Looking for a way to delete recent documents list on Windows? Don’t you hate how many things Windows keeps track of, such as all the recent documents you open in ANY program? Of course, most of the time I don’t care about this and I leave it on, but there are times when you prefer not to see the data, such as when you are on a shared computer or a public computer.
Clear Recent Documents Windows 7 & 8
If you want to disable recent documents and delete / clean up the most recent documents, it is actually a fairly simple process. The most recent document list was removed by default from the Start menu starting in Windows 7, but it still exists in the Jump List.
Clear Recent Documents Windows XP & Vista
On Windows 7 and 8, you will not see a list of recently used documents by default in the Start menu; however, it still exists. If you right click the Start Menu, select Properties, click the Start Menu tab and then click Customize, at the bottom you will see the Recent Items checkbox.
If this box is checked, you will see recent documents in the Start menu, as shown below:
In addition to the Start menu, if Recent Items is enabled, you will also see a list of recent documents by right-clicking the program in the taskbar. This is called a jump list, and it basically includes a custom menu for each program.
There are now two ways to get rid of items from the Jump List or Recent Documents in Windows 7 and later: either clear the Jump List, or prevent Windows from showing any recent documents altogether.
I already wrote a detailed post on how to clean up transitions in Windows 7, so read it first. However, this only temporarily clears the jump list. When you open other documents, the most recent documents appear in the Jump List again.
If you return to the Settings dialog where you enabled Recent Documents, you will see two options at the bottom for the size of the Start menu:
We are interested in the number of recent items displayed in the jump lists. Go ahead and set this value and Windows will no longer display the list of recently opened documents. When you right click on a program in the taskbar, the list will disappear.
However, this is a double fallacy. First, when I opened Word, all my recent documents were listed there! So, to really delete the recent documents list, you must clear it from the application itself.
For Word, open the program, click File and then Options. Click on “More” in the left menu and scroll down until you see the “Display” section.
Here you will see the option Show this number of recent documents. Go ahead and change this value to 0. Now the list will disappear from Word itself.
Secondly, setting 0 for the number of recent items displayed in jump lists is misleading because even if you no longer see the list when you right click, Windows still keeps history! For example, change the value from 0 to something else, such as 5. Now when you, for example, right-click Word, you will see that the list is back!
To prevent Windows from keeping history altogether, you need to right-click on Start, go to Properties again, and click on the Start Menu tab. Don’t click on “Configure” this time!
In the Privacy section, you will see a Save checkbox and display recently opened items in the Start menu and taskbar. Go ahead and uncheck this box, and now Windows will no longer keep the history of your recently opened documents for any program. As mentioned earlier, a standalone program can keep a list of recent documents that needs to be manually cleaned up.
I’m going to explain the method for clearing the recent documents list in Windows XP, but the same is true for Windows Vista. So here’s a step-by-step guide to delete my recent documents list: