Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Relying on a Recycle Bin could be a costly mistake. Particularly when USB and other removable drives may, or may not, even have a recycle bin.
I had a file on a USB pen drive I accidentally deleted. I went to the Recycle Bin folder to recover it. But the file was not there. Luckily the file was not very important. I have experimented with deleting files on the USB pen drive and it appears the deleted files do not go to the Recycle Bin. Where do the files go? Is it possible to undo a delete from a USB pen drive?
As you've found out, there's not always a recycle bin. In fact, in my experience, occasionally there is, but it's not used.
It's quite confusing, and somewhat surprising, but the recycle bin seems to be used inconsistently across versions of Windows, at least when it comes to what Windows considers to be a "removable" device.
Here's the intent, as I understand it:
Drives that are considered "removable" - like your USB Pen Drive - should not have recycle bins at all. If you still have a floppy drive, that falls into this same category. And in fact, I think we can "blame" the floppy for this behavior. I believe the reason that there's no recycle bin has to do with the assumption that removable drives are typically going to be too small to hold them.
Drives accessed over a network also don't use a recycle bin, but I believe that's due to network performance, among some other issues.
Now I did say this gets confusing, and here are a couple of reasons why:
The actual folder containing the recycle bin can have different names, depending on the filesystem used and the version of Windows you run:
On FAT filesystems it's in \RECYCLED on the drive.
On NTFS filesystems it's \RECYCLER, except when running on Windows Vista.
On NTFS filesystems in Windows Vista it's \$Recycle.Bin
And, from what I can tell, the different operating systems also treat the concept of "removable" slightly differently than strictly "removable". My 32gig USB thumbdrive has no Recycle Bin, but my 250gig external USB drive does. In fact, since I move that external hard drive from system to system, it has both "\RECYCLER" as well as "\$Recycle.Bin". Both are removable USB drives - one gets a recycle bin, the other does not. I can only assume that it's somehow also related to the size of the drive.
What to do?
Well, one piece of advice I can certainly give you: don't rely on recycle bin. The recycle bin is not intended to be a temporary storage location, and you shouldn't treat it like one. Assume that deleting a file really means that the file will be deleted, permanently and forever.
In other words, whenever you delete, make sure that you mean it.
The recycle bin is only a safety net, and as we've seen you may not be able to count on it always being there for USB and other Removable drives.
The good news about USB drives is that they are treated as just that: disk drives. That means that when you do delete a file and there's no recycle bin to save you, you may still have a few options.
When that happens:
Stop using the drive. The ability to recover a deleted file is extremely dependant on other activity on the drive. If you continue to use the drive the chances of actually recovering a file on it disappear quickly.
Start looking into UnDelete utilities. I've done this only rarely, but if the drive has not been used since the delete a good undelete utility will be able to recover it. Of course if the drive has been used since the file was deleted, you may just be out of luck.
One of the ways that a USB device often differs from a true hard drive is if it's based on flash memory, as most USB thumbdrives are. In cases like these, even the forensic techniques used to recover data that might have been overwritten on magnetic material like hard drives will fail. The reason is simple: flash drives are solid state, there's no magnetic material.
Bottom line: only hit delete when you mean it.
Oh, and backup often. That's the other way to recover deleted files: if they've been backed up elsewhere before they were deleted. In most cases, that's the best precaution of all.
Comments on this entry are closed.
If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.
If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.