WIN98 - Recycle Bin Shows Full, But Empty

Microsoft Windows 98
July 31, 2010 at 02:45:23
Specs: Windows 98

OK - I know the obvious answers.

The recycle bin icon on my desktop shows that it is full. When I open it, it is empty.

* If I "right click" the recycle bin icon, click "delete files", it asks if I want to delete 302 files.

* If I run maintenance wizard, it shows I have about 38 MBs in my recycle bin.

I have tried to "explore" the recycle bin, and have set controls to show "hidden files". This does not work.

Even though it is empty, there ARE files in there. I have noticed that a folder of jpegs is now empty. This happened to me a few years back...I "right clicked" the recycle bin (even though it was empty) and deleted about a thousand files. Turns out, it deleted half of my MP3s.

SO...there ARE files in the recycle bin. How do I find them???
Maybe they are in a temp, system, etc folder???

PLEASE HELP! Don't want to delete any more of my files.

Thank you for your help.

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July 31, 2010 at 03:13:08
This is a software problem, nothing to do with hardware. Therefore it has been moved to the Windows 95/98 forum where you are more likely to get an answer.


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July 31, 2010 at 08:07:27
It's too late to save them whatever they were. Files are NOT actually there to begin with, they are in their original places but with a special flag noting their status as recycle bin files.

When you do a standard delete of a file it remains in place but is given a deleted flag to note that it is no longer valid. Then the sectors used for the file are re-allotted to the FAT table so that they can be overwritten and used again. Until they actually are overwritten, you can recover them with some utilities.

A similar thing occurs when files are sent to the recycle bin in that they remain in place but are flagged. BUT they are NOT allowed to be overwritten until the bin is emptyed. What is in the bin is a text list of the files with their clusters and an index.dat file. If all is according to Hoyle between all those system files there, then the files will be re-flagged as valid if you choose to Restore a file from the bin and automagically it re-appears where it always was to begin with. Without that cluster info (mini-FAT table) you don't know what sector belonged to what file and thus you can't recreate the file even if you have all the sectors.

Because you seem to have files in there but can't see any of them, I know some of your system files in the recycle bin are damaged beyond normal use. You may copy them out of there in DOS mode if you know your way around hidden and system file attributes for files and folders under DOS so that at least you might see what you do have there to work with in there. But I doubt it will bear fruit.

I don't know of ANY utilities that can recover files from a damaged bin. I have at best a foggy view of how it all works, I certainly am NOT the go to man for answers on this subject. I know just enough to know that one probably can't get there from here and that's about all I know.


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July 31, 2010 at 14:04:24
I've probably misunderstood you but it seems you are saying the Recycle bin deleted your files - or is it that you cleared them from the bin and want them back again?

You can soon get the icon to show empty by copying a file somewhere, deleting the copy into the bin, then clearing the bin. A false "bin full" icon on W98 is something that you run into from time to time.

Windows Explorer shows you what MS wants you to see in various places, including the bin, rather than the true situation. DOS gives you the truest situation but you have to set attributes. A Linux live CD should give you a true picture if you boot from it. You will find the actual bin structure is far more complex than it appears to be.

I did some work on Recycle bin structure way back (in order to create a batch file to reset the bin when there were too many files being cleared for poor old W98 to handle them without freezing) and I can try to unearth the details if you wish. I recall that it was all very complicated and I think your chances are slim of recovering anything from that area, especially if you have used the machine at all after clearing the bin.

As has already been said, files never actually move anyhow (except when defragging) - only the links to them.

Long Range Golfer

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Related Solutions

July 31, 2010 at 23:34:59
I've noticed two instances where 98's recycle bin thinks it's got files it doesn't. One is if you empty the bin and then do a scanreg/restore back to when the bin had something in it. The second is if you delete the contents in command prompt using the DEL command. As Derek says, the fix is to send another file there and then have it delete all the contents.

Another thing, if you open the c:\recycled folder from explorer or My Computer what will show will be the contents of the recycled folders on all the drives (if you have more than one) even though it indicates you're only looking at the one on the c: drive. Windows treats the recycle bin folders differently than other folders.

Plus hidden files are treated differently. When you have anything moved to the recycled bin, a hidden file is edited there--I assume with the restore information. That file won't be shown even if you have 'show all files' enabled. But if you move an already hidden file there it does show.

You should probably use the 'ms-dos prompt' and look at the contents that way. Do a dir c:\recyled to view the non-hidden contents and a
dir c:\recycled/a:h to see the hidden files and folders.

And remember, in command prompt if the files originated on another drive you'll need to view the RECYCLED directory on that drive to see what's there; that is, dir d:\recycled or whatever the drive letter is.

Now that's what I call a sticky situation

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August 3, 2010 at 08:28:08
I don't understand the issue, just empty the recycle bin already.

PowerMac 9600(1 ghz G4)
512mb RAM
50gb SCSI
ATi 9200 PCI

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August 3, 2010 at 14:13:43
As the OP said, he's trying to find out what, if anything, is residing in the recycle bin and he doesn't want to delete something he's unsure of that might be there.

Now that's what I call a sticky situation

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