How-To Geek

Clear Recent Documents in the XP Start Menu

Nobody is asking why you want to clear the recent documents from your XP start menu, but we’ll show you how to do it anyway.

Right click the start menu icon and select Properties. Click the Start Menu tab and click on Customize.

In the Customize Start Menu window click on the Advanced tab.

Now you have two options:

1) Click the Clear List button to just clear the recent documents.

2) Uncheck the “List my most recently opened documents” box to make the entire feature go away.

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 05/28/07

Comments (48)

  1. James Pantel

    Re Disabling ‘My Recent Documents’ in XP, you said;

    2) Uncheck the “List my most recently opened documents” box to make the entire feature go away.

    But that’s not the case. A record still accumulates in that file – very bad for privacy, etc.
    Also, just got another PC with Vista (Vista is BAD), and I wonder if it’s got a similar file.

    Great site anyway. Thanks for the help on many other subjects.

  2. Shenton

    This does not completely clear recent documents from the computer. Vista tracks recent documents in another folder, “Recent Documents”. This folder is found inside the “Searches” folder of the login user. Also tracked is “Recent E-mail”, “Recent Pictures and Videos”, “Recently Changed” etc.

    How to prevent Vista from tracking these files in these folders? I thought I could delete the files in these search folders but when I delete the files, it will actually delete the actual files in the source folders. It seems the files in the search folders are not shortcuts but actual files. Strange, how could one file appear in 2 folders – the source and the search folder.

    If there is no way to prevent Vista from tracking user files in the search folders, how to clear the search folders?

  3. placement

    I also want to know the answer of this question “how to clear the search”? can we delete the contents of the folder?

  4. suresh

    Very helpful.Thanks a lot.

  5. heikel

    wow! great… a simple task. thank you!

  6. Gopal

    It’s a lengthy process my brother. I have a simple technique instead. In the “Run”command type a dot(.) and press enter,in the window that appears click on recent documents and clear them all. Ok bye.

  7. Bruno

    This doesn’t work with Windows XP with the classic start menu..any idea how to do it?

  8. jd2066

    @Shenton: Those are not real folders. They are just a view of items returned from the Windows Search index. You would have to disable the search indexing to stop the display in those virtual search folders.

  9. serge

    2 Bruno:
    it works almost the same way; open Start button properties, then click setup button right to the Classic mode selection, new dialog opens and there’s a button to clear recent documents list. It could be grayed in case your list is already cleared.

  10. vern

    relating to this topic, would going into the regIstry and deleting:


  11. jd2066

    @vern: No. That key contains the path the folder where recent file shortcuts are stored. It won’t help clear the recent file shortcuts.

  12. montyoto

    Could anyone tell me if it’s possible to make a single-click shortcut to the clear history function?
    Time is money and I use that dialogue at least once a week and I hate going through so many clicks for something that basic.

  13. Kk

    go to C:\Documents and Settings\(your user name)\Recent
    (create shortcut to that folder if u delete often)
    In the folder, Ctrl+A then delete. All gone!

  14. Jerry

    run %USERPROFILE%\Recent and then highlight everything and then delete it

  15. Tom

    Kk said:
    Go to C:\Documents and Settings\(your user name)\Recent
    (create shortcut to that folder if u delete often)
    In the folder, Ctrl+A then delete. All gone!

    In case of Windows Vista (in a dos window, go to c:\users\ and type dir /ah and you’ll see the link), c:\users\\Recent is a link to c:\users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent

    In this folder, all items are shortcuts to your recently used files. Ctrl+A, then delete (as Kk said) and they are all gone.

    @montyoto: Since time is money, create a new file in notepad and put this line in int:

    del C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\*.* /Q

    and save the file on your desktop as “recent.bat”. Make sure the extention is .bat and not .bat.txt or something like that. Double clicking on this file now opens a dos windows which removes all files from the “recent” directory without asking for confirmation (the /q option). Two clicks and all shortcuts are gone. Since time is money.

    I hope this helped!

  16. dude


  17. rjdriver


    While it is still possible to clear the docs when using the Classic menu, I can see no way to disable the function entirely, as you can when using the XP start menu.

    Anyone know, or will this require a registry adjustment?

  18. John

    It’s pretty simple to turn off the XP feature that saves recent docs history. Go into the registry, then go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

    add a new entry called “NoRecentDocsHistory” and make the value “1”.


  19. Rob

    how about if only want to clear one document in recent doc. is there a way of doing that…without clearing the whole history? thanks

  20. richard_site

    If you want to stay off the vision the recent document history, you must also say to the windows search engine the doesn’t look on the C:\Documents and Settings\(your user name)\Recent

  21. LEGEND

    This was veryyy helpful to me Thanks Very Much …. =)

  22. Digvijay

    This information was very helpful.Thank you So MUChhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  23. Robert Schelts

    Very Helpful thanks.

