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What do I do if a user accidentally deletes the Recycle Bin?

It used to be really easy for users to delete the Recycle Bin. Luckily, there are easy ways to restore it in most versions of Windows, and Microsoft has made it tougher to delete in newer OSes.

When you accidentally delete a file or folder on a PC, the Windows Recycle Bin is usually the place where you go to get it back. Ironically, it is possible to accidentally delete the Recycle Bin itself -- at least in some versions of Windows.

In Windows 8, Microsoft has taken steps to prevent the Recycle Bin from being accidentally deleted. If you right click on the Recycle Bin, you will notice that there is no Delete option. Similarly, selecting the Recycle Bin icon and pressing the Delete key has no effect. It hasn't always been this way however.

Administrators working for organizations that still run Windows XP may periodically encounter situations in which a user has accidentally deleted the Recycle Bin. Windows XP did nothing to protect the Recycle Bin, nor did Windows Vista. Of course this leaves the question of how you can get the Recycle Bin back.

Restoring the Recycle Bin is normally easy to do. In most cases you can open the Control Panel, click on Personalization (some versions of Windows call this option Appearance and Personalization) and then click on Change Desktop Icons. You can then use the Recycle Bin checkbox to enable the Recycle Bin. This technique works with all modern versions of Windows. Even though Windows 8 makes it difficult to accidentally delete the Recycle Bin, it is still theoretically possible to do.

If this method doesn't work, then you may be able to restore the Recycle Bin by modifying the Registry. Microsoft provides a registry hack for restoring the Recycle Bin on Windows XP systems. If you decide to use this method, then it is important to create a full system backup before doing so. Modifying the system registry is dangerous -- if you make a mistake while editing the registry, you can disable or destroy the operating system.

Next Steps

How to close the Recycle Bin

This was last published in May 2015

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