Recycle Bin for Data Storage?

In the past I’ve been in the unfortunate and awkward position of informing people that files and folders that were in the Recycle Bin for Windows Explorer or the Deleted Items in their mail client are gone forever. I can certainly appreciate their frustration at losing their data, but I always end up asking myself “Why do people store things they wish to keep in that folder? Is it because they don’t know how to create folders under their Inbox or in their Documents folders?”
I’ve frequently seen folders in Microsoft Outlook’s Deleted Items folder that had recent mail in them, so those users do appear to know how to create subfolders as needed. These people are actually using the Deleted Items as storage – why would they do this? No one puts hard copies of documents in the trashcan at their desk if they wish to keep it, so why is there such a large disconnect in logic when it comes to the digital world?
As techs we are tasked with cleaning computers and many times the instructions are very limited. “My computer is not running right. Can you fix it?” In the process of “fixing” the computer, you may find that the Recycle Bin will get emptied, temporary files deleted, and other such actions are performed. Emptying the Recycle Bin is no different to us than a house keeper emptying the trash at your house. We will not dump the files from valid locations such as My Documents or My Pictures unless we are led there by the tools that we use – even then we would exhibit extreme caution before removing any files that may be suspicious; many times we will just rename the files and/or move them to another location so we can confirm with the end user that the files are not required by them.
Part of our role in IT is to educate. We have to (and like to!) educate each other as well as our clients as to what is needed, required, and expected for the normal running of equipment and the procedures that we follow. Just as in any industry, there are expectations that are commonplace amongst all staff in our field, but we try to be aware that they may not be exhibited by the public at large.
Once we know some habits of our clients, we will document them wherever possible. We would prefer that the users work in a logical order because, as techs, we think in logical terms that are based on the way that computers operate. Bear in mind that if you use a tool such as the Cleanup Wizard in Windows, it will ask to clear the Recycle Bin. We take it for granted that anything involving Trash / Recycling is intended for data that does not wish to be retrieved – that is also the way that Windows (and other Operating Systems) operate too. Storing data in the trash goes against that logic.
Folks, if you are using the Recycle Bin or Deleted Items as storage, I cannot urge you strongly enough to consider a shift in mindset as to what these folders are intended for. Not only will you make your tech very happy, you will also reduce the risk of accidental data loss.
As techs, we are more than happy to help any client that requests help – if you need assistance in restructuring the way you work with your computer, we will be more than happy to accommodate your goals. You will not be fined or penalized! As a fun fact – did you know that most file-based backup programs would miss the documents that you store in these temporary / trash folders? They are normally excluded as the convention is that they are used for items that are not desired.
We are here to help improve the utilization of technology; sometimes this means a change in the way you use these resources, but such modifications serve to benefit you and your business for years to come.

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