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How to Clear Recents Folder on Mac: A Comprehensive Guide

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Have you ever clicked Recents in the Finder and got overwhelmed by the long list of files? This list can include search queries, file shortcuts, logs of recently opened files or apps, and servers you recently connected to.

Clearing these files manually after each session can be time-consuming, but in this article, I’ll explain how to clear Recents Folder on Mac in a few simple steps. I’ll also share some methods to prevent listing your recently visited files and some benefits of clearing your recent files. So, let’s dive right in.

Before We Begin

When you don’t clear system data, cache files, or recent items on your Mac, they accumulate and slow your system. You must clear your Mac regularly to make it efficient, and MacKeeper can help you do that. Its Safe Cleanup feature can remove unnecessary files in just a few clicks. So, download and install MacKeeper and optimize your Mac. 

What Is the Recents Folder on macOS?

There is some confusion surrounding the nature of the Recents folder. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a physical folder stored on a disk but rather a “smart folder.” To put it simply, a smart folder is a saved search or query that may include specific parameters.

For instance, you can create a search to find all PDF files created last year and save it in the Finder. The next time you need to locate those files, you can access the smart folder and instantly retrieve the list.

Now, you might be wondering if it’s possible to delete or remove this query. Unfortunately, the answer is no, at least not through the Finder window. Although you can modify the raw query or click the minus icon and save the changes, they only impact the currently open window.

How to Clear Recents Folder on Mac

You can clear Recents Folder on Mac in several ways, and below, I’ve shared 4 straightforward methods to remove the recently visited or opened folders and items quickly.

1. Turn off Spotlight Indexing for Your Startup Disk

The quickest method to clear Recents folder on Mac involves using Spotlight Search, an app that continuously operates in the background to monitor file modifications. It generates an index of all files on the disk and keeps track of recently modified files.

To search for a particular file, simply press the Command ⌘ button with space bar to bring up Spotlight Search.

spotlight search on mac

In the search window, enter the name or a portion of the file name, and it will promptly display a list of files that match the search criteria. However, you can turn Spotlight indexing off to prevent it from gathering data. It also reduces CPU usage and serves well if your Mac is running slow.

To turn off Spotlight indexing for your startup disk on macOS, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the menu bar and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. In the System Settings window, click Siri & Spotlight.
click siri and spotlight in system settings
  1. Scroll down the right pane and click the Spotlight Privacy button.
click the spotlight privacy button
  1. Click the + button at the bottom left of the Privacy window.
click the plus button in privacy window
  1. A new window will appear, showing your file system. Select your startup disk (usually named Macintosh HD or similar) from the list, and click Choose.
select your drive and click choose
  1. Once you have added your startup disk to the Privacy list, Spotlight will stop indexing its contents.

Turning off Spotlight indexing for your startup disk will prevent Spotlight from searching for files on that disk. This can impact the speed and efficiency of file searches on your Mac. If you need to use Spotlight search frequently, keep indexing enabled.

2. Hide Files from Appearing in Recents Folder

Instead of excluding the entire disk, you can create a specific folder and exclude it to appear in the Recents folder.

Suppose you have private images you prefer not to appear in the Recents folder, while allowing other non-sensitive files to be displayed in the list.

To achieve this, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the menu bar and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. In the System Settings window, click Siri & Spotlight.
click siri and spotlight in system settings
  1. Scroll down the right pane and click the Spotlight Privacy button.
click the spotlight privacy button
  1. Click the + button at the bottom left of the Privacy window.
click the plus button in privacy window
  1. Navigate to the destination where your folder is present. Select the folder and click Choose.
select a folder to hide and click choose
  1. By placing files in this designated folder, they will remain hidden from Spotlight Search and the Recents folder in the Finder.

This method only removes the files you moved (not copied) to the special folder, and it does not clear the entire Recents folder.

3. Rename Files Using Terminal to Hide Them from Recents Folder

macOS uses a specific method to conceal system files on Mac—by adding a dot (.) at the beginning of the filename. Generally, files prefixed with a dot remain hidden within the Finder and the Recents folder.

However, the Finder interface on Mac doesn’t let you add a dot symbol at the start of a filename. But you can use the Terminal to do it.

To rename files using the Terminal and hide them from the Recents folder on macOS, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open the Terminal application. You can find it in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder, or you can use Spotlight Search (Command ⌘ + Space) to quickly find and open it.
launch terminal from utilities
  1. Navigate to the directory where the files you want to rename are located. Use the cd command followed by the path to the directory. For example, if your files are in the Documents folder, you can use the following command:
cd Documents/Excluded\ Files

Use a backslash before any spaces in your folder names.

  1. Once you’re in the desired directory, use the mv command to rename the files and add a dot to their names. The syntax for the mv command is as follows:
mv my\ hidden\ file.png .my\ hidden\ file.png

Replace my\ hidden\ file with the current name of the file you want to hide.

