What is the default size of the Recycle Bin, and how can an administrator control the size of the Recycle Bin?

A customer was setting up a file server to which they intended to redirect all their employees' documents. They were concerned about the amount of disk space used by all the Recycle Bins on that server.

Is there a fixed default size for the Recycle Bin, or is it based on the size of the disk? Is there a way we can change the default size for the Recycle Bin?

The customer is concerned that a user with a small quota on a large drive may end up filling their quota with Recycle Bin content and have no space left for their documents. For example, suppose you have a 1TB drive and each user has a 15 GB quota. If the Recycle Bin were based on disk size, and the Recycle Bin were set to use five percent of the disk, then that would give each user 5% × 1 TB = 51.2 GB of Recycle Bin, which is larger than their quota. Users can fill their Recycle Bin and have no room for documents!

Fortunately, it doesn't work that way. The Recycle Bin calculations are always based on the disk quota, not the disk size. In the above example, each user's Recycle Bin would be 5% × 15 GB = 768 MB.

Now as to what the default is, that's a trickier question.

Up through Windows XP, the default Recycle Bin was ten percent of the user's quota on the underlying volume. Starting in Windows Vista, the algorithm was tweaked, and the default size is ten percent of the first 40 GB of quota, and five percent of any quota above 40 GB. (Note that future versions of Windows may tweak the defaults. This is provided for informational purposes, not contractual.)

If you don't like the default, you can set an explicit maximum value by policy. If you are willing to live a little dangerously, you can dig under the covers and tweak values on a per-folder basis. Note that once you dig under the covers, you are in unsupported territory, so if it stops working (or starts misbehaving), then you're on your own.

Comments (13)
  1. Anon says:


    If you tell someone something is POSSIBLE, but unsupported, they do it at their own risk.

    If you tell someone HOW to do it, that's when it becomes a contract.

  2. alegr1 says:

    When an user process queries the disk size and free space, the OS returns the user's quota, not the actual disk space. Thus, the recycle bin calculations don't need to know whether quotas are enabled.

  3. morlamweb says:

    @Anon: no, it becomes contractual when the "something" is added to the official product documentation.  The Old New Thing is not official product documentation.

  4. @Anon says:

    When you explicitly say "this is not contractual," it's not contractual.  People can argue all they want, but you said up front it's not.

  5. xpclient says:

    In Windows Vista/7/8, the setting to configure Recycle Bin maximum allocated size globally (across all drives) has been removed and the equivalent Group Policy is not supported. Recycle Bin maximum size must be configured individually for each drive in MB via Recycle Bin Properties.

  6. Anon says:


    If that were true, we wouldn't have half of the hacks in the Windows source used to work around garbage code from bad developers.

  7. smf says:

    @Anon Developers don't read documentation, making it irrelevant if the documentation is a contract or not.

  8. cheong00 says:

    @smf : Developers who don't read documentation should not be in this industry at all.

    All kinds of our work are based on one or more kind(s) of specification, you have to know your language inside and out to start debugging.

  9. Lockwood says:

    My Recycle Bin keeps getting autosorted

  10. 640k says:

    Is metadata counted against quota?

  11. Joker_vD says:

    @cheong00: Well, go and purge those non-programmers. Come on, do it. I'd like to watch it, especially there is not one programmer who read *all* the documentation relevant to his work, so you'd have to expel everybody (yourself included).

  12. @640k: Which metadata are you referring to?  File metadata is stored in the MFT, so probably not.  The Zone.Identifier metadata ("You downloaded this from the Internet, so think hard before you run it") is stored as an ADS, so it would count as part of the quota.

  13. @Lockwood says:

    Actually Recycle Bin items do not get autosorted so stop complaining.

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