SEARCH

How-To Geek

Fix the Problem Where the Recent Items List on the Start Menu is Always Empty When You Log On

00_recent_items_list

Windows keeps track of documents you have recently opened in a Recent Items list on the Start menu. The Run dialog box also stores a most recently used (MRU) list of commands you have run.

You may have encountered a strange problem where the Recent Items list on the Start menu and the MRU list in the Run dialog box are completely empty when you restart your computer or log off and on again. It’s actually a common problem that can happen when you use third-party software to tweak your system. An entry may get added into the Windows Registry to clear the Recent Items list and Run dialog’s MRU list when you log off Windows.

This article shows you how to change this setting using the Local Group Policy Editor and using the Windows Registry.

NOTE: The Local Group Policy Editor is not available in the Home and Starter editions of Windows 7.

Using the Local Group Policy Editor

To open the Local Group Policy Editor, open the Start menu and enter “gpedit.msc” in the Search box. Press enter then “gpedit.msc” displays in the search results list or click on the link.

01_opening_group_policy_editor

In the Local Group Policy Editor, navigate to the following item.

User Configuration/Administrative Templates/Start Menu and Taskbar

Click on Start Menu and Taskbar to display its settings in the right pane.

02_selecting_start_menu_and_taskbar

In the right pane, double-click on the Clear history of recently opened documents on exit setting.

03_double_clicking_clear_history_item

On the dialog box that displays for the setting, select the Disabled option or the Not Configured option.

04_disabling_clear_history

Click OK to accept your change and close the dialog box.

05_closing_clear_history_dialog

The State for the setting displays as Disabled (or Not configured).

06_clear_history_disabled

Select Exit from the File menu to close the Local Group Policy Editor.

07_closing_group_policy_editor

Using the Registry Editor

If you are using Windows 7 Home or Starter Edition, or if you prefer using the registry, follow the steps below to change the setting in the registry that will stop clearing the recent items list on the Start menu and MRU list on the Run dialog box when you log off.

NOTE: We recommend before changing the registry, be sure you back it up. We also recommend creating a restore point you can use to restore your system if something goes wrong.

To open the Registry Editor, open the Start menu and enter “regedit.exe” in the Search box. Press enter then “regedit.exe” displays in the search results list or click on the link.

08_opening_registry_editor

If the User Account Control dialog box displays, click Yes to continue.

NOTE: You may not see this dialog box, depending on your User Account Control settings.

09_uac_dialog_for_registry

Navigate to each of the following items in the tree on the left side of the Registry Editor window.

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer
HKEY_USERS\.default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

For each item above, look for a DWORD value called ClearRecentDocsOnExit in the right pane. If this setting is on, its value would be set to 1. To turn off the setting, double-click the setting name.

10_changing_clear_recent_docs_on_exit

On the Edit DWORD Value dialog box, change the number in the Value data edit box to 0 and click OK.

11_changing_value

The value in the Data column for the ClearRecentDocsOnExit item displays as 0.

12_value_changed

To turn off this setting, you can also completely delete the ClearRecentDocsOnExit key. To do this, right-click on the key name and select Delete from the popup menu.

13_selecting_delete

The Confirm Value Delete dialog box displays to make sure you want to delete the value. If you are sure you are deleting the ClearRecentDocsOnExit key, and not different key, click Yes.

NOTE: Be sure of what you are changing and deleting in the registry. If you change or delete a wrong item, you could cause your system not to function properly.

14_delete_confirmation

Select Exit from the File menu to close the Registry Editor.

15_closing_registry_editor

When you start opening files in various programs, if you don’t see the files in the Recent Items list on the Start menu, you may have to change a couple of settings. To do this, right-click on the Start orb and select Properties from the popup menu.

16_getting_properties_of_start_menu

The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box displays with the Start Menu tab active.

If you only want to display recently opened items, such as documents, turn on the Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar check box in the Privacy box.

If you want to display a list of recently opened programs in the bottom half of the Start menu, check the Store and display recently opened programs in the Start menu check box. This option will also display a list of recently opened items in the jumplist for each program icon on the taskbar.

17_turning_on_recent_items

Use the same procedure to turn this setting back on if you want to start clearing the recent items list when you log off or restart your computer. Enable the setting in the Local Group Policy Editor, or change the key in the registry to have a value of 1 instead of 0.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 11/1/11

Get Free Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 134,000 newsletter readers

Email:

Go check your email!