Introduction: Remove the "Recycle Bin" Icon

Windows users who have wanted a clean desktop have always been stopped by one thing: the recycle bin. That is the one icon on the desktop that you cannot remove, or at least that's what Microsoft intended. I tried Robertwan's method for hiding the recycle bin, but changing the recycle bin icon to blank and hiding the remaining text behind the taskbar was a bit too cheap for me, and it wouldn't even work in my case because the taskbar was at the top (i was changing my system to look like Mac OS X). So, i did a little research and it turns out that the recycle bin can actually be taken off the desktop by deleting a simple registry value.

Note that this is a computer wide setting. Turning off the Recycle Bin will do it for all the users on your computer. Also note that in the pictures you see, it will look like i'm using Windows 7, but it's actually just XP with a Windows 7 theme on it.

How this works (technical):

There is a Class ID in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID that defines a sort of virtual recycle bin folder which will display the actual contents in C:\RECYCLER. That Class ID is referenced in explorer's local machine registry settings, which makes it appear on your desktop. Deleting this reference will take care of that (or in this case, we will simply rename it so it will be invalidated, that way we can easily name it back later to restore the reference), however, it will not delete the actual referenced key in Classes Root, so programs such as RocketDock that will try to open the recycle bin will still be able to since that is what they are referencing.

Also, ever heard of the expression "Out of sight, out of mind"? That can apply here. The most probable reason why Microsoft didn't want users taking the recycle bin off their desktop is because, outside of going to the hidden system folder C:\RECYCLER, that is the only way you can get to your recycle bin. And, that means you will have no way of emptying the recycle bin. So, you go about your business, you delete files and forget to empty the recycle bin every once and and while (because you can't), and pretty soon your recycle bin will get full, and you'll have no way to empty it. That is why i strongly suggest you have some other way to get to it. One way is to put the recycle bin in your quick launch. Drag the Recycle Bin icon down to your quick launch bar. Another way is to have some sort of launch bar application (like RocketDock or RK Launcher) and have the recycle bin on there. You can put it there the same way as in your quick launch, just drag it.

Step 1: Opening Registry Editor

First, you'll need to open up the Windows Registry Editor. For all you supergeeks that could do this in your sleep (like me), continue on.

Now, to open registry editor, first press Windows+R (or go to Start->Run). Then type "regedit" in the box that comes up (Picture 1), and click OK. It should look something like the 2nd picture.

And it should go without saying, don't start pressing buttons in regedit if you don't know what your doing. You can really mess up a lot of stuff pretty easily.

Step 2: Removing the Recycle Bin

Like i said, the recycle bin can be removed by deleting a simple registry entry. The actual path to the registry entry is in:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ Desktop \ NameSpace

1. We must first navigate to that. In the tree view on the left-hand side of Registry Editor, find the key that says "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE". Expand that.

2. Under the key you just expanded, look for one called "SOFTWARE". Expand that.

3. Under SOFTWARE, look for a key called "Microsoft", and expand that.

4. Under Microsoft, look for a key called "Windows", and expand that. I think you should be catching on by now, so try to navigate down to NameSpace (Picture 1).

5. In the NameSpace key there are several subkeys that are names of Class ID's in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID(Picture 2). They should look something like {12345678-1234-1234-1234-123456789012}. That's called a Class ID. Click on the first one to select it.

6. On the right side of Registry Editor, you should see a row called "(Default)". Look for the column of that row labeled "Data". Look through all the keys under NameSpace until you find one with a data value of "Recycle Bin"(Picture 3). Bingo.

7. Deleting that key will take the recycle bin off the desktop, but wait. If we completely delete that key, it will make it very difficult for us to show the recycle bin again later. What we want to do is rename it. Renaming it in any way will invalidate the Class ID, which basically makes it as if it wasn't there. What i did was add "RecycleBin-" at the beginning of the key name (Picture 4), that way i could easily take off that "RecycleBin-" prefix later and my recycle bin would be back. So, do something like that. Add some sort of prefix onto that key name.

Once you have done that, close Registry Editor. Right-click on the desktop and select "Refresh". You recycle bin will be gone. (But if for some reason it isn't, try restarting).

Step 3: Adding It Back Again

Ok, so what about when you want your recycle bin back? Easy. Navigate back to NameSpace the same way as in the last step. Find the key under NameSpace that represents the recycle bin the same way as in last step, although it should be much easier to locate now because it will be the one that stands out because of the prefix you put on it. Now, remove the prefix so that it looks like all the other keys. Be careful not to remove the "{" or any of the cryptic-looking numbers that are inside the brackets.

Close registry editor, refresh, and you will have your bin back.

If you've had any problems doing this, or if something went wrong, post a comment. I will do my best to help you.

Step 4: Update: Forgetting the Recycle Bin Completely

As we all know, when we delete a file, they go to the recycle bin. Then when we empty the recycle bin, they are deleted permanently. However, if you want it is possible to skip the middleman, and delete files permanently without going to the recycle bin. That means that when you right click a file and hit delete, it will be gone for good (unless you want to go through the hassle of using a file undelete program, which will only work for a limited time after you delete the file). I don't really recommend doing this, but i will show you how.

First open the recycle bin. Right-click in a blank area and hit "Properties". There should be a check box that reads "Do not move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted." Check that, and hit OK.

Also, there is another check box that says "Display delete confirmation dialog". That should be checked already. If you uncheck it, that means that when you right click a file and hit delete, it will not ask if you are sure, it will just delete it right then and there. I really really don't recommend paring this with the option to skip the recycle bin, because that can lead to accidental deletions.