When I delete even the smallest of files on windows xp the operation takes 3-10 minutes to complete.

I have read this can happen when the recycle bin has alot of items in it, and XP has to iterate through all the files. So I set the space usage to 1%, but even this does not help, the only thing that works is disabling the recycle bin which is not ideal.

Any known fixes to this?

  • 1
    I started encountering this on various XP machines of mine (both at home and at work). I think there was a windows update that triggered this problem, but I have no evidence, nor a solution. Jul 16, 2009 at 16:48
  • I am getting something like this, even with a shift+del it is spending a long time "Preparing to delete" Aug 11, 2009 at 11:26
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    Have you actually emptied your recycling bin, or just limited it?
    – kmarsh
    Nov 17, 2009 at 13:39
  • Are you by chance trying to erase files that is media? For example, if you have images or movies, XP may be trying to create thumbnail preview before the files get erased.
    – Sun
    Nov 26, 2013 at 18:56
  • It's less the size of the files in the Recycle Bin, but rather the amount of files. If you have like a million files in the Recycle Bin, that could cause the issue. But hundreds of files in the RB shouldn't be an issue, and the size of them also not.
    – Daniel F
    Sep 9, 2018 at 9:07

12 Answers 12


Does the performance change based on your recycle bin being empty or full? Even at 1%, if you have a 500 GB drive that is still 5 gigabytes of files in your recycle bin, which can be a lot of files if they are typically pretty small files.

I find it works a lot better to remove files from the recycle bin based on how long they have been there, not size.

Anti-virus is another possibility. I have also seen other 3rd party tools that install themselves in place of the recycle bin. Check for that as well and try disabling them. If nothing else you could just start disabling all those applications running down in your system tray and see if that makes a difference.

If none of that works then get Process Explorer from SysInternals and see if you can tell what is going on when you delete.

  • The performance improves when its empty? Its a 200mb hd, either way I would expect windows to be design to handle this? There is an option to base the recycle bin on time?
    – Dan
    Jul 16, 2009 at 19:19
  • 4
    The recycle bin doesn't natively support time based emptying, but I believe CCleaner ( CCleaner.com ) can do that for you. It can configure it to only clear the recycle bin items older then a specific date and then set it to run on startup or even make a scheduled task for it. Jul 16, 2009 at 20:39
  • 1
    200MB or 200GB? If it is 200MB, you are overdue for a upgrade.
    – kmarsh
    Nov 17, 2009 at 13:24
  • 1
    +1 I pressed the wrong button in Total Commander to delete Boost, so all 3141534 files ended up in the Recycle Bin. Deletes took 2+ seconds per file after that. Nov 27, 2010 at 15:17
  • Also deleting from the DOS prompt and using the DOS path (The one using ~ to shorten it) can speed up things.
    – Daniel F
    Sep 9, 2018 at 9:11

Try temporarily disabling your antivirus software to see if it has a big effect on deleting.


There is a solution - I have deleted from the Recycle-Bin just 8 very big files totaling 1.5GB out of about 1.8GB total size of the Recycle-Bin, and then wall-la...deleting files is as fast as click - as I was used to before starting to encounter deleting files takes very long time.


Your hard disk may be doing read/write retries in an area corresponding to trash bin functionality.

Download your disk vendor's tools and check the SMART status for errors. (E.g., SeaTools for Seagate drives, WD Data Lifeguard, Samsung Hutil, Hitachi Drive Fitness Test or OGT). For linux there is a smartmontools package.

This is a good idea for everyone to do at least once a year!


maybe formatting your HDD with NTFS filesystem will speed things up


I've run into the problem when the network wasn't working correctly. In this case it was due to delayed network access. The fix was to disconnect the network drives until I found the one(s) that were causing the problems.
Also, Windows has problems with file access when there are more than 10,000 files in any one folder.


Usually deleting files in the Recycle Bin helps. If it doesn't, see if there are still leftovers in


A UserSID may look like S-1-5-21-2502600870-2247595359-1186002861-1024

Delete the files inside the <UserSID> folder(s), not the <UserSID> folder itself.

It happened to me once that there were still a lot of files in there even after I emptied the Recycle Bin. After emptying that folder deleting was instant again.


Just going this myself right now. I have not seen the word defrag mentioned yet so for future readers I throw that one out there. Chkdsk to see if there are issues and do a defrag if necessary / if it has been awhile since the last defrag.


If there are some files that you know you want to delete (i.e., you want to bypass the Recycle Bin and permanently delete them), you can select the files, then press Shift+Del or hold Shift while you right-click and delete.

This allows you to selectively bypass the overhead of using the Recycle Bin without completely disabling it.


For Windows 7 there is a solution here


More specifically, File -> Right Click -> Properties -> Advanced, uncheck

File is ready for archiving Allow this file to have contents indexed in addition to file properties

I think this should apply for all NTFS-based Windows.


Deleting temporary files in windows will speed up things a bit.

To delete temp files.

Click Start, type %temp% in the search bar and press enter. Delete all the files by manually selecting.

Hope this will help.


Use the command line.

It is much faster. When you delete through Explorer, Windows scans every file before it actually starts deleting them. It's sort of like going through your garbage before dumping it.

  • Upvoting because somebody downvoted this without mentioning a reason at all. The tip of using the command line is a valid one, I've resorted to this a couple of times. Yet the answer could show how to do this.
    – Daniel F
    Sep 9, 2018 at 9:14

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