Three Ways to Easily Access Your Most Recent Documents and Files in Windows 8.x

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Do you miss having the Start menu feature “Recent Items” that used to be present in Windows before Windows 8 removed the entire Start menu? A folder with shortcuts to recently opened files is still there in Windows 8.x but it isn’t obvious how to get to it. Here are three ways you can easily see your recent items the way you used to.

Use the Run box

  1. Open the Run box with the keyboard shortcut Winkey+R
  2. Enter “shell:recent” (without quotes or spaces)
  3. The folder listing all your recent items will open. 

The list can be quite long and may contain items that are not so recent. You may even want to delete some. See this previous tip for more discussion of managing this folder.

Note that the contents of the Recent Items folder is different from the contents of the File Explorer entry "Recent Places", which contains folders that have been visited rather than files. They often have quite different contents.

Make a desktop shortcut to the folder “Recent Items”

If you like to look at the contents of Recent Items on a frequent basis, you may want to create a shortcut on the desktop.

  1. Right-click the desktop
  2. In the context menu, choose “New”
  3. Select “Shortcut”
  4. In the box “Type the location of the item”, enter:
    %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\
  5. Click “Next"
  6. Name the shortcut “Recent items” or name of your choice
  7. Click “Finish”

You can also pin this shortcut to the taskbar or place in some other convenient location.

Add “Recent Items” to the Quick Access Menu

The Quick Access Menu (also called Power User’s Menu) is another possible place to add an entry for Recent Items. This is the menu opened by the keyboard shortcut Winkey+X or in Windows 8.1 by right-clicking the blue icon in the lower left corner of the desktop. A previous tip described how to use the free utility “Win+X Menu Editor” to add items. The original article was for Windows 8 but the utility also works for Windows 8.1. Use the path %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\

Contrary to some articles on the Internet, you cannot simply add shortcuts to the folder that is used by the Quick Access Menu. For security reasons, Windows will not allow additions unless the shortcuts contain certain code. The utility “Win+X Menu Editor” takes care of that.

And there you have it – three different ways for easy access to your recently opened files.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

No point trying to find awkward "workarounds" - just get Classic Shell and most Win 8/8.1 problems are fixed.

Classic Shell works for me. It fixes the greatest screwups MS's greed ever forced on Desktop user's.

MS "may" fix the Start button with the new 8.1 upgrade.

As soon as they came out with 8.0, I installed "Classic Shell" and "SkipMetroSuite".

No time to wait for MS

Very happy with results!!!

I attached a tiny script to the shortcut limiting to 20 last files accessed.

Vic, good article. Is there one for Win 7 ? Or is it already there and I don't know it. ...Thanks

@David Roper, in case the "Recent Items" is not enabled in Windows 7, you can do it in a few steps: 1. Right-click the Start button, select "Properties" 2. Under the Start Menu tab, click "Customize" 3. Scroll down the list, check "Recent Items", click OK then Apply.

Jojo, I know I'm not supposed to waste bandwidth to thank people, but without your post I would still be without it.

I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn't have it and I didn't know what to do.
I certainly didn't want to admit it on a technical blog. A man and all that...

NOW, I HAVE IT Thanks to you. You must have read my brain waves somehow.

I wonder why it isn't checked at the factory. i also wonder why MS wants to hide extensions as well. I have mine showing because in the old days of 8.3 it was important to know.

Windows 7 has "Recent Items" in the Start Menu. Also, the first two methods given for Windows 8 work for Windows 7.
Thanks for the tip Vic. Used the second procedure.