How to Find and Clear the All Recent Files List in Windows 10

By now, many will be aware of Windows 10’s recent files feature. Contrary to previous OS versions, it’s tucked away in File Explorer. As it stands, the feature can be a huge aid to productivity, but what if you want to see more than 20 recent files or clear the recent files list?

For that, you’ll need to access the hidden log the system keeps in the background. Microsoft doesn’t have an official name for this, but colloquially it’s known as the all recent files list. Here you can see many more files and places, much you could from the Windows XP Start Menu.

Once you configure Windows 10’s all recent files list you may also be able to view more file types, such as .zip files, and include hidden files. If you’d like, you can also clear the recent files list each shutdown for enhanced privacy. Let’s jump right into how to configure and access this feature.

Find the All Recent Files List in Windows 10

Time needed: 1 minute.

Windows 10’s recent items folder is easy to find and provides a lot more value. You can access it with a simple Run command.

  1. Open the all recent files folder

    The fastest way to access the all recent files folder is pressing “Windows + R” to open the Run dialog and typing “recent”. You can then hit enter.

    Windows 10 - Run - recent

  2. View and modify the all recent files list

    The above step will open an Explorer window with all your recent files. You can edit the options like any other search, as well as delete the recent files you want.

    Windows 10 - List of recently opened files

  3. Compare to the regular Recent files list

    You can open regular recent files list to compare it to the one in Windows Explorer’s. You should see more file types and way more files in general.

    Windows 10 - list of recently opened files - difference to Quick Access

Clear or Disable All Recent Files in Windows 10

Time needed: 1 minute.

Now that you know how to access this hidden feature, you may be wondering how to clear the all recent files list. You should know that clearing items from Quick Access doesn’t remove them from here, so somebody can still snoop on your activity if you don’t take action. Luckily, that’s easily remedied by following these steps, and if you reverse them you can fix issues if the Windows 10 recent folders aren’t showing in quick access.

  1. Open the Options pane in File Explorer

    In the recent files list switch to “View” in File Explorer and click “Options”.

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - Folder options

  2. Clear your File Explorer history

    In the “General” options tab, press the “Clear” button towards the bottom, next to “Clear File Explorer history. Your recent activities and places should now be gone.

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - Folder options - Delete File Explorer History

  3. Disable the Recent Files List

    Alternatively, you can turn off both recent files lists to save yourself a lot of manual clearing at the expense of productivity. In the “General” options tab, untick “Show recently used files in Quick access”. Press “OK”.

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - Folder options - Disable File Explorer History

Clear the Recent Files List on Shutdown

Time needed: 3 minutes.

So far, we’ve shown how to view the all recent files list and how to disable it. However, what if you want the convivence of the list without shared users spying on your activities? Users on Windows 10 Pro or higher can set a group policy to automatically delete the history on shutdown.

  1. Open the Group Policy Editor

    Press “Windows + R” and type “gpedit.msc” to open the Group Policy Editor.

    Windows 10 - Run - gpedit

  2. Navigate to the Start Menu and Taskbar template

    In the Group Policy editor, use the left-hand folder structure to navigate to “User Configuration> Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar“. Double-click “Clear history of recently opened documents on exit”.

    Windows 10 - Local Group Policy Editor - Administrative Templates - Start Menu and Taskbar

  3. Enable the group policy

    Change the policy setting from ‘Disabled’ or ‘Not Configured’ to “Enabled”. Press “OK”.

    Windows 10 - Group Policy - Clear history of recently open documents on exit
    Your all recent files list will now be accessible for the duration of your login. After you shut down your PC they’ll disappear, keeping your Windows 10 recent folders and activities private.