I was using another account before. Let me call it account A. And I deleted a lot of files to the Recycle Bin at that time. But before I removed account A I forgot to empty the Recycle Bin.

My question is, are my files still there? I've searched and found that the Recycle Bin may live in $Recycle.Bin, but I can't open files there so I can't know what they are. Any help how to open deleted files or how to delete them permanently?

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  • Possible helpful: What does the Recycle Bin do? – Karan Feb 23 '13 at 17:52
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    @Karan Good... Thanks, and more question... If I remove metadata from a file, can Windows locate it then? What does Windows do when user delete files to recycle bin? How does Windows avoid overwriting source location? Oh, in fact, I just wander if it is ok to delete files in $Recycle.Bin. If I did it, would Windows still avoids overwriting, making my files always in my hard drive? – Noverull Feb 24 '13 at 13:13

Accordind to this site

Recycle Bin is located in a hidden directory named \$Recycle.Bin\%SID%, where %SID% is the SID of the user that performed the deletion.

You will need to know the SID of the account that was removed, or you can browse through the available folders to determine which one you need. Since this is a hidden folder you won't see anything in it by default.

To see the folders

  • Open Explorer
  • In the location bar enter C:\$Recycle.Bin and press Enter
  • Click Organize
  • Select Folder and Search Options
  • Select the View tab
  • Select Show hidden files, folders, and drives
  • Untick Hide protected operating system files
  • Click OK

You can also do this from the command line but the file names are encoded as explained in the linked article. When I tried this I noticed I could see more files than were visible in Explorer.

  • Click Start
  • Type cmd in the seach box and press Enter
  • Type cd c:\$recycle.bin and press Enter
  • Type dir /ah and press Enter to see all the available folders.
  • Type dir *.* /s and press Enter to see all the files in all the available folders (with their encoded names).

In my case I found two folders that contained files. One was my recycle bin. The other was from another user and contained files that I could not see in Explorer. I could however copy these files elsewhere, open them, etc.

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  • The hidden attribute of a directory does not automatically propagate to its children. – Sam Axe Feb 23 '13 at 18:40
  • Also, the instructions you give for viewing hidden files is a system-wide setting. All hidden files everywhere on any drive in the system will become visible, and all system files will become visible. – Sam Axe Feb 23 '13 at 18:42
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    As Dan-o points out these settings will affect all folders and files. It's probably best to restore them to their previous settings after you finish working with the files in the recycle bin. The settings don't cause any harm, but they reveal files and folders that you probably don't need or want to see most of the time. – Wayne Johnston Feb 23 '13 at 18:47
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    When I tried opening a folder with explorer I got a error Access denied, even if I ran Explorer as Admin. The command prompt is ok, but I use 7-ZIP File Manager (much easier :)). As Karan mentioned, files there store metadata of deleted files, not files themselves, so I can't open them. In a folder I find files that I deleted when I was using account A, considered that I do not need them any more, is it ok to delete them directly? – Noverull Feb 24 '13 at 12:46
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    If you are sure that the files are of no use then it's OK to delete them as far as I know. I've cleaned up files and folders created by other users without problems many times. It's unfortunate that Windows doesn't provide some way to do this as administrator, since left over data from deleted users can take up a lot of disk space. – Wayne Johnston Feb 24 '13 at 23:56

After you figure out the paths to your recycle bin and you can look at hidden and system files, i just opened a web browser (i used firefox) and typed in the full location to the directory. You can open all the files and view them.

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You can always go to command prompt (administrative) and type

cd C:\$Recycle.Bin\

then start pressing [TAB] before you press [ENTER]. This will cycle through all of the sub directories in the $Recycle.Bin folder, allowing you to see all of the SIDs and select the one you want.

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    (1) It’s not clear what this adds to the accepted answer. (2) How is the user supposed to know what SID they want? – Scott Mar 15 '19 at 2:38

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