Have you plugged a USB flash drive or external hard disk to a Windows computer and all of a sudden seeing these two folders: System Volume Information and $RECYCLE.BIN?
If you are reading this, you probably have and the appropriate question should be: should I be worried? Well, no!
System Volume Information and $RECYCLE.BIN
System Volume Information and $RECYCLE.BIN are harmless; most of the time. Windows OS formats its drives in NTFS and though these two folders will be available in the drives containing the OS. The NTFS format will prevent anyone, even Admin users, from accessing the folder.
However, on exFAT or FAT32 formatted hard drive, which will often be the USB flash drive or external hard disk, you can access these folders. You can even try to delete them, but Windows will automatically create them the next time you plug them back in.
That is why most people think System Volume Information and $RECYCLE.BIN are some kind of viruses, malware, or host for malicious programs. You should rest assured that under normal circumstances, these folders are created by Windows for certain system-level features usage.
The folders also come with permissions set to prevent the users from tampering with the files inside. As doing so might interfere with important system functions. Some of these functions include:
System Restore Points stored in the System Volume Information folder
Volume Shadow Copy service for backups
Content indexing service databases, which speed up file searches.
Distributed Link Tracking Service databases that repair shortcuts and links
If you open the System Volume Information folder, you are bound to find two files inside IndexerVolumeGuid and WPSettings.dat. These former assigns a unique identifier to the drive while the latter examines files stored on the drive and indexes them. That is how you are able to quickly use the Windows search features to locate a file inside the drive. That is how the search box on Start Menu, Cortana, File Explorer, and Windows Explorer are able to locate files for you.
Should I delete these Folders?
Well, you can try, but they will just keep reappearing each time you plug back the USB flash drive or external hard drive to your Windows computer.
If it is that much of a bother, and now you know they are not only harmless but necessary for efficient execution of certain Windows functions. You can just choose never to see them again.
And how do I do that, you ask? Well, the only reason you are seeing them is because you have enabled ‘show hidden files and folders’ in your File Explorer or Windows Explorer. Disable that feature and you will never see them again; though they will still be there.