Mike has a question about mobile devices. “On my PC, when I delete something I know where it goes. When I delete something on my android phone or my iPad I have no idea where it winds up except for emails on the iPad. Can you shed any light on this matter?

First let’s talk about what deleting does. The act of deleting doesn’t really take data from your hard drive or storage medium, it just breaks the link that enables you to access it and lets your device know that it’s okay to overwrite the portion of the drive where that data was stored.

recycle bin

PCs have a file called Recycle Bin. Macs have a file called Trash. Recycle Bin and Trash hold those links and allow you to restore them if you change your mind. Those links are only permanently gone when you empty the Trash or Recycle Bin.  However, this can take up a lot of space. Since mobile devices generally have much smaller storage capabilities, they don’t have Recycle Bin or Trash options. (Unless they are running full Windows.)


Your phone and tablet just assume you mean business when you want to delete something. They break your access link and free up that section of storage to be overwritten.

You can drag apps to the Trashcan icon on a mobile device. But you aren’t deleting that app, merely removing it from the homescreen.


Hitting that trashcan symbol within an app will delete a file from that app.


That doesn’t mean individual apps can’t have a trash folder. Many e-mail clients offer a trash function. When you put something in the trash like this, you aren’t deleting it just yet. You’re just moving it to a folder called Trash. Generally a trash folder will be automatically emptied every so often.  The items aren’t actually deleted until they’re out of the trash folder.


In all cases, once the item is permanently deleted you’ve broken the link that allows you to access it and give permission for that part of your drive to be overwritten. The data doesn’t actually go anywhere until it is overwritten. Sometimes it can be recovered using a file recovery program. But that’s no guarantee.

~ Cynthia