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What Is .recently-used.xbel and How Do I Delete It for Good?

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably noticed the .recently-used.xbel file in the root of your User folder, and you’re wondering why it keeps constantly coming back even though you repeatedly delete it.

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So What Is It?

The quick answer is that it’s part of the GTK+ library used by a number of cross-platform applications, perhaps the most well-known of which is the Pidgin instant messenger client.

As the name implies, the file is used to store a list of the most recently used files. In the case of Pidgin, this comes into play when you are transferring files over IM, and that’s when the file will appear again.

Note: this is actually a known and reported bug in Pidgin, but sadly the developers aren’t terribly responsive when it comes to annoyances. Pidgin seems to go for long periods of time without any updates, but we still use it because it’s open-source, cross-platform, and works well.

How Do I Get Rid of It?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to easily get rid of it, apart from using a different application. If you need to transfer files over Pidgin, the file is going to re-appear… but there’s a quick workaround!

The general idea is to set the file properties to Hidden and Read-only. You’d think you could just set it to Hidden and be done with it, but Pidgin will re-create the file every time, so instead we’re leaving the file there and preventing it from being accessed.

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You could also totally remove access through the Security tab if you wanted to, but this worked fine for me… as you can see, no more file in the folder.

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Of course, you can’t have the show hidden files and folders option turned on, or the file will continue to show up. Want to get really geeky? You can toggle hidden files with a shortcut key.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/2/10

Comments (10)

  1. Rocket

    Thanks for this tip. I had no idea what this file was…

  2. calebstein

    Come on people, show some initiative. You say it’s open source, so why don’t you or one of your programmer friends edit it and create a new im client based off of pidgin to get around this annoyance?

  3. Alec S.

    @calebstein, because that’s not what “open-source” means to most people; to most people it means “free”.

  4. DA MAN

    well i have this file and it only provides the list of latest opened files from GIMP (the open-source photoshop alternative).

  5. LoL

    @Alec S. LOL!!!

  6. RearAdmiral Snodgras

    Files of this type are “hidden” in Linux by default.

  7. justflyingby

    was kinda fun to get vista/win7 window pics when I really was looking for file formats in linux(old ubuntu one)
    then again,that is what is what crossplattform in reality is.. :)
    Just have the right tools and you’ll be able to compile it for your OS of taste.

  8. Nael M

    This trick doesn’t work any more. Every time I use Pidgin, it reappears again with the read-only and hidden flags set to off.

  9. coccinaile

    How come I don’t use Pidgin and I have this file ?

  10. Mason

    coccinaile: I think GIMP generates it as well. Hiding it doesn’t help, the file becomes unhidden when it’s written to. I’ve experimented with making “.recently-used.xbel” impossible to access… but it didn’t work too well.

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