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The Recycle Bin is Microsoft’s entry into trash storage. In pretty much any operating system you might come across, there is an interface that deals with files that are corrupt, incomplete, old, unusable, or that you otherwise just want to delete from the system itself. Microsoft created its Recycle Bin for this purpose.

Although it has a number of features that computer owners might use, it acts as temporary storage for files that you intend to get rid of later. The Recycle Bin keeps certain records of the files that you send there, and they remain there for an amount of time that you set. You can also recover any files you have put there.

Although many users know some of the basics about how the Recycle Bin functions, they may still have questions about its creation. We will try to get into some of the uncommon questions you might ask about the Recycle Bin location today.

Why Did Microsoft Choose the Term “Recycle Bin”?

Any person who has used a device that operates on Microsoft has probably heard of the Recycle Bin already. It’s a program that has been around for decades, and it is where files tend to end up when you delete them from the rest of the storage space. However, it is also possible that computer users might refer to any such application as a Recycle Bin of sorts.

While this is normal, it is not entirely accurate. The name itself is specific only to Microsoft’s platform. Other operating systems may have a similar feature, but they will call it something slightly different.

In fact, the Recycle Bin is part of a larger process within computing called trash. The Recycle Bin takes, holds, and recycles the trash that a user might accumulate within a Windows operating system. Why did Microsoft choose this specific term for its folder of trash contents? We can probably narrow this decision down to two main factors:

1. Choosing a unique term from among common ones that users might associate with trash didn’t leave Microsoft with many options. The company wanted to find a term that could convey the meaning they intended easily, but they didn’t want to choose one that was not palatable to users.

Going for Recycle Bin gave them a term that told most computer users what would happen to their files in this location, at least in a general sense. It was also something that most people probably preferred to say or talk about when Microsoft measured it against the few other possibilities it could use.

2. Similarly, Microsoft needed to avoid any possible claims of infringement. In fact, this is a problem the company had to deal with from Apple, one of its competitors, at some point. Macintosh operating systems used a trash can icon to represent the general trash user interface here.

Although they changed the name of this program to the wastebasket in British and other international materials that would relate to the operating system, the general principle of it being a can for trash remained. As such, Apple took Microsoft to court over this and other things. In the end, the results of the proceedings deemed that both the trash can icon and some folder options were specific to Macintosh systems.

To differentiate itself from Apple, Microsoft changed how its trash user interface looked. The result was a bin-like structure with the symbol for recycling on the front, and the Recycle Bin that Microsoft users know today was born.

Is the Recycle Bin User-Specific?

Yes, the Recycle Bin is specific to each user profile. On any given system, you can create multiple profiles. This allows different people who use a shared device to load up their own profiles.

A user can protect their personal profiles by requiring some form of authentication. Furthermore, each person who has a profile on the single device can customize it to their liking. Although there are not many ways to customize the Recycle Bin itself, a computer does not share the contents of one profile’s trash interface with that of another.

To add a bit more detail, the bins for each user are what the system would call segmented. These segments match a particular profile for each user, and they also map to specific drives that the system uses to store data. The File Explorer application in Windows is one of the main ways users get into different parts of the system’s storage to access information or features.

Even so, one user cannot get into the Recycle Bin files of another just by using the File Explorer. If one tried to do so, they would not get past an ’Access Denied’ message. This is because, as a different user, they do not have the proper permissions to get into some of the file locations of another profile.

Experienced users may be able to bypass these checks using specific commands. However, they would need an understanding of file path names and applications in Microsoft that allow users to write specific instructions for the operating system. Even so, the file names they find if the commands are successful are different from the names they would see if they viewed these files normally.

The extensions for these files don’t show themselves. Thus, while it is possible for one profile to get to the Recycle Bin contents of another, a user would need to know exactly what to look for and how to find it.

Where Are Recycle Bin Files Are Stored?

In most cases, you can see the icon for the Recycle Bin on your desktop. It tends to appear there as a standard part of any Windows installation. However, this is not where the application keeps the files you delete.

You can click on and view the contents of your Recycle Bin from this location, however, possibly making the whole concept a bit confusing for new users. The true Recycle Bin is usually a folder that the operating system will hide.

It still functions almost exactly like a regular folder, however. A hidden folder is one that will not show up in your file explorer searches unless you enable certain permissions for viewing files.

This folder tends to take its name from the Recycle Bin itself. Its actual title can vary slightly depending on which version of the Windows operating system you are using. When you decide to delete a file, Windows will send it to the Recycle Bin.

You can open the app on your desktop to see the contents of the bin, check which files you’ve deleted already, restore them to their original locations, or empty out the Recycle Bin. Technically, Windows sends the files you deleted to the hidden folder that resides at the root of a particular drive letter.

Why Do Files Automatically Go To the Recycle Bin?

Under normal circumstances, none of your files should go to the Recycle Bin by themselves. It is a containment system that keeps files you are thinking of removing from the system. However, you need to choose which files you would like to delete.

The Recycle Bin does not do automatic selections of files. It may be able to do some automatic cleaning on a schedule. If so, this is an option you would still need to set for your own user profile. Further, files would have to be in the Recycle Bin already for it to do this.

Should you find that your computer seems to be sending files to the Recycle Bin without your intervention or permission, it is possible that you might be dealing with some kind of virus or malware. If you suspect this to be the case, there are various programs you can run in order to try to detect the presence of malicious files or apps.

These programs perform a complete search of your system, and many of them are capable of finding malware or viruses that hide somewhere in the computer’s storage. It is a good idea to make regular backups of files that are important to you in order to deal with situations like this one.

Why Does the Recycle Bin Empty Itself?

Although files should not move to the Recycle Bin by themselves, the trash interface may clean itself occasionally. For the most part, this probably happens because there is a size limit on how much data the Recycle Bin can store.

Once it reaches that limit, your trash interface may have a setting to empty itself out automatically as a way to make more space. Similarly, some other programs that you might use to clean up your computer can sometimes clear out the Recycle Bin as part of the work that they do. You can modify the settings of the programs you are using to prevent this from happening.


The Recycle Bin is part of a larger structure of graphical user interfaces all operating systems share. As a trash location, it acts as a sort of temporary storage space for files and folders within Microsoft that you might wish to delete. At its core, it represents a handy way to clean up your computer while giving you the option to change your mind later.