Filing in the Recycle Bin

Man reading a burning newspaper

Many of you are probably surprised that it’s not uncommon to find people using the recycle bin, or similarly named folder, to file important data. Luckily this practice is waning, but it seems that plenty of people still do it. Sending a file to the last step before being deleted should be taken with the intent of deleting it. The recycle bin is your “buyer’s remorse” opportunity, to undo something you regret. Here are some things to think about if you find yourself doing this.

One Click Empties It

No other folder on your computer or on your email system has an option to permanently delete its contents like the recycle bin does. If the file is important and there’s any real chance you might want to keep it, you wouldn’t want the slip of a finger accidentally deleting it. This would likely just be a nuisance for just one file, but maybe for some, it would be thousands, and that would be a catastrophe.

IT and Other Operators Assume It’s Garbage

Your IT department treats the contents of the recycle bin as unimportant or garbage. This is the intended use of the folder, so you would be surprising them to tell them that you have important information in there. This could lead them to deleting your files during a service need such as clearing space, excluding the recycle bin from backup and having the files lost during a greater file loss event, or having your recycle bin subject to a retention policy that deletes files older than a given age, such as 30 days. All of these reasonable actions against the “condemned” files would come to hurt you because of this unusual practice.

There Are Better Places to Store These Files

The reason people store files here seems to have started with various myths. The main one being “if it’s stored in the recycle bin, then it doesn’t count against my quota.” That is largely false, though in some unusual systems, it could be true. You can store your data in any other folder and it would be much safer. IT does not treat any other folder on a system as garbage, so they wouldn’t assume that only worthless data resided there, and no other folder has a one-click method to destroy all of the data in it. If you’re not sure where you should put the data besides the recycle bin, create a folder on your desktop and drop everything there.

Only send files that you plan on deleting to the recycle bin. If you’re unsure, put it somewhere else.

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