the F drive (old D drive).

But imagine if, without emptying the Recycle Bin of old Windows, I had to simply format the old HDD's C drive (which is called E drive now) from the new Windows 10 parition, how would I find the 5GB of files from F drive to delete? Where are they hidden in F drive?

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    You should have taken ownership of the drive ... – DavidPostill Jan 26 '20 at 14:06
  • Can you remove the new drive, put the old drive back, and boot from it? Then either delete the files in the Recycle Bin, or restore them and move them to a neutral folder (c:\temp that Everyone has permission to). Now you can go back to your setup and recover files you want. – John Jan 26 '20 at 14:20
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The files are stored in drive:\$RECYCLE.BIN

This folder is a special folder, because if you double-click the folder within Explorer, it will open the Recycle Bin program, rather than show the contents of that folder. As a result, it will show you all files deleted in your current Windows Installation, and not what is actually inside that folder.

From a Command Prompt, you can see the actual content, and use something like move *.* D:\Temp /s to move the files out so you can access them. You will have to rename them though, but that will work.

Moving them to a $RECYCLE.BIN of a current windows install should in theory also make them available through the recycle bin app, but I have not tested this.

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To be able to see the files contained in the RECYCLE.BIN folder of a Windows installation that is not the current one or that is on another disk. I do the following:

(In my case, that I use windows 7 pro, inside $RECYCLE.BIN there are many folders with recycle bin icons and they all have the same name: recycle bin)

  1. In folder options, I check the option to show hidden files, folders and drives and uncheck the option to hide protected system files

  2. I locate the $RECYCLE.BIN folder which is usually found at the root of the drive

  3. I change the name of each folder with a recycle bin icon to, for example: folder_1 folder_2 etc

  4. I select all the folders with the changed name and move them to a new folder in the root of the drive

(moved folders should have been renamed automatically to something like S-1-2-3 or S-1-3-4-1234567890-1234567890-1234567890-1 ,each folder with different numbers)

  1. Inside the folder to which I moved the folders and without selecting anything, I press shift key + right click and choose from the context menu: open command window from here

  2. on the command line I write the name of the tool to assign or remove attributes to files and folders called attrib followed by the commands and then the name of the folder with the name changed as follows:

attrib -r -a -s -h /d /s [folder name, ex: S-1-2-3 or S-1-3-4-1234567890-1234567890-1234567890-1]

command explanation: -r to delete read-only attributes, -a to delete storage file attributes, -s to delete system file attributes, -h to delete hidden file attributes, /d to process folders and /s to include files within the folder.

with this operation the folder becomes a normal folder and inside you will find all the files

*sorry if there are errors in my attempt to explain, my first language is Spanish

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I found this command online to delete the Recycle Bin of a drive through elevated command. Perhaps it might work even with the Recycle Bins left over from other installations?

rd /s /q D:\$Recycle.bin

Replace 'D' with your drive letter.

I won't accept my own answer until senior users upvote my answer to agree.

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