  1. Press Enter to execute the command. The file will be renamed accordingly.

By renaming the files, you effectively hide them from being easily recognizable in the Recents folder. However, this method does not prevent the files from being accessed through other means, and it primarily serves to obfuscate the filenames in the Recents list.

4. Move Your Files to an Encrypted Drive

The ultimate method to prevent files from appearing in the Recents folder is by moving them to an Encrypted Drive, where Spotlight search cannot index them and they will remain secure.

Here are the step-by-step instructions to move your files to an encrypted drive:

  1. Go to the Applications directory and locate the Utilities folder.
click applications in finder and open utilities
  1. Launch the Disk Utility application from the Utilities folder.
launch disk utility from utilities
  1. Once you have opened Disk Utility, click the File option in the menu bar. Click New Image and select Blank Image…
click file select new image and choose blank image
  1. Fill in all the necessary information for the new image and save it.
  2. Make sure to set the Image Format option to read/write disk images.
click save in disk utility

By following these steps, you can create an encrypted drive where files can be stored securely, preventing them from being indexed by Spotlight and subsequently appearing in the Recents folder.

When searching for ways to hide files from the Recents folder in Mac Finder, search results often consist of numerous blog posts that fail to address the actual issue. Following the advice in these posts can lead to unsuccessful attempts or, in the worst case, the accidental loss of important documents.

In my opinion, bloggers simply replicate these solutions without actually verifying their effectiveness. Consequently, none of the methods they propose prove successful.

Here is a compilation of solutions that fail to clear the Recents folder on your MacBook.

1. Clear Recent Items on Mac Using Apple Menu

Clearing recent items is an effective way to organize your files on Mac and keep it clutter-free. You can quickly remove any unwanted items from your recent list and keep your Mac running smoothly by following these steps:

  1. Click the Apple logo located in the top left corner of your screen.
  2. Select Recent Items and click Clear Menu.
select recent items and click clear menu
  1. This will clear all recent items from the list, and the menu should be empty.
empty recent items menu

While the menu in Recent Items will be cleared, it’s important to note that the Recents folder itself will still remain with its contents intact. It is because the Recents folder is not a conventional folder, it is a smart folder designed to display items that have been recently modified.

Unless the modified date of a file has been changed to a significantly older time, the item will continue to appear in the Recents folder’s list.

2. Clear Recents in Finder

Clearing Recent in Finder allows you to quickly and easily remove recently opened files, folders, and applications from the menu. It can be a convenient way to access recently opened items, but it can also be a privacy concern if you share your Mac with others or want to keep your recent activity private. 

Here’s how to clear Recents on Mac using Finder:

  1. Open Finder on your Mac.
click finder in your dock
  1. Click the Go menu in the top menu bar and select Recent Folders to see a list of your recently opened folders and files.
click go and select recent folders
  1. To clear the list, click Clear Menu at the bottom of the list.
click clear menu

Although the items within the Recent folders list in the Finder will be cleared, the Recents folder itself will remain unaffected and unchanged in the Finder.

3. Deleting Items from the Recents Folder

Deleting files from the Recents folder sends them straight to the Bin. But here’s the catch: it’s not just about hiding them from view. This action permanently deletes the file from your disk.

And if you go ahead and empty the Bin, brace yourself, because in most cases, that file will be gone for good. So, unless your aim is to bid farewell to that file forever, it’s absolutely crucial to steer clear of this method.

How to Clear Recent Browsing Data in Mac Browsers

If you use multiple browsers, you can quickly find and delete search history from each browser by following the steps explained below.

1. Clear Cookies and Cache in Safari

When you browse the internet, Safari stores data like cookies and cache to improve your browsing experience by remembering your preferences and speeding up page loading times. 

Clearing cookies and cache in Safari is an important Mac maintenance task to clear accumulated data. Here’s how to clear Safari cache and cookies:

  1. Open Safari, click Safari in the menu bar at the top of the screen and select Settings.
click safari and select settings 1
  1. Select the Privacy tab and tap the Manage Website Data button.
select the privacy tab and tap the manage website data button
  1. Click Remove All to clear all website cookies completely.
click remove all
  1. Alternatively, you can select individual websites and tap Remove.
select a website and click remove
  1. Tap the Remove Now button on the prompt.
confirm by clicking on remove now
  1. Click Done when you have deleted all cache files.

2. Clear Browsing Data in Chrome

Chrome accumulates a huge amount of browsing data, including browsing history, cookies, and cache, which can take up a significant amount of space on your device and potentially compromise your privacy.

