How to view and manage the Recycle Bin of an external D:\ drive

Quickly manage and delete files in the D:\ drive’s Recycle Bin:

  • Navigating to the Recycle Bin of your C:\ drive will show all files/folders originating from the D:\ drive
  • Delete all files taking up space on your D:\ drive’s Recycle Bin by using the Disk Cleanup utility
    • Right click your external drive in Window’s File Explorer and click Properties
    • Click Disk Cleanup under the storage visualization of the General tab
    • Select Recycle Bin and confirm to delete all contents originating from the D:\ drive
  • Windows 11 handles drive management differently
    • Click Details under the general tab of Properties (replaces the Disk Cleanup button)
    • Click Temporary files
    • Select the check mark for Recycle Bin
    • Click Remove Files to confirm the deletion

If you’ve ever toyed around with the Xbox PC app then you know just how finicky it can be with external drives. After moving to a new computer I realized that it would take a little more than hitting the delete key on a few leftover files and folders. In the end, it was more tedious than it had any right to be, but I did eventually figure out how to install Game Pass PC games on a different computer with the previously used external drive.

Still, deleting the the old WindowsApps and Program Files folders left me scratching my head upon inspecting the properties of my D:\ drive. The napkin math of the storage totals didn’t seem to add up to what the properties window was claiming as used space. Running the free storage visualization software WinDirStat confirmed as much. There was roughly 20 GB of unaccounted for “dead” disk usage.

Clicking the Disk Cleanup button in the properties window will allow you to delete all files originating from a D:\ drive’s Recycle Bin

After clicking Disk Cleanup under the General tab of Properties I realized that Windows holds deleted files and folders in a Recycle Bin in the same way it does for the C:\ drive. The Disk Cleanup utility showed that there were roughly 16 GB of files waiting for permanently deleted.

The Recycle Bin shows the original location of a file (including external drives)

This isn’t immediately clear, and Windows actually unifies all files in the Recycle Bin of the C:\ drive (even those originating from an external drive). I tested and verified this by creating a dummy folder in my D:\ drive. Deleting it instantly sent it to the Recycle Bin of the C:\ drive, and if you navigate to the Recycle Bin you’ll see that each file/folder has a tab for Original location.

Select Recycle Bin after navigating to Disk Cleanup, click OK, and confirm deletion to delete all Recycle Bin files from the D:\ drive

This is great if you want to see what’s what in terms of files taking up space in your Recycle Bin, and get an overview of any “extra” used space on your external drive. However, using the Disk Cleanup utility is the fastest way to delete all Recycle Bin files that originate from your D:\ drive on Windows 10.

I would recommend first heading to the Recycle Bin if only to make sure there isn’t anything you don’t want to permanently delete, and then using the Disk Cleanup tool if you’re comfortable deleting everything. It’s far less time consuming than manually deleting all files and folders from the Recycle Bin itself.

Differences with Windows 11

This process is a little different on Windows 11. Getting an overview of what’s on your D:\ drive’s Recycle Bin is the same, but deleting all files will require a few extra clicks.

The Details button replaces Disk Cleanup on Windows 11

When viewing the properties of your drive on Windows 11 you’ll see a Details button instead of a Disk Cleanup button. Clicking this will take you to an overview of how your D:\ drive’s storage is used (new to Windows 11). Clicking Temporary files will ultimately allow you to select the Recycle Bin and remove its contents.

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