Recycle binTake out the papers and the trash…

As the end of the year approaches, it’s always a good idea to get organized for the new year.  There’s no better way to clean up than to empty that pesky SharePoint Recycle Bin, but it’s not always that easy.

In SharePoint, the Recycle Bin feature is designed (intentionally) to prevent users from accidentally deleting content from the system – so each user has their own individual Recycle Bin.

Occasionally at, we receive a call from clients who notice their SharePoint storage quota is nearing the threshold. Sometimes we have to contact clients when our reporting services show they’ve become dangerously low on disk space.
The call usually goes something like this:

Client: “But I don’t have that much content in SharePoint. I knew at one time I was reaching the limit of my quota, so I deleted a bunch of stuff.” Engineer: “Do you know if this content was deleted from the Recycle Bin?”

Client: “Yes, I deleted it from the recycle bin myself.” “Did you delete them out of both recycle bins in SharePoint?”

Client: “Huh?! What do you mean BOTH recycle bins?!” “There’s actually a two-stage Recycle Bin in SharePoint. To completely remove a document or file off the server, you need to empty both stages/both recycle bins.”

Client: “Okay, where’s the second Recycle Bin?” “Here… let me show you:”

As we said earlier, each user has their own individual Recycle Bin. When they delete an item from a list or library it shows up in their Recycle Bin. Once it’s removed from their Recycle Bin, the item is moved to the second stage (known as the “site collection Recycle Bin”).

The second stage “site collection Recycle Bin” can only be accessed by a site collection administrator. So when an item is in this second stage bin, only a user with site collection administrator privileges can permanently delete or restore it.

Let’s take a closer look.

Assume a user with contributor access permissions has deleted some items from a SharePoint library. They access the Recycle Bin – by default – through the sidebar.

If the page has been customized and there is no Recycle Bin menu option in the sidebar, no worries. You can always navigate directly to the Recycle Bin in SharePoint by visiting http://%TheSiteCollectionRootURL%/_layouts/entertainment/recyclebin.aspx. For example,

Let’s say this user is going to delete the file “CompleteSong.docx” from the Recycle Bin by selecting the file and clicking Delete Selection.

Screenshot: delete selection in SharePoint Recycle Bin

Bam. Now it’s gone. But not really. It’s only been moved to the second-stage Recycle Bin.

To fully remove the data (and finally free up some disk space for storage) a site collection administrator must login to the site and navigate to the Site Collection.

From there, click Site Actions > Site Settings. Under the Site Collection Administration menu, click the link for Recycle Bin.

Site Collection Administration menu in SharePoint - Recycle Bin link

In the sidebar you’ll see two options: End user Recycle Bin items and Deleted from end user Recycle Bin. The first one allows administrators to view all content that currently resides in first-stage Recycle Bin(s) for all site collection users. If you wanted to move items from the first stage to the second-stage Recycle Bin, you can do so from here.

However, we’re interested in permanently deleting items. So go ahead and click on Deleted from end user Recycle Bin.

All the items that end users have deleted from their respective Recycle Bins are displayed. To permanently delete an item off the server, check the box next to the item you want removed. Then click Delete Selection.

Voilà! This removes the item from the database so it’s no longer accessible. Doing this will reclaim the disk space of the deleted item, and you’ll see a decrease in the Current Storage Used.

So if you need to free up disk space in SharePoint, simply deleting an item won’t suffice. To remove a SharePoint list item or library item, you have to ‘take out the trash’ from the first-stage Recycle Bin and THEN empty the second-stage Recycle Bin using administrator access.

It may sound like a hassle to clear out both of these bins, but remember the two-stage process is meant as a security measure to keep your data safe. Keep in mind: the effort involved in this process is minimal compared to the the effort required to recreate a document from scratch!

And with an empty Recycle Bin, you’ve opened up that extra space to make room for 2012!