Want to get rid of a document immediately and without a safety net? Find out here how to permanently delete files without sending them to the recycle bin on Windows.
First, a Tree Goes Down the Drain 27 000 Times
A tree goes down the drain some 27 000 times every day as toilet paper, reported National Geographic Magazine in 2010. They assumed, it seems, some forty sheets—sic!—per person and day.
Sometimes, of course, it makes sense to eliminate things on more direct a route. Let us, for instance, find out how to send files straight down the Windows drain without turning them into toilet paper first or hoarding them in a trashcan:
How to Permanently Delete (Without Recycle Bin) on Windows
Time needed: 1 minute.
To immediately delete a file in Windows 11 and Windows 10 (without the file being moved to the Recycle Bin folder):
- Click on the file you want to delete with the right mouse button in Windows Explorer.
Delete multiple files: You can select more than one file, of course, then click on one of them with the right mouse button to irrevocably delete them all with a single command.
- While holding down the Shift key, select Delete from the context menu that has appeared.
Windows delete without recycle keyboard shortcut: You can also press Shift Del.
Alternative: You can also click the downward-pointed triangle beneath Delete on the Windows Explorer Home toolbar ribbon and select Permanently delete from the menu that appears.
- Now click Yes under Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file?.
Important: Beyond this point, recovering the file or files will be exceedingly difficult!
Permanently delete multiple files: If you are immediately deleting more than one file in one go, click Yes under Are you sure you want to permanently delete these __ items instead.
Note: Without pressing Shift, the dialog reads Are you sure you want to move this file to the Recycle Bin?.
How to Permanently Delete (Without Recycle Bin) on Windows 10: FAQ
Can I disable the confirmation dialog for permanently deleting a file in Windows?
No (and yes).
No, you cannot disable having to confirm permanently deleting a file while still normally using the trash as a safety net.
To avoid multiple prompts, do try to select files and delete them in bulk. Only one confirmation dialog will appear for all files’ immediate deletion. As an alternative, do disable the Windows 10 Recycle Bin temporarily.
Yes, you can disable both the trashcan and confirmation dialogs for deletion. This will delete all files immediately and permanently without further confirmation. See below.
Can I disable the Windows Recycle Bin altogether?
Yes, you can make Windows perform all deletions immediately without moving files to a trash folder first.
To delete files irrevocably (optionally without further confirmation) in Windows:
- Click on the Recycle Bin folder with the right mouse button.
- Select Properties from the menu that has appeared.
- Make sure Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin is selected under Settings for selected location.
Note: Each drive has its own trash folder in Windows 10. Do select each disk and drive under Recycle Bin Location.
- To disable the confirmation dialog as well as the trash folder, make sure Display delete confirmation dialog is not checked.
Important: This will make all file deletions immediate and final. It is usually best to choose this combination of settings only temporarily.
- Click OK.
Can I disable “Shift Delete” in Windows?
No, you cannot completely disable Shift Del. Windows 10 will always show you the deletion confirmation dialog.
For a modicum of protection against accidentally deleting files, do enable the Trash folder and the deletion confirmation dialog; see above.
(How to permanently delete files without the recycle bin tested with Windows 11 Version 22H2 and Windows 10 Version 20H2; updated April 2023)