Create a Shortcut to Delete Recent Items in Windows Vista (or XP’s) Start Menu

Have you ever tried going through all of the menus required to delete the Recent Items in the XP Start Menu? It takes forever, especially when you want to hide whatever you shouldn’t have been doing. As usual, there’s a simpler way to do it.

[Update] A number of readers have pointed out that in Vista you can just right-click the recent items and choose “Clear Recent Items List”. XP is the only one with a bunch of menus to go through. Either way this should work the same across both versions.

You can either manually open the shell folder and clear out the items, or you can use the script I’ve provided which will actually give you a shortcut that deletes the recent items with nothing more than a double-click.

Just to be very clear, this is the list of items that we’ll be clearing out:

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Note: This will not actually delete those files, it will just delete the shortcuts to the files that are stored in the recent folder.

Where Is the Recent Folder so I Can Delete Them Manually?

Like many folders in Windows, this one is hidden away underneath your profile folder. The full path on Windows Vista would be this, substituting your username into the path:

C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\

If you are using the command line, you can use the %APPDATA% environment variable to figure out the path without needing to know the username (This also works in Explorer as well)

%APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\

Or the easiest possible way is to just type in this shell shortcut into the address bar or start menu search box:

shell:recent

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You can remove any items from this folder, or even delete all the items. You’ll see them disappear from the Recent menu immediately. Again, these are just shortcuts to the actual file, as you can see with the Type column above.

Clear Out the Recent Items With a Shortcut

With a little bit of Windows Script Host magic, we can make a script that deletes the items in the recent folder… it only takes 4 lines of code!

Create a new file named DeleteRecentItems.js with Notepad, and then paste in the following lines (Or just download the zipped file linked below)

var fso = WScript.CreateObject(“Scripting.FileSystemObject”);
var WSH = new ActiveXObject(“WScript.Shell”);
var folder = WSH.SpecialFolders(“Recent”);
fso.DeleteFile(folder + “\\*.*”);

Once you save the file, you should now have a new icon that can be double-clicked to clear the recent items.

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If you want to assign a new icon or add a shortcut key, you’ll need to create a shortcut to the file. I’d recommend putting the script file into a folder somewhere, and then creating a shortcut to it in your Quick Launch or Desktop folder.

Once you have the shortcut created, you can right-click on it and choose Properties, and then click on Change Icon or add in a Shortcut key if you would like.

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Disclaimer: I tested this out on Windows Vista, but since this deletes files… use at your own risk and I’m not responsible, etc =)

Download DeleteRecentItems Script (Zipped)

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.