Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : September 2007




Here are some tips to better handle those files that you just don’t have a need for anymore. I know that everyone knows where it is and what it does, but let’s dig a little deeper to see if we can find some treasures in this unappreciated application.

Emptying the Recycle Bin

Ah, yes – file purgatory. It is nice to know that when you delete something you still have a second chance to bring back a file that you didn’t mean to delete or perhaps just had second thoughts about. It is best to frequently delete the items from your Recycle Bin if you know that you are really finished with them, this makes it easier to locate those files you wish to grant a reprieve to. Did you know that if you accidentally delete a file or folder from Windows Explorer you can bring it back immediately by pressing Ctrl-Z, without the need to go dumpster diving in your Recycle Bin?

To do the deed and pass summary judgment on the entirety of your discarded files just right-click the “Recycle Bin” icon on the desktop. Choose “Empty Recycle Bin” from the shortcut menu. A dialog box then asks you to confirm your choice; click “Yes”.

To purge specific files or folders from the Recycle Bin without completely emptying it, open the Recycle Bin folder and delete the selected files in the usual way. “Et tu, Brute.txt?” Objects deleted from an ordinary folder on a hard drive are sent to the Recycle Bin, but objects deleted from the Recycle Bin are really deleted and only a skilled data-recovery expert can bring it back. 

Sorting Your Trash

Just like you sort your recyclables at home into paper, plastic and glass, you can sort your deleted files, mostly to retrieve or delete a certain group of files or an item in a group. Let’s say you want to purge only files that have been in the Recycle Bin the longest. Well, open the Recycle Bin and if the window is not already in Details view, choose “View”>”Details”. Now click the “Date Deleted” header to put the objects in order of date. Select all the objects deleted prior to a certain date and click the “Delete” button on the toolbar, or press the “Delete” key on the keyboard. When the dialog box appears, asking whether you really want to delete these objects, click “Yes”. Go on, it’s okay. It’s for the best.

Resizing the Recycle Bin

By default, the maximum size of the Recycle Bin on your hard drive is 10 percent of the size of the hard drive. For example, a 10GB hard drive has a maximumRecycle Bin size of 1GB; that’s a lot of space to use up for files you’ve decided to delete. You may decide either to raise this limit or lower it, either of which you can do by right-clicking the “Recycle Bin” icon on the desktop, and then choose “Properties” from the shortcut menu.

The “Properties” dialog box contains a “Global” tab, plus a tab for each hard drive on your system. If you want to change the maximum size setting for all the hard drives at once, set the new maximum size of the Recycle Bin (as a percentage of total drive space) by moving the slider on the “Global” tab. Then click “OK”.

If you may want to reset the maximum Recycle Bin size for only a single hard drive (leaving the others the same), you need to select the “Configure Drives Independently” radio button on the “Global” tab. Click on the tab for the drive you want to change. Set the slider on that tab. Then click “OK”.

Streamlining the Deletion Process

We’ve all been thankful that Windows makes it a little hard to eliminate a file on a hard drive. There are four different steps in the process: deleting the file in the first place, confirming the deletion in a dialog box, emptying the Recycle Bin or deleting the file from the Recycle Bin, and then confirming that decision in a dialog box.

But even though this process can occasionally be a lifesaver, it can also be tedious, particularly if you are trying to get rid of sensitive files that you don’t want hanging around in the Recycle Bin. If you let the Recycle Bin get full, however, the oldest recycled files will be lost when new ones are recycled.

[NOTE: Even deleting a file from the Recycle Bin won’t destroy the information right away. Windows makes the file’s disk space available for reassignment, but doesn’t immediately write over that disk space. People with the proper tools could still read the file. This could be either a good thing or a bad thing.]

Deleting with Extreme Prejudice

If you want certain files and folders gone right now, with no confirmation dialog boxes, Recycle Bins, or Undo buttons, hold down the “Shift” key while you drag the files and folders onto the “Recycle Bin” icon. And of course, you should be very sure you want the files and folders gone, and that you haven’t dragged along any extra objects by accident.

Holding down the “Shift” key while you click the “Delete” button (or “Delete” key) is almost as quick: you have to click “Yes” in a confirmation dialog box, but the objects are deleted for real, not just sent to the Recycle Bin.

Turning The Recycle Bin Off

You can do that? Yup. Do you remember when we right-clicked the “Recycle Bin” icon on the desktop, and chose “Properties” from the shortcut menu during “Resizing the Recycle Bin” section? Well, let’s do that again.

On the “Global” tab of the “Properties” dialog box, check the box labeled “Do Not Move Files To The Recycle Bin”, “Remove Files Immediately When Deleted” and then click “OK”.

From now on (or until you change it back), files you delete from your hard drive are gone. Really gone. Files that were already in the Recycle Bin, however, remain there until you empty the Recycle Bin, delete them, restore them, or move them to another folder.

If the “Configure Drives Independently” option is chosen on the “Global” tab choose the tab corresponding to the particular drive who’s Recycle Bin you wish to turn off.

You can turn the Recycle Bin back on by following the same procedure, but unchecking the check box. The Recycle Bin remains off until you turn it on again. A better choice might be to make your Recycle Bin smaller, but to leave it on, just in case. You never know when the Recycle Bin might save your life, or the life of an important file.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: July  2007