5 Ways to Empty the Recycle Bin in Windows 10

The Recycle Bin is your way out if you’ve accidentally thrown away an important file in Windows 10. But without emptying the Recycle Bin in Windows 10 on a regular basis, it can take up a lot of space on your hard disk. There are multiple ways to empty the Recycle Bin in Windows 10. In this article, I explain the ways in which you can empty the recycle bin in Windows 10.

Right click the Recycle Bin on your desktop

The right click menu of the Recycle Bin allows you to empty the bin immediately:

  1. On your desktop, right-click on the Recycle Bin icon
  2. Choose Empty Recycle Bin
  3. Confirm when asked if you are sure you want to permanently delete the items
empty recycle bin Windows 10

Can't find the Recycle Bin on your desktop? It may be set to Hidden.
Select Start > SettingsPersonalization > Themes > Desktop icon settings. In the Desktop Icon Settings window, make sure the Recycle Bin is checked.

Use Storage Sense to empty the Recycle Bin on a schedule

Storage Sense is a built-in feature in Windows 10, that helps you save disk space. It can be scheduled to delete files in your Recycle Bin of a certain age every day week or month. Here’s how to configure Storage Sense to clean up your Recycle Bin:

  1. Click Start, go to Settings (the Gear icon on the left)
  2. In Settings, click System and then click Storage
  3. in Storage, switch Storage Sense to on and click Configure Storage Sense or run it now
    enable storage sense windows 10
  4. Scroll down to the Temporary Files section and set “Delete files in my recycle bin if they have been there for over x days” to 1, 14, 30, or 60 days
    auto delete recycle bin files

Pro tip:
You can also open the Settings menu with the keyboard combination Windows+I (hold down the Windows key on your Keyboard and press i)

Here’s how it works: Storage Sense runs in the background of Windows, and continuously checks whether there are files in the recycle bin that have been there for more than x days. Suppose you have set 14 days, files deleted 15 days or more ago will be automatically deleted permanently.

Empty Recycle Bin from File Explorer

The recycle bin is hidden in the File Explorer, but you can easily reveal it. Once you have the Recycle Bin open in File Explorer, you can empty it from the Manage option in the Ribbon. Follow these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer
  2. In the address bar, start typing Recycle Bin. The term Recycle Bin will appear pretty quick and you can click it to open the recycle bin.
    type recycle bin in
  3. In File Explorer, click Manage – Recycle Bin Tools in the menu bar
  4. In the ribbon, click Empty Recycle Bin
    empty recycle bin in

Enter a command in the command prompt

An elevated command prompt allows you to empty the Recycle Bin from the command line. Although not really useful for the standard user, it may become very useful in larger companies with a lot of desktops and servers in the environment. For example, you can deploy a scheduled task via a Group Policy Object that empties the recycle bin every month.

Here’s how to empty the Recycle Bin from the command prompt

  1. Open a command prompt, run as administrator
  2. Type rd /s %systemdrive%\$recycle.bin and press Enter
    empty recycle.bin from command prompt

Enter Clear-RecycleBin in Powershell

If Powershell is your best friend this is fantastic. There’s a Clear-Powershell cmdlet that lets you empty all local computer’s recycle bins. Here’s how to empty all Recycle Bins on your pc with Powershell:

  1. Open an elevated Powershell Window
  2. Type Clear-RecycleBin and hit Enter. Confirm deletion with Y
Pro tip:

Clear-RecycleBin -Force lets you Empty the Recycle Bin without warnings or confirmation.

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