The Search feature in Windows 11 lets you search anything, from apps, files (on the device and cloud), and settings to information on the web. However, there is a catch. It keeps a record of everything you searched including files, folders, apps, services, and settings as well as the queries you typed when you search on the web using Bing.
Windows collects and stores data about your searches both locally and on the cloud to enhance user experience and suggestions. You can find all your recent searches and accesses listed under the ‘Recent’ section of the Windows Search menu. So, anyone who has access to your computer can easily view what items have been recently accessed or searched on your device and easily access them.
If you wish to hide your recent searches from prying eyes, then clearing your search history is the best way to protect your privacy. In this article, we will explore different methods for clearing the search history, File Explorer search history, recommended history, and Windows activity history on Windows 11.
Clear Windows 11 Search History via Settings
When you click on the Search option on the taskbar or the search bar in the Start menu, you will see a list of your search history on the left side.
Clearing Search History from the Start Menu will remove unnecessary temporary files from the computer and prevent Windows from tracking your search activities in the future. Here’s how you quickly clear your search history on Windows 11:
Click the Start button and select ‘Settings’ from the Start menu. Alternatively, use the Windows + I keyboard shortcut.
Once the Settings app opens, move to the ‘Privacy & Security’ tab on the left pane and select the ‘Search Permissions’ tile on the right-side panel.
Under the Search permissions settings page, scroll down to the History section and click the ‘Clear device search history’ button.
Clear Search History from the Cloud
When you use your Windows search to search for something on the web, those data histories will be stored on your Microsoft cloud account. The data from searches will be used to show search suggestions and target ads. So clearing search history from your Microsoft account can protect your privacy and data. Here’s how you do this:
Open Windows Settings, go to the ‘Privacy & security’ section, and ‘Search permissions’ option on the right.
Scroll down to the History section and click the ‘Privacy dashboard’ link.
This will open the Microsoft account page in the Edge browser. Here, click the ‘SIGN IN WITH MICROSOFT’ button on the site.
Then, log in to your Microsoft account with your username and password.
This will take you to your Privacy Dashboard where you can manage your data and privacy settings for the products you use. Here, under the ‘Manage your activity data’ section, click on the ‘Search history’ option to expand it.
Now, you will see a list of recent web search history. Click the trash icon next to the corresponding query to remove the search queries you don’t want. To remove all search history of your Windows 11 PC, click the ‘Clear all search history’ setting link.
To view all of your search histories, click the ‘Show more’ option below.
In the Search history dialog window, delete individual search queries or click the ‘Clear all search history’ option to delete all search history.
When you finished clearing the search history, you can log out of your account and close the browser.
Disable Recent Search History on Windows 11
Clearing Search history will only make room for new search history. After completely clearing your search history, Windows search will automatically start to store information about your subsequent searches. If you are sharing your computer with someone else, you won’t able to clear history every time you sign off, so disabling the recent search history altogether would be the right choice. Here’s how you do this:
Open Windows Settings, select ‘Privacy & security’ on the left, and click on ‘Search permissions’ on the right.
On the Search permissions page, navigate to the ‘History’ section and turn off the toggle under it.
Thereafter, your Windows PC will not store any search history anymore. You will not see any search history on the Windows search menu only suggested apps and settings.
Disable Recent Search History on Windows 11 via Registry Editor
There is another way you can disable search history on Windows 11 which is using Registry Editor. Let us see how:
First, press Windows+R to launch the Run command box, type ‘regedit’ in it, and hit Enter to open the Registry Editor.
When the Registry Editor opens, navigate to the following location with the left navigation panel or copy-paste this path into the address bar:
Then, double-click the ‘IsDeviceSearchHistoryEnabled’ DWORD on the right-side pane.
If that DWORD doesn’t exist, right-click the SearchSettings key and select ‘New’ and ‘DWORD (32-bit) Value’. Next, rename the newly created REG_DWORD to ‘IsDeviceSearchHistoryEnabled’.
After that, change the value date to
0 and click ‘OK’.
Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer.
Clear File Explorer Search History on Windows 11
Clearing the search history from the Start menu doesn’t delete your search history in File Explorer as Windows keeps track of all your recently or frequently accessed files in File Explorer. The File explorer keeps track of your search terms and queries so that it can suggest when you need them in the future. File Explorer history can be easily accessed from the Quick Access, Jump list, and Recent files as well as the address bar.
