Recycle Bin on a Windows 10 desktop

Windows 10 normally sends files you delete to the Recycle Bin. They’ll be kept until you empty it—or, in some cases, until Windows 10 automatically empties your Recycle Bin. Here’s how to skip the Recycle Bin and delete files immediately.

This doesn’t necessarily “permanently delete” files. Your deleted files may still be recoverable, especially if you’re using a mechanical hard drive and not a solid-state drive. We recommend using encryption to protect all your files—with full-disk encryption, people can’t recover your deleted files without also bypassing the encryption

How to Delete One or More Files Immediately

To delete a file, folder, or multiple files and folders immediately, select them in File Explorer and press Shift+Delete on your keyboard.

You can also right-click the files, press and hold the Shift key, and click the “Delete” option in the context menu.

Deleting a file in File Explorer.

Windows will ask you if you want to permanently delete the file. Click “Yes” or press Enter to confirm.

You won’t be able to recover files from the Recycle Bin if you delete them in this way.

The confirmation prompt when deleting a file with Shift+Delete.

How to Always Skip the Recycle Bin

You can also tell Windows to stop using the Recycle Bin in the future. To do this, right-click your “Recycle Bin” icon and select “Properties.”

Opening the Recycle Bin properties window.

Enable the “Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted.” option here.

Note that Windows uses different Recycle Bin settings for different drives. For example, if you delete a file on drive C:, it goes to the Recycle Bin on drive C:. If you delete a file on drive D:, it goes to the Recycle Bin on drive D:.

So, if you have multiple drives, you’ll need to select them all in the list here and change the setting for each drive you’d like to change it for.

Telling Windows 10 to skip the Recycle Bin for specific drives.

Click “OK” to save your settings.

Beware: Any files you delete in the future will immediately be deleted, just as if you had used the Shift+Delete option. If you accidentally press the Delete key with some files selected, they’ll vanish immediately and you won’t be able to get them back.

For this reason, you might want to activate the “Display delete confirmation dialog” option. You’ll be asked to confirm your choice every time you delete files.

RELATED: How to Enable Full-Disk Encryption on Windows 10

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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