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When I delete a file on my computer, where does it go?


Question

Windows Recycle BinWhen I delete a file on my computer, where does it go?

Answer

When you delete a file on a Windows computer, it is moved to the computer's Recycle Bin, and the Recycle Bin's icon changes to one that looks like pieces of paper crumpled up and thrown away in a trash can. Later, when you empty the Recycle Bin, the icon changes back to one that looks like an empty trash can. Your files have been truly deleted. But, what actually happens to the deleted files? Where do they go?
When a file is deleted, the computer is removing the reference to the file. The file header is essentially removed so that the computer can no longer see the file and makes it as though it is gone. The space the file took up is no longer reserved for that file, and any new file that is saved on the computer is able to be stored in the same space as the deleted file.
What does this mean? Basically, the file is for all intensive purposes, deleted and no longer readable by the computer. However, the file is actually still on the hard drive, at least until another file is saved in the same location (on the hard drive) as the deleted file currently resides.
Because the file is technically there, it is possible to recover that file using data recovery software, designed to rebuilt the file header and allow the computer to see the file again. This software only works if no other file or data has been saved over top the deleted file.

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