How to Fix: Recycle Bin Won't Empty (Won't Delete Files)

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader James D. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I'm running Windows 10 and my C drive is nearly full. I've tried to free up as much space as possible, but no matter what I do it makes no difference. That's when I came across your article about 'Can't delete restore points (C drive Full)', in which you recommended a program called TreeSize Free in order to find space hogs on the C drive. To my surprise, when I ran TreeSize Free it says that my Recycle Bin is taking up almost 500GB of space. I've tried emptying the Recycle Bin from the desktop, but TreeSize Free is still reporting that there is 500GB of data - the Recycle Bin won't delete files. What gives? I am the only person that uses this PC, so I am not sure why the Recycle Bin won't empty. Can you help? "

My response:

I asked James if he would like me to connect to his PC using my remote desktop service in order to have a closer look, and he agreed.

Below I will discuss my findings.

How to Fix: Recycle Bin Won't Empty (Won't Delete Files)

The quick and simple answer to this problem is that the Recycle Bin is essentially a folder, and by deleting the folder it will reset the Recycle Bin - along with freeing up space. The next time you delete a file through the Windows interface, the Recycle Bin directory will be re-created as if nothing ever happened. Problem solved.

To empty the Recycle Bin (by manually deleting its folder), do the following:

  1. Click Start, then type in "cmd" (no quotes); wait for "CMD.EXE" or "Command Prompt" to appear in this list, then right click it and select "Run as Administrator".
  2. Next, highlight the text below using your mouse:

    rmdir /q /s c:\$recycle.bin
    echo this is a dummy line
  3. Right click over top of the highlighted text above and select "Copy" to place it into your clipboard. Now, right click in the middle of the command prompt window you opened in Step #1 and select "Paste". The text you copied in Step #2 will be output to the command line.

The Recycle Bin should now be completely empty. You can verify this using TreeSize Free or a similar utility that shows how much space is being used by a particular folder (or the entire C drive). I have personally been using TreeSize Free for over 10 years and it is a fantastic program - especially when trying to figure out stuff like this, especially when things don't add up.

I hope that helps.

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I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas

is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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