This makes it easy to access the files and folders without navigating to their location. However, it also means that anyone who has access to your device will be able to access any of your private files. To clear File Explorer history, follow these steps:
Open File Explorer by clicking the Folder icon on the Taskbar or press Windows+E. In File Explorer window, click on the three horizontal dots at the top menu bar and select ‘Options’ from the drop-down menu.
When the Folder Options dialog box opens, click the ‘Clear’ button next to Clear File Explorer History to delete all your File Explorer history.
Clear File Explorer Search History in Windows 11 via Registry Editor
You can also clear your File Explorer Search History and File Explorer’s address bar history through Registry Editor. Here’s how you do this:
Search for Registry Editor in the Windows search and select the top result.
In the Registry Editor, navigate to the following location with the left sidebar:
To remove the File Explorer address bar history, delete the address bar history saved as url1, url2, etc. on the right-side panel. Select all the entries, right-click, and select ‘Delete’.
When prompted, click ‘Yes’ to confirm.
To remove all search history, go to the ‘WordWheelQuery’ folder under the same key ‘Explorer’ or use the below path:
On the right-side panel, select all the registry entries, right-click, and select ‘Delete’.
When prompted, click ‘Yes’ to confirm the action and restart your PC.
After the restart, all your search history from the File Explorer will be gone.
Clear Recent Files from AppData Folder
You can also clear recent files using the AppData folder.
To access the AppData folder, press Windows+R, type the following path in the field and press Enter:
Then, select all the apps, folders, and files and simply delete them. Press Shift+Delete to delete them permanently.
Disable File Explorer Search History in Windows 11
If you don’t want your computer to never save any search history and you wish to always perform your searches in a private and incognito mode, then disabling the File Explorer Search history altogether would be the right choice. There are two ways to go about it, using either Group Policy Editor or Registry Editor.
Disabling File Explorer Search History using Group Policy Editor
First, open Local Group Policy Editor. To do that, type
gpedit.msc in the Run command box (Window+R) and click ‘OK’.
Then, navigate to the following path in the left sidebar of the Local Group Policy Editor:
User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer
On the right side pane of the File Explorer folder, double-click on the ‘Turn off display of recent search entries in the File Explorer search box’ policy.
Then, select the ‘Enabled’ radio button and click ‘Apply’ and then ‘OK’.
Close the Local Group Policy Editor and restart your computer to apply the changes.
Disabling File Explorer Search History using Registry Editor
Another way to turn off File Explorer search history in Windows 11 is by using Registry Editor.
Launch the Registry Editor by running
regedit in the Run command box.
In the Registry Editor window, navigate to the below path using the left sidebar:
If the ‘Explorer’ sub-key doesn’t exist under the ‘Windows’ key, you need to create it. To do that, right-click the Windows key and select ‘New’, then ‘Key’. Rename the newly created key as ‘Explorer’.
Next, you need to edit the ‘DisableSearchBoxSuggestions’ registry value. It probably doesn’t exist under the Explorer key, so you need to create one.
After that, right-click on the ‘Explorer’ key and select ‘New’ then ‘DWORD (32-bit) Value’.
Now, rename the newly created DWORD as ‘DisableSearchBoxSuggestions’.
Then, double-click on the ‘DisableSearchBoxSuggestions’ entry and change its values to 1 and click ‘OK’.
Once you are done, close the registry editor and restart your computer to apply the changes.
Clear Activity History on Windows 11
Clearing your Windows search history and File Explorer search doesn’t completely protect your privacy and prevents Microsoft from collecting information about your computer activities. Microsoft gathers all kinds of information about your device’s activities to enhance the user experience. If you are not comfortable with Microsoft collecting and saving data about your every activity on a Windows device, then you need to clear your activity history both on your computer and the cloud.
Delete Your Windows Activity History on Windows 11
Your Windows 11 device keeps track of the apps you use, the files you access, and the sites you visit and stores them on your device as well as with your Microsoft account on the cloud. Follow these steps to clear your recent activity on Windows through Settings:
Right-click the Start menu button and select ‘Settings’ from the overflow menu or press the Windows + I to launch the Settings app.
