By Delia / Last update December 28, 2021

When we delete a file on the computer, it goes to the Recycle Bin, but if we clear the Recycle Bin or use the Shift + Delete shortcut directly, where do these files go? Are they really erased completely?


Where do the deleted files go?

In fact, the deleted file data will still remain in the computer's hard drive, but the space where the original file data was stored is marked as a blank area, which can be written into new data at any time. Thus when people accidentally delete some important files or empty the recycle bin, they can still use special software to recover the data.

To put it simply, our hard drive is like an open space on which we build various houses, that is, to store various kinds of data. So in order to quickly find the corresponding house, we need to look at the roadmap - this is called a data pointer in the hard drive. Through it, we can know what the data on the hard disk is about.

The space of an empty place is limited, and so is the space of a hard disk. In the process of using the computer, we often delete some files, and usually we throw it into the recycle bin, so that if we want to get it back we can always recover it. The file data in the Recycle Bin is also physically present and will take up disk space.

But if we delete the files in the Recycle Bin again, will the data really cease to exist? The answer is no, the deleted files have always existed in the same place, just cannot be found through conventional means. To find it, we need to use a specialized recovery tool. But if we repeatedly delete and create new files, after many times, the original data will also be overwritten and difficult to recover.

In the case of SSDs, the hard drive itself and the operating system support the Trim command, so after executing the complete delete command, the data will be directly erased to free up a substantial amount of space. Therefore, it is impossible to retrieve deleted data on SSD.


Whether we move files to Recycle Bin via Delete key or use Shift + Delete to delete them directly, the deleted data is not completely gone from the hard drive. While this mechanism gives us a way back to retrieve the data, it also leaves some security risks.

For example, if we only erase data in the usual way before giving away or reselling a hard drive, the latter user can still use recovery software to retrieve those deleted files and gain access to our private information. Therefore, it is very important to use a strong data wiping tool in relevant scenarios.