How the Recycle Bin Works in SharePoint

Written By: Arshad Ali -- 12/16/2010 -- join -- contribute -- (4656) comments -- printer friendly version

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Categories: Configurations, Infrastructure, MOSS 2007, SharePoint 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010, System Administration, WSS2, WSS3

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The idea behind the SharePoint Recycle Bin is the same as Windows, but we have more granular control in SharePoint. So how does the Recycle Bin work in SharePoint? How do you configure it? What are the different stages of the Recycle Bin (item deletion) in SharePoint?


SharePoint 2010 provides different levels of protection for recovering deleted or overwritten documents. On a broader level, you can restore the complete web farm or web application, on a granular level you can restore a site collection backup or use unattached database recovery to export and then import the required documents. These recovery methods have administrative overheads, so as to minimize it you can enable versioning of critical documents (by default its not enabled and you need to enable for your library wherever required) in which case SharePoint creates multiple versions of your document when you make any changes to them. But what if you delete a document with all of its associated versions or a document for which you have not enabled versioning; the deleted documents (along with all its associated versions if there are any) go to the Recycle Bin (by default its enabled and you can disable it if required though its recommended to keep it enabled).

The Recycle Bin keeps track of deleted items and it works in two different stages and hence provides protection at two different levels:

First Stage Recycle Bin - When you delete an item from a site or sub-site it goes to the Recycle Bin (also called the user's Recycle Bin) of that particular site and stays there until you restore it back or the retention policy expires (deleted after a set number of days, by default it stays for 30 days) or you delete it from there, in that case it goes to the Site Collection Recycle Bin. You can view a site's Recycle Bin by clicking on the Recycle Bin link in the Quick Launch.

Second Stage Recycle Bin - When an item is deleted from a site's Recycle Bin it goes to Site Collection Recycle Bin and stays there until you restore it or the retention policy expires (deleted after a set number of days, by default it stays for 30 days) or you delete it from there also in which case it gets deleted permanently. The items from the Site Collection Recycle Bin can be restored by a Site Collection Administrator. You can view the Site Collection Recycle Bin by clicking on the Recycle Bin link under Site Collection Administration on Site Settings page. This page has two views: End User Recycle Bin Items view displays all the contents of all the recycle bins of all the sites under that particular site collection whereas Deleted From End-User Recycle Bin view displays all the items which have been deleted from the sites recycle bins and now exist in site collection recycle bin.

Though the demonstration shown here is based on SharePoint 2010, the Recycle Bin feature is not specific to SharePoint 2010 and it is in earlier SharePoint versions too. If you are using earlier versions, you can still use the Recycle Bin although there are some slight changes in options/UI to configure and view it.

Configuring Recycle Bin

Two staged (both first and second stages) Recycle Bin is already enabled by default for site collection, you can disable second stage recycle bin or disable recycle bin altogether.

Go to START -> All Programs -> Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Products -> SharePoint 2010 Central Administration, on the left side click on Application Management link and in right side, in detail pane, click on Manage Web Applications under Web Applications as shown below:

On the Manage web applications page, select the required web application in the detail pane and click on General Settings under General Settings in the ribbon above as shown below:

On the Web Application General Settings page you can enable or disable the Recycle Bin feature. Notice it is already enabled by default. When you disable the Recycle Bin feature, all the items existing in it will be removed permanently. Next you can specify the contents sent to Recycle Bin and retention policy to remove items after certain number of days or never. Next you can specify the site quota for the second stage.

Viewing contents of Recycle Bin

On the Quick Launch of the site, you will notice the Recycle Bin link, click on it to view all the site's deleted items in the Recycle Bin. You can restore the items to their original location or delete them from here. In this case they will move to the Site Collection (Second stage) Recycle Bin as shown below:

Notice in the above image, there is a link on the top of the page to go to the Site Collection Recycle Bin. You can click on it to go directly to Site Collection Recycle Bin (depending on your permission level) or else you can go to the Site collection, click on Site Actions and then Site Settings as shown below:

On the Site Settings page of the site collection/web application, click on the Recycle Bin link under Site Collection Administration as shown below:

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