How to add a recycle bin to your Chromebook

ChromeOS the operating system used by the Chromebook and Chromebox does not have a recycle bin as standard. This may sound a little crazy, as it’s pretty much the standard on other computers. However, the Chromebook was never about storing files locally, as you can easily store most of your files in the cloud.

It’s still the case that it’s safer to store your files in the cloud rather than locally on your Chromebook. Find out more about why it’s a bad idea to store your files on your Chromebooks local storage. All that being said, I know many people do store files locally, and this is happening even more now that the latest Chromebooks come with much larger storage space.

Therefore, the need to restore files you previously deleted is more essential now than it ever was. The good news is you can get a trash bin on your Chromebook; it’s just hidden away behind a flag.

The Chromebook downloads folder

If you’ve used a Chromebook I’m sure I don’t need to explain what the downloads folder is. If you’re thinking about buying a new Chromebook, then this part is for you.

When you think about the downloads folder on ChromeOS think about the C drive on your Windows computer. Anything you save in the downloads folder is stored locally. At present, if you delete files from the downloads folder there isn’t a way to get these files back. A tad risky I hear you say, well, don’t panic as it’s easily fixed.

Not all of the functionality on your Chromebook is available by default. When the ChromeOS team is working on new ideas, they put these behind a ChromeOS flag. A flag is easily enabled on your Chromebook and it’s extremely easy and relatively safe. Once you’ve enabled the trash can flag you will get access to that much-needed recycle bin.

Enable the ChromeOS Trash bin

To enable the Trash bin you need to change the flag for it from default to enabled. This is because at the moment the default setting is off. This may change in the future if the ChromeOS team decides to release the trash bin to everyone who owns a Chromebook. For now, if you want access to it you need to enable it.

  • Open your Chrome browser
  • type in the address bar the following chrome://flags and hit return
  • Type in the search box files-trash
  • Change the flag headed ‘Enable Trash Files’ to Enabled
  • Hit the restart button

Once you’ve followed the above instructions you will see that you have a Trash bin in your files manager. It may be different depending on the Chromebook you have. For example, on my Pixelbook Go, it’s called Bin, and on my Asus CX5, it’s named Trash.

How to delete files to Trash on ChromeOS

There are a few different ways you can send files you no longer need to your recycle bin. The first option is to simply drag and drop. This is fine but I’ve always found dragging files when using a touchpad a little difficult. Instead of dragging and dropping you could simply right-click and select the option to send to trash.

However, I much prefer the shortcut to move files to the recycle bin. A word of warning: do not use this shortcut until you’ve enabled the Trash bin. The reason I say this is because the shortcut used to send files to the trash, is the same shortcut to delete files. Therefore, if you use the shortcut before enabling the Trash bin, the files will be deleted indefinitely from your downloads folder.

Once you’ve highlighted the files to delete simply hold down ALT + BACKSPACE. This will then move the highlighted files to the trash bin. The reason why I like this is that it’s exactly the same shortcut you would use to restore files.

Restoring files from the Trash Bin

If you’ve deleted files and you have the Trash bin enabled. You can restore these files at a later date if you suddenly realise you deleted a file that you need to keep.

You can do this by selecting the Trash bin from the left-hand side of your Chromebook file manager. You will then see all the files you have stored in your recycle bin. You can drag files back to your downloads folder, right-click and choose restore or use the shortcut I mentioned earlier.

Again, I prefer using the shortcut because it’s easy to remember as you use the same one to move files to trash and also to restore files from trash. Simply hold down ALT+BACKSPACE to delete and restore files from the Trash bin.

Files are automatically deleted from Trash after 30 days

It’s important to note that any files you move to the recycle bin will be deleted after 30 days. Personally, I much prefer this rather than manually deleting files from the trash bin.

I don’t know about you but my downloads folder can become a bit of a dumping ground. I know there are loads of files I could delete from it, but I always put it off until I have more time. By sending files to your Trash bin regularly, it should keep your downloads folder tidier. It’s much safer to try and avoid using the downloads folder, so you may prefer to automatically download files to your Google Drive on your Chromebook.

If the Trash bin did not delete your files automatically after 30 days. You would simply be moving files from one location to another. Your Trash bin would end up being the dumping ground for all of your files. Therefore, knowing that any files you send to trash will be deleted after 30 days should ensure you only delete the files you no longer need. It’s a much better way of managing your Downloads folder.