  24. Jasmin

    if I might…
    To clear and or disable/enable recent document history in XP
    rightclick Start, then click “properties”
    click a field that is described best as “adjust” and then click on “advanced”.
    There you have a choice to delete logged files and a choice to turn them on or off.
    hope it helps…
    Regards from Norway

  25. Tlamelo

    I do not understand why my request to subscribe was blocked. I hope there is an explanation. I find your advice very useful and well laid out


  26. L_kernel

    Thanks! It helps me!

  27. sushma


  28. Arjun

    Thank you sir it is working………….

  29. jAcK

    this is very helpful after viewing some nude picture.

  30. Vikash

    Hi friends, There is a lot of customization of start menu available in the windows ‘group policy editor’ and its pretty easy (and believe me, you can even configure windows to not to ‘keep the history of your recent opened documents’ and the trouble is vanished from the root).
    To open group policy editor => Open ‘run’ from start menu (or press win-key+R) and type “gpedit.msc”
    In the group policy editor, Expand ‘user configuration’ in the console tree on the left hand side. and go to
    ‘Administrative Templates’ and finally ‘Start menu and taskbar’.
    On the Right hand side change “Do not keep history of recently opened documents” to Enabled and the result is self-explanatory. Moreover you can play around with a lot of things there.
    One last thing, if anybody is willing to customize windows in his/her way, then group policy editor is worth exploring.

  31. Tom

    Vikash, it’s very coincidental that the true working solution to the recent documents problem is that you posted your answer just two days ago, while the article originates from three and a half years ago.

    Getting to the point: thank you for that!

  32. RH

    Rob, I also want to know how to clear 1 doc from the recent doc list!!! Someone help on this! please!

  33. mia

    @RH – click START – RUN – type in run %USERPROFILE%\Recent and then delete what you want

  34. Mahendran

    nice thanks

  35. LKPar1270

    To delete just one document from the Recient Documents file, just right click on the file and click delete.

  36. Steven Hamlett

    I have a message that comes up at the bottom of my screen on the right that displays: View blocked items in your system. Then I click on it and it usually what items i need to attend to. It is not there anymore. What happened to it?

  37. Richard

    Can someone tell me how to define what file types are stored in the Recent Documents folder?

    Even though I do manipulate sound files on a regular basis, I do *not* consider those documents.

    Also, if I save some html file, the history in any browser is more than sufficient that I don’t need it saved in recent documents.

    I’m really tired of losing track of simple text files I’ve been working on because my Recent Documents gets filled with all kinds of mp3s and really, it seems every over type of file in existence. zip files, rars, you name it.

    It would be nice if there is someway to limit recent documents to actual documents such as ppt, doc, txt, xl, etc.

    jpgs, gifs, avi, mp3 and all the rest of the audio/visual media I can find quickly through other means.

    When I create/save a simple txt file with important information I’ll need the next day in an out-of-the-way folder only to find it lost to any number of superfluous files recently opened, it’s bloody frustrating to say the least.

    15 years ago I seem to recall the only files that went into Recent Documents were files of the standard Office Suite & txt. Is there anyway to configure Recent Documents in this fashion today, in Windows xp?

    Notice I did not ask for an easy way. I want to do it, and do it right, I don’t care how many steps or how complicated it may be.

  38. Snad

    @Vikash, Thanks you very much, your great “One last thing, if anybody is willing to customize windows in his/her way, then group policy editor is worth exploring”

  39. raja


  40. Suresh

    thanks yaar………..

  41. Keryl

    Thanks Vikash, You are great.

  42. Rajeev

    Thank you.
    Didn’t remember that.Its beena long time.

  43. niluka

    Thank you for help

  44. Herry Pagelaran

    very helpful …..thanks

  45. Bill Stewert

    @Vikash… thanks man… it worked

  46. sastryvsa

    Hai it is very use full to me . so many times i delete my recent program mes but i did not . now it is clear and very use full thanks a lot.



  47. J.A.

    I wonder if anyone reads this anymore, but I need help, so I’m hoping someone’ll answer me. Anyway, to the point. When you delete the history of recent documents on XP, does the item itself reveal that I have viewed it at that time? For example, if I view a picture from my computer, but I don’t want anyone to know i have viewed that particular picture, and I delete it from my recent documents, does it still show somehow that I have actually viewed that pic? From the picture’s properties maybe, or from some other path?

  48. illusia

    Thanks Vikash, now windows no longer keeps history of recently opened documents anywhere, and that’s what i needed. thanks again

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