APPLICATION NAME: Recycle Bin
CATEGORY: Operating System
RELATED ARTIFACTS: None
OPERATING SYSTEMS: Windows
Windows XP – %ROOT%\Recycler\%SID%\
Windows Vista+ – %ROOT%\$Recycle.Bin\%SID%\
Importance to Investigators
The Windows Recycle Bin contains files that have been deleted by the user, but not yet purged from the system. While users can empty out the Recycle Bin quite easily, it is still a valuable source of evidence for an examiner.
Depending on the version of Windows, Recycle Bin evidence is stored in two different ways. For Windows XP, the files are stored in the “Recycler” folder under the user’s specific SID. There is also an INFO2 file which contains an index of all the files that have been deleted, along with some metadata about the recycled files. The INFO2 file will contain the original path, file size, and when the file was deleted.
For Windows Vista+, the data is still stored under the user’s SID, but the parent folder is now called “$Recycle.Bin”. Windows no longer uses the INFO2 file and when a file is deleted, two files are created in the Recycle Bin. The first file begins with the value “$R” followed by a random string – this file contains the actual contents of the recycled file. The second file begins with “$I” and ends in the same string as the “$R” file – this file contains the metadata for that specific file (unlike the INFO2 file which contained the metadata for every file in the Recycle Bin). The “$I” file contains the original filename, path, file size, and when the file was deleted.
Recycle Bin Recovery with Magnet Forensics
Magnet Forensics tools will recover artifacts from the Windows Recycle Bin for Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. They will list the filename, date the file was deleted (in UTC), user’s name and SID, original path, file size, current location, as well as indicate if it’s a file or directory. The current location value will help investigators know whether it was the actual file that was deleted or the parent directory.