How to see recent activity on your Mac and clear it

There are many ways in which your Mac logs and displays your recent activity to make it easier to find things you’ve been working on. This is usually very useful. However, if you share your Mac with other users, work in a communal area, or just don’t anyone to see your Recents, you may want to clear that recent activity. In this article, we’ll show you how to do that.

Tip

There is an easy way to clear recent activity on your Mac, whether it’s Recent Items on your Mac or websites you’ve visited recently in any web browser. CleanMyMac X’s Privacy module can do all of that and protect your privacy in lots of other ways, such as revoking permissions for apps that have access to your webcam or microphone.

What is the Recents folder on your Mac?

As we said, there are several ways in which your Mac allows you to access things you’ve been working on quickly. One of those is the Recents folder that appears in the sidebar of Finder windows, and which, when your Mac is new, is the place where new Finder windows open.

That folder is what’s known as a Smart Folder. It doesn’t exist as a real folder with contents; it contains shortcuts to files according to the smart search parameters used to create the folder. In this case, those parameters are recently-opened files.

You can’t delete the Recents folder since it doesn’t exist. However, you can remove it from the Finder sidebar so that it’s much more difficult to access (Note that it will still be accessible from the Finder’s Go menu or by pressing Command-Shift-F).

How to turn off recents in Finder

  1. Open Finder from the Dock.
  2. From the Finder menu, choose Preferences.
  3. Select Sidebar in the tabs at the top of the window that opens.
  4. Uncheck the box next to Recents.
  5. Click the red button to close the Preferences window.

Now, the Recents tab will disappear from Finder.

How to clear Recent Items on your Mac

Recent Items may sound similar to the Recents folder, but it is completely different. It’s accessible from the Apple menu and tracks the most recently-opened applications and files, and the servers to which you have most recently connected.

Clearing the list of recent items is easy:

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select Recent Items.
  2. Move the pointer down to the bottom of the list and click Clear Menu.

That will remove all items from the menu. However, it won’t stop the list from filling in again as you use your Mac. You just have to remember to clear it when you’re finished.

How to delete recent searches in a web browser

Your browsing history also gives out your recent activity. So, it’s better to clear the history before someone else will take over your Mac.

Safari

  • Launch Safari and click the History menu.
  • Mouse down to Clear History and select it.

You can also clear history in Safari, by choosing Show History from the History menu and pressing the Clear History button. And you can remove individual items by right-clicking or Control-clicking them and selecting Delete.

Chrome

  • Launch Chrome and click the History menu.
  • Choose Show Full History.
  • Select Clear browsing data from the sidebar.
  • In the window that opens, select Browsing History and press Clear Data.

Alternatively, to remove individual pages, check the box next to the page in the History tab and press Delete.

Firefox

  • Launch Firefox and click the History menu.
  • To clear all pages from your History, choose Clear Recent History, or
  • To remove individual pages, select Show All History.
  • If you want to delete a page from your history, right-click or Control-click it and choose Delete Page. To remove all the pages associated with a particular site, choose Forget About this Site.

If you use a web browser other than those listed above, the process is very similar. Locate the history menu and look for an option to delete recent sites, or view all history and look for the option there.

You can also remove recent files from Apple apps like Text Edit and Pages.

  1. Click the File menu.
  2. Choose “Open recent.”
  3. Select Clear Menu.

Some-third party apps offer similar features, so if you want to clear recent files in an app, start with the File menu and look for an option to open recent files. There should also be an option to clear them.

How to clear recent files the easy way

CleanMyMac X’s Privacy module has several tools to help you prevent others from tracking your activity on your Mac. Here is how to use it.

  1. Download CleanMyMac X, install and launch the app.
  2. Choose the Privacy module and press Scan.
  3. Quit open browsers, if asked.
  4. Check the box next to the Recent Items Lists.
  5. To clear browser history, click each browser listed and check the box next to Browsing History.
  6. When you’re done, press Remove.

You will have noticed that the Privacy module also allows you to revoke application permissions to access your camera, microphone, or particular folders on your Mac. You can also clear the list of Wi-Fi networks you’ve connected to. This will prevent your Mac from automatically connecting to the unsecure open hotspots.

Clearing recent items isn’t as simple as it sounds. Those recent items are stored and logged in multiple places on your Mac, depending on what apps and browsers you use. However, by following the steps above, you can clear up most of your activity traces, preventing others who have access to your Mac from tracking your activity. If you use CleanMyMac X, it’s even easier, and you’ll have access to several other privacy tools.

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