I recently got a MacBook Air and am getting used to the macOS interface... Liking it so far but still relearning how to do some basic stuff.

For example, right clicking on VLC, and all the porn I've been watching comes up! Don't want to risk that popping up if someone else is using my computer for a few moments.

I've tried setting the Number of recent items under system preferences to none, but vlc still remembers all my filthy video titles! What gives?

In windows I could clear my recent documents easily enough, or use a tool like ccleaner to clear system cache, browser histories, recent documents etc with one click.

Can you recommend something similar for Mac?

(I know the best solution for this is separate user accounts - but would like to be confident that I could pass my laptop quickly to someone at a moments notice without all my recent activity being two clicks away!

Thanks for any help.

  • 28
    Up vote because you're being honest about why you want the history to disappear!
    – Ian C.
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 17:19
  • 4
    Nevertheless the better way would be to enable the guest account and switch to the login screen whenever somebody wants to use your computer.
    – nohillside
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 17:35
  • +1 to Patrix who provided a quick, workable answer. Don't know why Patrix didn't put that as an answer. Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 18:10
  • I did acknowledge user accounts in the question however this is about quickly handing my laptop to someone, not for an extended period of time. Closing all my apps is overkill for this use case.
    – Mark
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 19:32
  • @Mark, if you switch users to Guest User, you don't need to close anything (except perhaps for performance reasons). To get back to your regular account, the user would need to have your password.
    – jhfrontz
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 16:06

12 Answers 12


It is generated by Spotlight

(see the second post on this link: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/1071627?tstart=0)

You can make it so that nothing shows up (aka deactivating it) by doing the following.

  • System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy > +

  • then select your Macintosh HD (or whatever your HD is called)

  • then click choose.

Now that should do it.

  • 5
    Alternatively, a less drastic approach is only to add the directory/directories that you do not want to show up in "Recents" or in Spotlight Searches
    – 8bitme
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 16:42
  • 2
    oh man, this is the correct way to close recent in Finder, I was looking for this for too long, thank you
    – http8086
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 2:51
  • This is the correct answer.
    – totten
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 2:32

There's always the Clear Menu items:

This would remove most of the property lists that store recent documents:

rm ~/Library/Preferences/*LSSharedFileList.plist

(Applications keep the old list of recent items until they're reopened though.)

  • I can not find that clear menu. Could you please tell me where it is? Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 8:19
  • Ok. Apple--> Recent--> Clear. But that does not remove files as asker wants. :-( Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 8:21
  • 2
    After I removed the *LSSharedFileList.plist file, I had to log out and then log in again to make the recent documents disappeared.
    – Rockallite
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 9:02

There is an easy fix to this...

1. Go to System Preferences
2. General
3. On Recent Items, Select None
  • This only gets rid of things under the Apple Logo > Recent Items list. It wouldn't, for example, clear your Safari history or the VLC recent items history. Those histories are maintained per-application.
    – Ian C.
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 3:25
  • 2
    Ian C, it does in fact clear VLC recent items history. You're correct that "recently opened files" has nothing to do with Safari history, but that wasn't the question.
    – redux
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 9:36
  • 1
    I feel like this option is the "hammer to kill a mosquito" route. You'll find that things like Numbers, etc. won't have any recent items if you do this. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 7:17

Open VLC, go to File->Open Recent-> Clear menu, this will clear the menu even when right clicking the dock icon.

  • Why does this answer only have two upvotes? It was really helpful. Thanks!
    – user179880
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 23:41

In addition to using the Clear Menu items in Finder and various applications, you can delete the global list of Recent Places that show in all open & save dialogs.

defaults delete NSGlobalDomain NSNavRecentPlaces

You do not need to be root for this. It deletes the NSNavRecentPlaces key from ~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist.


As per the article Clear and manage recent places in OS X on CNET, this command in terminal

defaults write -g NSNavRecentPlacesLimit -int 0

will eliminate this from your machine.

  • Need to restart computer?
    – János
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 7:05

From the command line...

defaults delete com.apple.Preview.LSSharedFileList RecentDocuments
defaults write com.apple.Preview NSRecentDocumentsLimit 0 
defaults write com.apple.Preview.LSSharedFileList RecentDocuments -dict-add MaxAmount 0 
killall Dock

Got it from here.

Actually works.

  • 4
    FYI, changing the defaults using these commands on 10.13 High Sierra completely borked my system. It took me 40 hours of troubleshooting to find the culprit. Every time the Finder or any application tried to load a window with the file system sidebar (Favorites, mounted volumes etc), the app would hang, beachball, or crash. The culprit is modifying LSSharedFileList defaults. For some reason, this was only an issue once I had logged into my iCloud account for that particular user. If you're on High Sierra, don't run these commands.
    – utt50
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:01

Ok, so none of the described methods actually succeeded in getting rid of all the 'recent document' lists in all of my apps.

I feel the most common sense approach would be (for OSX 10.12 / Sierra):

  1. First go to system settings > general and choose "none" in the recent file dropdown menu (my OSX is in another language so the exact terms might be different, but you should be able to see what I mean). / This will get rid of most, but not all recent-items in different apps.
  2. Get familiar with Apple's 'defaults' command in terminal. Now, hunt for any lists you might still want to get rid off, e.g. none of the options mentioned in the answers already listed here helped to get rid of the recent-items list in Finders "GO" menu. I played around with the defaults command and found that: "write com.apple.finder "FXRecentFolders" '({})' && killall Finder" does the trick for me. Playing around I found similar solutions for many of the other apps that where still able to maintain a list of recent items.
  3. Create a shell script containing the commands you found during step 2.
  4. Schedule the script to be run automatically on a preset interval or action (e.g. log out). AND/OR create an alias in your shell's profile (or directly apply the script as a function inside it) so you can call it with a single command from your terminal. (for instance: I have created an alias to it, so when I now type "killrecent" in terminal, it empties all the recent-items lists I've been able to find.

Hope this will be of some help to others. Good luck!


For VLC on MAC:

Preferences -> Show all -> Interfaces -> Main Interfaces -> macosx -> remove the option "list recent objects".

Maybe menu labels are not accurate, as my Mac is setup in Spanish, but I hope it helps.


If you want to blitz your entire recents history [or optionally your internet history] then Onyx, freeware [make sure you download the correct version for your OS] can do this & many other tasks. It's not 'dangerous' to use, ie it will not break anything, but it will comprehensively clean all recents.

The main file history is on the main screen -

enter image description here

and the browser data is in the Options button to the right

enter image description here


Big Sur or newer macOS system, these recent files list is in the current users Library like the following folder:

~/Library/Application\ Support/com.apple.sharedfilelist/com.apple.LSSharedFileList.ApplicationRecentDocuments/

inside it, there're *.slf2 files, filename starting with the application identification, i.e. VLC Player is "org.videolan.vlc", this file stores all the that application's recent files.

Delete the file and logut and log back in. it should be gone.

To clear VLC recent file list, remove the following file and log back in:

~/Library/Application\ Support/com.apple.sharedfilelist/com.apple.LSSharedFileList.ApplicationRecentDocuments/org.videolan.vlc.sfl2

This may apply to other version of macOS, but haven't tested yet.


If I can confirm that you don't want your wife (who has access to your profile and YES always will be able to just pass by as well as inspect your computer.) to be able to see that you have been loading files pron, divorce papers, off shore banking, p i videos of her I am using to launch a divorce.

If so, just admit APPLE REFUSES to allow you to shut off the recent folder in Finder so people like you will have easy access to what we have been doing when you want privacy.

Here is the answer: It cannot be done without severe damage to other file lists and is a critical failure on privacy on a computer you own. I feel Apple over reaches here to not protect you.

Sorry that it is the best answer... sometimes you cannot do something.

  • 2
    I’ve edited this to be more in alignment with the code of conduct that’s on Ask Different Meta. Snark is allowed, especially when we direct it at ourselves exclusively. Name calling and sexual innuendo don’t work well here and cause undesirable friction.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 23:56
  • The worse "answer" I ever read on stackexchange. Assumptions, gratuitous provocation, biased stereotyped judgements. Also, a really poor answer, useless and off-topic. 😒 Just to enlighten you about the real world there, out of your small box: I watch porn together with my wife, there is nothing to hide. But we have young kids that could momentary and unpredictably access the laptop; and we want to protect them, not us. – Signing up a new account just to write this is soo poor... Commented May 15, 2019 at 8:45

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