What Actually Happens When You Delete Files?

Plus, how to make sure you're deleting every trace of unwanted files...

What Happens When You Delete Files - feature

Once you press the delete button, a file is gone, right? Unless you’ve customized your settings, your deleted files aren’t gone from your PC just yet. If you’ve just accidentally deleted the wrong file, this is great news. If you want to delete files for good, you’ll still have another step to take.

Deleting to the Recycle Bin

By default, all files you delete from your hard drive go into the Recycle Bin. You’ve probably seen the icon on your desktop, which looks like a small wastebasket. If you don’t see the icon, go to Start > Settings > Personalization > Themes > Desktop icon settings. Check the box for Recycle Bin and press OK.

The Recycle Bin is designed to be a safety net for when you delete files, but realize you still need them. You can’t actually open a file directly from the Recycle Bin. Instead, you’ll need to double-click the Recycle Bin icon, right-click the file, and choose Restore.

Delete Files from the Recycle Bin

Since you don’t delete files directly when you push your delete button, you need to empty the Recycle Bin. It’s always a good idea to open the Recycle Bin and double-check that you don’t want to restore any files. Unless you have special software, which may or may not find your files, your files are gone permanently once you delete them from the Recycle Bin.

  • Right-click the Recycle Bin icon and choose Empty Recycle Bin. This empties everything currently in the bin.
  • To delete specific files, open the Recycle Bin, right-click the file(s) you want to delete, and choose Delete.

The Recycle Bin doesn’t empty automatically. You must empty it manually. As long as it doesn’t get full, all your deleted files end up there.

  • View the current maximum limit by right-clicking the Recycle Bin icon and choosing Properties.

Skipping the Recycle Bin

You don’t have to deal with the Recycle Bin at all if you’d prefer to skip it. Just remember that you’ll have a difficult, if not impossible, time recovering any accidentally deleted files.

Pro Tip: If you only want to skip the Recycle Bin on certain files, press Shift + Del to permanently delete files.

  1. Right-click the Recycle Bin icon and choose Properties.
  2. Select your hard drive at the top to view Recycle Bin settings.
  3. Select “Don’t move files immediately to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted.“.
  4. Press OK to save your settings.

Deleting Versus Uninstalling a Program

When it comes to deleting programs from your computer, it’s not the same process as deleting files. When you delete files, you select the file and hit the delete button on your keyboard.

If you delete programs or apps this way, you don’t fully remove it from your computer. Instead, you only delete a few files or folders. Windows still sees the program as installed, except if you try to use it, it won’t function correctly anymore.

Uninstalling is the correct process. This removes registry settings and hidden files you would’ve have missed otherwise. Always use this option to avoid system problems from incorrectly removing programs.

Advanced File Shredding

For a deep cleaning and ongoing PC maintenance, you may wish to consider Digital Care AntiVirus Complete, which offers military-grade file shredding capabilities. Permanently erase confidential data and keep your PC private and secure, all in one program.

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Contribution by Crystal Crowder

About the Author

Crystal lives and breathes tech. She’s spent over a decade writing tutorials, reviews, and more on tech, business, and lifestyle sites. Her idea of fun is settling down with the latest tech and gadget news.