Vista Registry – Deleting the Recycle Bin Problem

Vista Registry – Vista Registry – Deleting the Recycle Bin Problem

If you are facing Vista’s Deleted Recycle Bin problem, then you are not alone.  It is a common mistake to lose the recycle bin, fortunately there is a quick solution, ‘Personalize’ the desktop.  I also have a more permanent solution, which is to remove ‘Delete’ from the Recycle Bin’s properties; however, this requires a registry tweak.

Topics for Deleting the Recycle Bin Problem


Why People Delete the Recycle BinVista Deleting the Recycle Bin Problem

An understanding of why people delete their recycle bin will help us prevent further occurrences of this problem.

It seems to me that Microsoft has tried to provide extra features for Vista in general, and for the Recycle Bin in particular.  Unfortunately, in the case of the Recycle Bin they underestimated users’ ability to read and understand the menus.

Confusion is caused by the two options, ‘Delete’ or ‘Empty Recycle Bin’.  When people decide to empty their rubbish, their brain is already thinking ‘delete’. So when they see the word ‘Delete’ on the bin’s shortcut menu, they click on that instead of looking for the option to ‘Empty Recycle Bin’.

As a result of making the wrong choice, the user is surprised when the Recycle Bin disappears from the desktop!  Incidentally, the reason this deleted recycle bin problem has suddenly surfaced, is that in XP you cannot delete the Recycle Bin in the manner described above.  The overall message is: more features mean more chances of making a mistake.

Quick Instructions to Find the Lost Recycle Bin

1) right-click the Vista Desktop
2) Click on Personalize
3) Select: ‘Change desktop icons’
4) At the Desktop Icon Settings, place a tick next to: ‘Recycle Bin’.

Incidentally, my friend ‘Mad’ Mick has a novel suggestion.  Instead of worrying about the deleted bin, just delete the User!  If only life were this simple.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Find a Deleted Vista Recycle Bin

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Registry Tweak to Effect a Permanent Cure

Example 1: Remove Delete from the Recycle Bin Properties

Here is an ideal solution for when you have an incompetent user, who keep on deleting their Recycle Bin, and then pesters you to cure their clumsiness.  My mission is to edit the registry and re-program the Recycle Bin’s short cut menu.

Registry Tweak - Remove Delete from the Recycle Bin Properties1) Launch regedit (See more details on starting regedit)

2) In Regedit, navigate to the following key: 

3) To create a new registry Key called ‘Shell’, click on the Edit Menu, New, select: Key and name it ‘Shell’.  You should now have:

3) Under Shell create  a new (Sub) Key called ‘Delete’. Click on the Edit Menu, New, select: Key.  You should now have:

4) Edit the ‘Default’ REG_SZ, as this is just a string value for display you could set to anything you like, for example ‘YourName’s Indestructible Bin’.


What you have done is replace a working function called ‘Delete’, with a cosmetic label called Xyz’s Indestructible Bin.  The sole purpose is to prevent users pressing ‘Delete’ and thus losing their Recycle Bin.


Screenshot of the Delete Recycle Bin Registry Setting

Screenshot of Delete Recycle Bin Registry Setting

Key Points

  • Is Vista’s CLSID a folder in HKCU** or HKLM? 
    Answer: Neither, it is in HKCR (Classes_Root)
  • Do you have to add a value, modify or delete? 
    Answer: Add two Keys, then modify the Default value
  • Is it a String Value or a DWORD? 
    Answer: Add a Key and also add a String Value.
  • Do you need to Restart or merely Log Off / On? 
    Answer: Neither, just refresh the Windows Desktop


** HKLM is an abbreviation of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, and HKCU is shorthand for HKEY_CURRENT_USER.  These acronyms are so well-known that you can even use them in .reg files, Vista will understand and obey the registry instruction.Re-program Recycle Bin Properties

Registry Tweak – To Re-program the Recycle Bin Properties

This example builds on the previous registry tweak and adds extra capabilities to the Recycle Bin menu.  The above example 1 has the limitation that if you click on the label called: ‘Guy’s Indestructible Bin’, then you get an error message.  Whereas the example below wires up the ‘Search..’ capability to the shortcut menu.  If you remember, the original problem was that users saw ‘Delete’ on the menu and clicked it; the result was instead of emptying the trash, they removed the Recycle Bin from their desktop.  Example 2 below creates a new menu item called ‘Search…’.

Example 2 .Reg file to Replace ‘Delete’ with ‘Guy’s Search’.

If you have lots of machines to configure, then a .reg file will save time merging the data into the registry.

Instructions for using creating the .reg file.

  1. Copy the settings below into a text file. 
  2. Save the file with .reg extension, for example Recycle.reg.
  3. You now have three ways of transferring the settings into your Vista Registry:
    a) Double-click the .reg file
    b) Launch Regedit then select, File (menu) Import
    c) Right-click the .reg file, select Merge from the drop-down menu


Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

@="Guy’s Search…"
"Description"="Removes Delete, replaces with Search.."


@="[FindFolder(\\\"%l\\\", %I)]"




This .Reg file is based on an original idea by Ramesh Srinivasan

Key Learning Points

Note 1:  This .reg file adds command code, consequently, when you click on ‘Search..’, your action launches Explorer and ‘FindFolder’.

Note 2: Observe how the .reg file creates the registry folders (Keys) that we built manually in Example 1: \shell\Delete.  Also trace how two sub, sub folder are created, ddeexec and command.

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Recycle Bin Won’t Empty ProblemRecycle Bin Won't Empty Problem

Here is a different problem.  When you empty the Recycle bin, the rubbish still appears to be in the bin.

This is literally an optical illusion.  The bin is actually empty, it’s just that it’s displaying the Recycle Bin (Full) icon instead of the Recycle Bin (Empty) icon.

The solution to the Vista Recycle bin will not empty:

  • Right-click on the Vista Desktop, select Personalize.
  • Click ‘Change desktop icons’ link in the tasks pane.
  • Select the icon ‘Recycle Bin (Full)’ and click ‘Restore default’.
  • Also, select ‘Recycle Bin (empty)’ and again, click ‘Restore default’.
  • To exit saving changes, click the ‘OK’ button.

Corrupted Recycle Bin Problem

  • Open Explorer.
  • Press the ‘Alt’ key for 5 seconds, this will display the File Edit View Tools menu.
  • From the Tools menu, select View
  • Click the radio button next to ‘Show hidden files and folders’
  • In Windows Explorer, view your c: drive
  • Locate a file in the root called: $Recycle.bin.  Delete this file.
  • Click ‘Yes’ to the warning.
  • A new $Recycle.bin file will be created.
  • Any corruption will be cured.

Summary of Deleting the Recycle Bin Problem

Deleting the Recycle Bin is a classic case of once you understand why people do what they do, then you can cure the problem.  Check the Recycle Bin properties menu and observe the two options, ‘Delete’ and ‘Empty Recycle Bin’.  I offer you a short term solution via the Desktop Properties, Personalize, and a long term solution via a registry tweak.

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Windows Vista Registry Tweaks: