When you frequently use a long-standing and convenient feature in Windows, then suddenly see it removed from the latest version, it can be very frustrating. How do you get the missing feature back? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has some helpful solutions to a reader’s “recent file” woes.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader Mr. Boy wants to know how to get the “All Recent Files” list back in Windows 10:

I can find the listings for recent items, but these only seem to let me see recent items opened by a particular app. For example, I can look at Microsoft Word’s icon and see the documents recently opened in it.

I am unable to find a simple “these are the last ten documents/files opened with any application”, which is very useful if I have not pinned the apps in question to my taskbar. This feature used to exist in Windows XP as “My Recent Documents”:

Is there a way to get this functionality back in Windows 10? For example, I open doc.docx, sheet.xlsl, options.txt, picture.bmp, etc. with different apps and then see these items all listed in one place indicating the files that I have most recently accessed?

How do you get the “All Recent Files” list functionality back in Windows 10?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors Techie007 and thilina R have the answer for us. First up, Techie007:

I believe that the new way of thinking at Microsoft during the Start Menu’s redesign process was that if you want to access “files”, then you should open the File Explorer to access them instead of the Start Menu.

To that end, when you open the File Explorer, it will default to Quick Access, which includes a list of Recent Files like the example shown here:

Followed by the answer from thilina R:

Method 1: Use the Run Dialog Box

  • Open the Run Dialog Box with the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+R
  • Enter shell:recent

This will open the folder listing all of your recent items. The list can be quite long and may contain items that are not as recent, and you may even want to delete some of them.

Note: The contents of the Recent Items folder is different from the contents of the File Explorer entry Recent Places, which contains folders that have been recently visited rather than files. They often have quite different contents.

Method 2: Make a Desktop Shortcut to the Recent Items Folder

If you like (or need) to look at the contents of the Recent Items folder on a frequent basis, you may want to create a shortcut on your desktop:

  • Right-click on the desktop
  • In the Context Menu, choose New
  • Select Shortcut
  • In the box, “type the location of the item”, enter %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\
  • Click Next
  • Name the shortcut Recent Items or a different name if desired
  • Click Finish

You can also pin this shortcut to the taskbar or place it in another convenient location.

Method 3: Add Recent Items to the Quick Access Menu

The Quick Access Menu (also called the Power User’s Menu) is another possible place to add an entry for Recent Items. This is the menu opened by the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+X. Use the path:

  • %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\

Contrary to what some articles on the Internet say, you cannot simply add shortcuts to the folder that is used by the Quick Access Menu. For security reasons, Windows will not allow additions unless the shortcuts contain certain code. The utility Windows Key+X menu editor takes care of that problem.

Source: Three Ways to Easily Access Your Most Recent Documents and Files in Windows 8.x [Gizmo’s Freeware] Note: The original article was for Windows 8.1, but this works on Windows 10 at the time of writing this.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Image/Screenshot Credit: Techie007 (SuperUser)

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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