As you type into the Search box in Windows’ File Explorer, a list of suggestions displays below the box. These suggestions are from the history of previous searches you’ve typed.

This can be handy for making searches quicker and easier, but there are times you may want to clear that history. Maybe other family members use the same computer and you don’t want them seeing what you search for. We’ll show you how to clear specific terms from the Explorer search history and how to clear the entire history in Windows 7, 8, and 10.

NOTE: Throughout this article, we’re going to refer to the program as “File Explorer”, though it was called “Windows Explorer” in Windows 7. The following procedure will work for both.

How to Delete Specific File Explorer Search Terms in File Explorer

To clear a specific search term from the search history in Windows 7, 8, or 10, start typing that search term in the Search box. Then, use the down arrow key to start scrolling through the terms that match what you’ve typed. When you have selected the term you want to remove from the search history, press the “Delete” key.

The search term will be removed with no confirmation and the next time you start typing that term, it will not be suggested.

How to Delete the Entire File Explorer Search History in Windows 8 and 10

To easily delete your entire search history in File Explorer in Windows 8 and 10, click in the Search box and then click the Search tab that becomes available.

NOTE: This does not work in Windows 7—see the next section for a 7-friendly method.

In the Options section on the Search tab, click “Recent searches” and then select “Clear search history”.

Your entire File Explorer search history is deleted and the Recent searches button is grayed out, indicating you have no search history. Note that there is no confirmation before the history is deleted.

File Explorer also keeps a list of recently accessed files under Quick access and you can clear this list as well, if you’re concerned about people seeing what you’ve been working on.

How to Delete Specific Search Terms (or the Entire Search History) Using the Registry

Deleting individual search terms using the above method is easy, but you have to remember enough of the term to search for it again. If you don’t remember what you want to delete, or you want to browse through your search history to see what you want to delete, you can use the registry.

In addition, if you want to clear your entire search history, this is the only way to do so in Windows 7.

Standard warning: Registry Editor is a powerful tool and misusing it can render your system unstable or even inoperable. This is a pretty simple hack and as long as you stick to the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems. That said, if you’ve never worked with it before, consider reading about how to use the Registry Editor before you get started. And definitely back up the Registry (and your computer!) before making changes.

To get started, open the Registry Editor by hitting Start and typing “regedit.” Press Enter to open Registry Editor and give it permission to make changes to your PC.

In the Registry Editor, use the left sidebar to navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Word\WordWheelQuery

In the right pane, you’ll see a list of numbered values. Each number is a term you searched for in File Explorer. You can’t see which term is which until you double-click on a value, so do that now.

The search term is listed on the right side of the Value data box on the Edit Binary Value dialog bx.

Click “OK” to close the Edit Binary Value dialog box. If the term you just viewed is one you want to delete, right-click on that value and select “Delete”.

The following warning dialog box displays. Deleting the values under the WordWheelQuery key will not damage your system, so click “Yes” to confirm the deletion of the value.

You can also clear the entire File Explorer search history by right-clicking on the WordWheelQuery key and selecting “Delete”.

Close the Registry Editor by going to File > Exit or by clicking the “X” in the upper-right corner of the window.

The search terms you deleted in the registry will no longer display as suggestions when you type your search terms.

Lori Kaufman Lori Kaufman
Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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