In the Privacy & Security tab of Settings, scroll down and click on the ‘Activity history’ option.
On the next page, click on the ‘Clear history’ button to remove your activity history from all your account.
Then, click ‘Clear’ in the confirmation box.
Once it’s done, you cannot restore the cleared history.
If you wish to prevent Windows from saving your activity history for your account, uncheck the ‘Store my activity history on this device’ box under the Activity History privacy page.
If you wish to prevent Windows from sending your activity history to the cloud, disable the ‘Send my activity history on this device’ option under the Activity History privacy page.
Clear Location History in Windows 11
Apps provide you with personalized suggestions, and other services when you let them access your device location but it can also be counterproductive because these apps can use your location data to bother you with ads and other unnecessary services. If you wish to completely remove your Windows activities history, you should also delete your location history. Follow these steps to clear location history in Windows 11:
Open the Windows Settings app and navigate to the ‘Privacy & security’ tab on your left side panel. Then, click on the ‘Location’ option under the App permissions section.
Then, scroll down and click the ‘Clear’ button next to Location History.
You can also prevent all apps from using your location data if you want by scrolling up the same settings page and turning Off the toggle next to ‘Let apps access your location’.
Clear Activity History from Microsoft Account Privacy Dashboard
As we mentioned before, Microsoft also stores your activity history in the cloud with your Microsoft account. So make sure to clear all your history from your Microsoft account as well. Here’s how you do this:
Open Windows Settings, navigate to ‘Privacy & security’ on the left, and select ‘Activity history’ on the right.
On the Privacy resources tile, click on the ‘Privacy dashboard’ link.
Then, log in to your Microsoft account with your credentials.
Here you can clear data of location activity, browsing history, search history, app and service history, media activity, and app & service performance data. Click on any category to expand and clear its data. To clear activity history, expand ‘App and service activity’ and click on the ‘Clear all app and service history’ link.
In the prompt box, click ‘Clear’ again to delete the data.
Clear Recommended History from Windows 11 Start Menu
One of the biggest UI changes in Windows 11 from Windows 10 is the Start menu. It is split into two sections – ‘Pinned’ and ‘Recommended’. Pinned (top section) section displays app icons for pinned app tools. The Recommended section shows recently installed apps, frequently used apps, and recently used files for easy access but not everyone likes it because of privacy concerns.
If you are not a fan of the Recommended history, you can easily remove individual items from Recommendations or completely remove all recommendations. Here’s how you do this:
To remove individual items from the Recommended section of the Start menu, right-click the items that you don’t want to be suggested and select the ‘Remove from list’ option.
If you want to see the list of more recently used documents and other items, click the ‘More >’ button at the upper-right corner of the Recommended section.
Here, you will see the list of all the recently used files, newly added apps, and other items.
Similarly, right-click on the item you want to hide and select ‘Remove from list’.
To remove everything from the Recommended section of the Start menu, open the Start menu and click ‘Settings’ from the Pinned section.
Once the Settings app opens, go to the ‘Personalization’ tab on the left sidebar, and click on the ‘Start’ tile on the right-side panel.
On the next settings page, turn off the toggle for ‘Show recently opened items in Start, Jump List, and File Explorer’.
Now, the Start menu won’t show your recently opened files history under the Recommended section as shown below.
If you don’t want to see your history of recently installed apps and most frequently used apps list on the Start menu, then disable the ‘Show recently added apps’ and ‘Show most used apps’ options as well.
Remove Recommended section from Start Menu
If you wish to completely remove the Recommended section from the Start Menu, follow these steps:
Open the Run command box, type gpedit, and click ‘OK’ to open Local Group Policy Editor.
In the Group Policy Editor, navigate to the following location:
User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar
On the right-side panel, double-click on the ‘Remove Recommended section from Start Menu’ policy.
Then, select the ‘Enabled’ radio button and click ‘Apply’.
After that, restart your computer. Thereafter the Recommended section will no longer appear in the Start menu.
That’s it. Using the methods above, you can not only clear and disable the search history in Windows 11, but every other type of history about your searches or behaviors that Microsoft keeps a record of. Depending on your concerns, choose which you want to keep and which to get rid of.