I just noticed that I can open folders from the recycle bin without restoring them. I have the qttabbar extension that adds tabs to the standard windows explorer and I accidentally middle-clicked a folder.

It not only opened fine in a tab, but its contents behaved as if not deleted: proper open action and a full right-click menu.

That means all that's keeping users from opening files inside of recycle bin is that there's no menu action/open handler or whatever.

To be fair, notepad2 did choke on opening a file from a subfolder in recycle bin (bad path), although notepad++ handled the same file just fine. Thus this feature might not be for the faint of heart, but it would be extremely useful when crawling through heaps of garbage :)

Has anyone heard of such a hack/feature?

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    Why exactly would you want to handle files in a bin... Or bin files you still need in the first place?
    – Pylsa
    Feb 2, 2011 at 1:02
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    Isn't that what the recycle bin is for? Restoring wrongly deleted items? What happens when there are more than one similarly or identically named files?
    – Raveren
    Feb 2, 2011 at 1:24
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    I can see the problem, you have tons of data folders in the recycle bin, possibly collected for years, and would like to sort through it before permanent deletion, restoring the folders would be a disaster, trying to keep track of where all that data was restored to, and then crawling all the directories to find it.
    – Moab
    Feb 2, 2011 at 17:17
  • that's a severe extreme, but yes, stuff like that, you get the point.
    – Raveren
    Feb 2, 2011 at 19:23
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    If you go to C:\$Recycle.Bin with the "show hidden files" option checked and the "hide protected system files" unchecked, you will see a "Recycle bin" folder in there with the recycle bin item. You can open that folder and then copy-paste the title bar into an Open dialog of a program, then open the file from the program. Also, theoretically, you can open the files in there with cmd, but they all have coded names such as $R1PM1PT.JPG which isn't visible in Windows Explorer that you need to know to open the file using cmd. Apr 9, 2018 at 15:49

3 Answers 3


The Old New Thing seems to explain it: Why does the Recycle Bin have different file system names on FAT and NTFS?

FAT drives just use a folder C:\RECYCLED, and NTFS drives use the set of folders C:\RECYCLER\S-.... So it sound like your toolbar is just looking in there. I had a look once without it (sadly don't remember how.)

So: the hack is probably just to look in a hidden folder. I don't have a Windows machine on me to look at and test how easy it is to get in there. I doubt that Windows Explorer will do it, but cmd might. (At your own risk, etc.)

The next question is why Microsoft "lock" the files. It's probably so no one starts using the bin as their My Documents folder, or so you have to make a decision -- restore or delete, but no peeking.


I think the best way to handle it would be to drag & drop all of the contents into a new folder to do the analysis of what needs to be opened / kept / deleted. This will at least save you from needing to track down the restore location of each file.


your problem has been an enterprise problem since the birth of the recycle bin... users have always been able to use the recycle bin as a storage feature and I have seen a dozen users consider it their DRP... they simply never empty the bin and they think they are covered... but then they work out of it and edit documents that they have deleted.

I have always treated the solution to this problem as more education.

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