How to Delete Files Without the Recycle Bin on Windows

If you don’t want your files and folders going straight to the trash pile, we’ll show you how to delete files without using the Recycle Bin on Windows instead in this guide.

The Recycle Bin is a bit of a failsafe. When you delete a file in File Explorer, it’s moved to the bin so that you can restore accidentally deleted files. The files and folders aren’t permanently removed until you empty the Recycle Bin.

This might not be ideal behavior for you, however. If you want to delete a file permanently without the option to restore it, you’ll need to bypass the Recycle Bin entirely.

To help you, we’ll show you a few different ways to instantly delete files and other items by skipping the Recycle Bin on Windows.

How to Immediately Delete Files on Windows

When you bypass the Recycle Bin on Windows, the files and folders are permanently removed from your system. As you can’t retrieve these files, it’s important that you only remove files that you’re confident can or should be removed (or you otherwise have a backup elsewhere).

The best way to immediately delete files on a Windows 11 PC is to use the Shift key in File Explorer. We’ll explain how to use this below.

Note: These screenshots are from Windows 11, but the steps and keyboard shortcuts work the same on Windows 10.

To immediately delete files on Windows using the Shift key in File Explorer:

  1. Launch File Explorer and select the file you want to delete.
  2. Press and hold the Shift key, right-click the file, and select Delete from the context menu.
    Note: Continue to hold Shift until you click Delete. Otherwise, the item will go to the Recycle Bin like normal.Delete Files Without Recycle Bin
  3. Windows will notify you that you are about to delete the file permanently – click the Yes button.

How to Immediately Delete Files on Windows Using Keyboard Shortcuts

If you prefer keyboard shortcuts, you can select and immediately delete your files using keyboard shortcuts.

To delete Windows 11 files permanently using keyboard shortcuts:

  1. Select the files or other items you want to remove.
  2. Press Shift + Delete.
  3. Select Yes (or hit Enter) when the verification message appears.

So, for the most fluid action, select the files, press Shift + Delete, and then press Enter, which selects Yes for the verification message.

How to Set Recycle Bin to Delete Files Immediately on Windows

Another option is adjusting the Recycle Bin settings to delete files immediately. Like the previous steps, anything you delete will be immediately removed when you change these Recycle Bin settings.

To configure Recycle Bin to immediately delete files on Windows:

  1. Right-click the Recycle Bin icon and select Properties.
    Note: If you don’t see it on your Windows 11 system, you can add the Recycle Bin to the desktop.Delete Files Without Recycle Bin
  2. Select the Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted option.
  3. If you don’t want the verification message getting your way, uncheck the Display delete confirmation dialog setting.
  4. Click Apply and OK for the changes to take effect.

Note that if the automatic options aren’t working for your workflow, you can return to Recycle Bin properties and change the settings.

It’s also important to note that in the Recycle Bin properties window, you can reduce disk space used by the Recycle Bin.

Restoring Deleted Files from Recycle Bin

After deleting a file or folder, the default behavior is moving it to the Recycle Bin. Deleted files will reside in the Recycle Bin, which makes it the first place to look if you need to restore accidentally deleted files.

To restore files from the Recycle Bin, open the Recycle Bin on your PC, locate the file, right-click, and select Restore. The file will be restored to its original location from where it was deleted.

This may seem obvious, but it’s an important point: if you’ve used one of the methods above, you can’t restore your deleted files. This option is only available if you’ve deleted files on Windows using the typical method, which is to move files to the Recycle Bin first (without configuring the Bin to delete files immediately). While you can try using a utility like Recuva to restore the file, the results vary, and you may not retrieve your data.

That’s why it’s vital to ensure you back up your files to another drive, sync files to OneDrive (or another cloud syncing service), or use a third-party online backup service like Backblaze. For best results, use all three backup methods.

Deleting Files on Windows 11

By following the steps above, you can delete files without using the Recycle Bin on a Windows PC. If you decide to do this, however, make sure that the file you’re deleting isn’t needed or is backed up.

There is more on managing the Recycle Bin and storage on Windows. For example, you can limit the drive space used by the Recycle Bin and help keep your drive space clean using Storage Sense on Windows 11.

Not on Windows 11 yet? Check out how to limit the drive space the Recycle Bin uses on Windows 10. Or, you might want to find out about emptying the Recycle Bin automatically on Windows 10.

Also, if you are using your phone for file management, you can empty trash on your iPhone, or you can also empty trash on Android devices.

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