Search for Files in Windows Recycle Bin - dummies

By Dan Gookin

The Recycle Bin isn’t normally searched by the Windows Search command. You may want to take a peek in the trash, er, Recycle Bin whenever the regular version of the Search command comes up empty.

To best search the Recycle Bin, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop.

    If the icon isn’t available on the desktop, choose Recycle Bin from the Address bar of any Windows Explorer window.

  2. Choose Details from the Views button menu on the toolbar.

  3. Ensure that the list is sorted by filename.

    An upward-pointing triangle appears next to the Name column heading. If not, click the Name column heading until you see the triangle. (The upward-pointing triangle indicates an ascending, or A-to-Z, sort.)

  4. Scroll the list to look for the misplaced, and wrongly deleted, file.

    You can quickly scroll to a specific point in the list by pressing a letter key on the keyboard. For example, to find the file named Secret Plans, press the S key.

  5. After you find the file, click to select it.

  6. Take heed of the information in the Original Location column.

    The information is the pathname to the folder where the file will be restored. That’s where you need to look in Step 9.

  7. Restore the file.

    In Windows Vista, click the toolbar button Restore This Item.

    In Windows XP, choose the link Restore This Item from the task panel on the left side of the window.

  8. Close the Recycle Bin window.

  9. Open a Windows Explorer window (press Win+E) and navigate to the folder where the file has been restored.

If you’re unfamiliar with pathnames, treat them like road maps that tell you where files are located. You can view Video 211 to see how it’s done.

Here’s a pathname example:


This path directs you to the Disney folder: Open Drive C and then the Users folder. Open the Public folder and then the subfolders Pictures, 2011, Vacation, and, finally, Disney to locate the file you just restored.

You cannot search file contents inside the Recycle Bin. Windows compresses deleted files, and there’s no way to look inside the file contents unless you first restore the file to its original location.