By clearing browsing data, you can ensure your browser runs smoothly and your personal information remains secure. You can clear browsing data on Chrome by following these steps:

  1. Launch Chrome and click the three dots icon in the top-right corner, select History > History.
launch chrome and click chrome history clear browsing data
  1. Select the data you want to delete by checking the box next to each item.
select the data you want to delete and the timeline
  1. Click Delete to remove the selected browsing data.
click delete to remove the selected browsing data

This will remove browsing history on Google Chrome on Mac.

3. Clear History in Firefox

Clearing your browsing history in Firefox is straightforward, and you can choose which data you want to delete. Follow these steps to clear browsing history on Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox, click the three horizontal lines in the top-right corner, and select History > Clear recent history
select history clear recent history
  1. Choose Everything in the Time range to clear drop-down menu.
choose everything in the time range
  1. Check the boxes next to the options you want to clear and click Clear Now.
click clear now

This will erase all browsing history on Firefox.

How to Prevent Recents from Listing Recent Items on Your Mac

If you do not want to view your recent folders or other items on your Mac and in the Finder app, you can entirely get rid of them. This means you won’t see any recent files, folders, and other items in the Recents section. So, to completely disable Recents on your Mac, follow these steps:

1. Disable Recents on Mac

Disabling the Recents feature on Mac can protect your privacy by preventing recently opened files and folders from being displayed in Finder, applications, and other system settings. It can also declutter your system and make it more organized.

Here’s how to disable Recents on Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click Desktop & Dock in the left sidebar of System Settings. 
click desktop dock and scroll down
  1. Go to the Menu Bar section and select None next to Recent documents, applications and servers to disable Recents.
simply click none to clear the list entirely

2. Remove the Recents Folder from Finder

If you prefer not having your recent files visible for privacy reasons or to maintain a clean workspace, removing the Recents folder from your Finder can be useful.

Follow these steps to remove the Recents folder from your Finder on your Mac:

  1. Open the Finder app on your Mac and navigate to the Recents folder.
open the finder app on your mac and navigate to the recents tab
  1. Hold the Control ⌃ key and click the Recents folder.
macbook pro control key
  1. From the menu that appears, select Remove from Sidebar.
from the menu that appears select remove from sidebar

Now, you won’t see Recents in your Finder.

Top 5 Benefits of Clearing Recents on Your Mac

By making it a habit to clear your recent items regularly, you can enjoy a more streamlined and secure experience on your Mac. If you clear your recent items, it doesn’t just keep your Mac performing at its best, but you’ll also enjoy the following benefits:

  • 🔒 Improved privacy: Clearing your recent files can protect your privacy by preventing others from seeing what files you’ve been working on. It’s pretty helpful if you share your Mac with others or use a public computer.
  • 🛡️ Protect sensitive information: Removing your recent files list can protect sensitive information, such as passwords or financial data, from being accidentally shared or exposed.
  • 💾 Freeing up storage space: Over time, your recent files list can grow quite large, taking up valuable storage space on your Mac. Regularly clearing up can free up some space and ensure your Mac continues to run smoothly.
  • 🗃️ Reducing clutter: A long list of recent files can make finding the file you’re looking for difficult. By clearing this list, you can declutter your Mac and make locating the files you need easier.
  • 🤔 Avoiding confusion: If you frequently work on similar projects, having a long list of recent files can cause confusion and make it difficult to track which file is which. Clearing your recent files list can prevent this confusion and ensure you’re always working on the right file.

Wrap Up

Clearing recent items on Mac can protect your privacy and keep your system running smoothly. Here are some more tips to keep in mind for future use:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is it necessary to clear cache and cookies on Mac?

    Yes, it is necessary to clear cache and cookies on Mac, especially for your web browser. When you browse the internet, your browser stores temporary data to load pages faster and remember your login information. However, this can accumulate over time and slow down your browser’s performance.

  2. How often should you clear cache and cookies on Mac?

    The frequency of clearing cache and cookies on your Mac depends on your usage and privacy concerns. If you frequently browse the internet and visit many websites, clear your cache and cookies every few weeks or once a month. However, if you visit a limited number of sites and don’t have privacy concerns, you may not need to clear them as often.

  3. Can I recover an accidentally deleted item from Recents?

    No, you can not recover an accidentally deleted item from Recents on your Mac. However, if you remember its name, you can still recover that item using the search option. You can do this by navigating to the Finder or Applications folder and locating the file or application there.

  4. Why is it important to clear Recents on a Mac?

    Clearing recent items on a Mac is important for safeguarding your privacy and freeing up storage space. With this practice, you can prevent others from seeing what you’ve been working on and avoid cluttering your system with unnecessary files.

  5. Does clearing Recents on my Mac improve its performance?

    Clearing Recents on your Mac can improve its performance by freeing up storage space, especially if your Mac has limited storage capacity. It can also improve privacy by removing the list of recently accessed files and applications from your device.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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