Friday, April 17, 2015

How to clear the recent documents list in Windows XP

When you open a document, image, or other data file on a Windows computer, Windows makes a note of that file and adds it to a list of recently-opened documents, so that you can reopen it from the list later if you need it again.

This list of recent documents can be viewed in many Windows programs such as Word, Paint, or Excel, and you can also view it from your Start menu if you have that option enabled.  If you want to delete your list of recent documents on a Windows XP computer, either to protect your privacy or to free up a little disk space, you can do so by following the steps below.

First, right click on the Start button (in the lower left corner of the screen on most computers) and when the context menu appears, choose Properties.  There are two different types of Start menus in Windows XP: Start menu and Classic Start menu.  Whichever type you are currently using will be selected, and next to it will be a button labeled "Customize..."  Click on this button to open the Customize Start Menu or Customize Classic Start Menu window.

If you're using the regular Start menu (the first option) click on the Advanced tab.  At the bottom of the window will be a line that reads "List my most recently opened documents."  If that box is checked, then your recent documents can be viewed from the Start menu.  Whether the box is checked or not, however, click on the Clear List button to the right of that line to clear your recent documents cache.  Then click OK, and OK again, to exit out of the properties windows.

If you're using the Classic Start menu, there will be a button labeled Clear in the middle of the Customize Classic Start Menu window.  Click on this button to clear your list of recent documents, as well as the list of recent programs you've opened.  Then click OK to close this window, and OK again to close the properties window.

It may take a couple of seconds for Windows to clear out the recent documents list.  If you go in to delete your list of recent documents and the Clear or Clear List button is grayed out, then you have no recent documents stored in Windows.  (Either you haven't opened any documents or you've recently deleted the list.)

(Originally posted on, January 2012)

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