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.

5 Answers 5


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.

  • 3
    And what if you create a file called $Recycle.Bin. Doesn't that stop Windows from overriding it?
    – Pacerier
    Apr 25, 2015 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, 2015 at 18:47
  • 1
    Yea I haven't tried but I'd guess it'd work since Windows is pretty dumb.
    – Pacerier
    Apr 25, 2015 at 20:42
  • 1
    @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, 2015 at 20:46
  • If you create a dummy file called $Recycle.Bin, Windows will immediately alert you that this recycle bin is corrupt, and happily fix it for you, recreating the $Recycle.Bin folder.
    – bryc
    Apr 26, 2023 at 0:50

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.

  • 2
    Is there any way to stop it from recreating?
    – rr-
    Feb 23, 2015 at 22:04
  • 2
    @gm2, Well, the thread you linked seems to say that it's possible.
    – Pacerier
    Apr 25, 2015 at 17:02
  • 1
    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, 2016 at 14:28

In Windows 7 to empty the Recycle Bin on your external hard-drive:

  1. Go to "Computer"
  2. Click on the hard-drive
  3. Right-click on the hard-drive
  4. Select "Properties"
  5. 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 reads, "The Recycle Bin contains files you have deleted from your computer. These files are not permanently removed until you empty the Recycle Bin."

  • He's asking whether it's safe to delete the folder.
    – Pacerier
    Apr 25, 2015 at 16:49
  • 2
    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, 2016 at 9:51
  • This should be the correct answer. It's the first aid for this problem and solved my problem.
    – user191110
    Jul 6, 2019 at 17:12
  • How come some hacky answer about changing folder attributes and unhiding protected OS files is sitting at 21 upvotes while the actual native way is at 7? Oct 14, 2021 at 2:35

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. http://gparted.org/download.php) 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.


I got couple of advices and at the end i solve it. Here is how:

  • In Folder Option unmark the Hide Protected Files and Folder, as our mate above pointed out

  • Right click on Recycle Bin inside the external drive and go to options and mark the Don't move files to Recycle Bin, Remove files immediately when deleted

  • Save and you can now delete Recycle Bin folder.

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