How to Clear Recents in Mac Finder without Deleting

If you’re a frequent user of the Finder app on your Mac, you have probably seen and used the Recents folder or link included on the sidebar. It’s a handy feature that allows you to quickly get to files you are currently working on without the need to navigate to the folder.

After a while, the list of files in Recents can grow quite large making it less useful as you need to sort through all of them to find your file. Deleting the files is not the answer, that will permanently delete them, but we can modify the file search or query that creates Recents so it shows no results or at least more relevant results.

My name is Eric and I am a long-time computer user and enthusiast. Computers should make us more efficient and productive, so when a tool like Finder’s Recents becomes too cumbersome to use, we need to do something to fix it and I can show you how.

If you would like to see how to clear out most of the files that are appearing in your Recents, keep reading below. I will show you the best and easiest way to do this and you will even be able to configure it to suit your own preferences and needs. 

Don’t Move to Trash

This article describes how to clear or reduce the number of files in Recents without deleting them and there is a good reason for this. If you delete or move them to the trash, it doesn’t just get rid of them from Recents, it deletes them from their original location.

Unless you want to delete the files from their original location, do not move them to the Trash. This would be the same as moving them to the Trash from your original location. The files in Recents are not copies or links.

They are the actual files grouped together by a specific file search or query that displays its results under Recents. In the next section, we will use the fact that Recents is created by a query to clear or at least greatly reduce the number of files you see listed there.

Clear Recents by Query

As I mentioned above, the Recents folder or link that you see in the sidebar of Finder is really just a query or file search. Any file that you have modified will appear in the query, so after some time, it will accumulate quite a list of files.

There is no command or button that we can simply click to clear the list of files but, what we can do is modify the query or search criteria so that it shows a smaller list of files or no files at all, depending on how we modify the query and what files meet the parameters given in the query.

For example, I might modify the query to show only files that I have edited in the past day. If I have not edited any files in the past day, the results will be empty or show no files. If I have edited files in the past day they will show up there.

In the next section, I will show you how to modify the Recents query so that it clears most or maybe all of the files it is currently showing. 

Modify the Recents Query

For the example below I will set the query to show all files modified in the past 7 days. This should clear out the majority of files you see there but keep a list of files that you are currently working on. Feel free to adjust the number of days as you see fit for your needs.

Step 1: Open Finder

Open the Finder application. You can open it your preferred way. I like to click on the icon in the lower left corner of my screen.

Step 2: Select Recents

Select the Recents link on the sidebar on the left side of the screen.

Step 3: Show Search Criteria

Click on the little circle with three dots inside to open the drop-down menu. Then select Show Search Criteria.

Step 4: Click on Recents Again

In step 3, you will see the query screen and possibly a list of queries in the Finder window. Click on the Recents link again once you see this. You should again see the list of files in your Recents.

Step 5: Display and Add to the Query

Click on the plus sign just to the right of the save button in the upper right corner of the finder window.

This will display the current query that produces the Recents results. It basically tells it to display any file that you have modified. It has also added a new line to the query as you can see below.

Step 6: Modify the Query

On the new line of the query, you can add the number of days you wish to go back. Enter the number 7 right after the field that says within last and before the field that says days.

As you can see, it has greatly reduced the number of files shown in Recents. You can enter any number of days that you wish to make the query show the recent files that are relevant to you. If you enter 0 it will show only files you have modified today.

Step 7: Hide the Query

Once you have the parameter set how you want, you can hide the query so that you don’t have to always see it and so you don’t accidentally modify it. Just click on the circle with 3 dots in it and select Hide Search Criteria.

How to Remove Your Addition to the Query

If you decide that you longer want the addition to the query that you have added, you can easily remove it. Just click on the minus symbol to the right of the query line that you added.

You can remove any query line that has been added but be careful not to remove the top two lines. These are the default query statements for Recents and you should not remove them.

Other Query Modifications

The number of days can really narrow down the number of files you see in Recents, but if you would like to narrow the list even further you can make other query modifications so that Recents shows only specific files. For example, you can change the query so that it only shows certain file types.

You can add more queries by clicking on the plus button on the last query. 

There you can create new query parameters to look for files of certain types, sizes, and much more.

For the most part, you will want to keep the Recents query pretty simple, so that it can serve its purpose of showing you the most recently edited or modified files, but the capability to make other modifications is there, just make sure you use it wisely.

Clearing Recent Folders in Finder

Another feature that Finder has is that it keeps a list of recent folders that you have visited under the Go > Recent Folders

This list can also get quite long and become cluttered but this one is easy to clear. All you need to do to clear it is to click on the Clear Menu selection at the bottom of the folder list and it will be cleared.


Below are a few questions that are often asked when trying to find out how to clear the Recents in Mac Finder.

Are there other ways to clear Recents?

There may be other ways to clear recents and if you do a search you will find many articles showing methods that delete files, modify spotlight searches, and various other things that really do not work or are very hard to implement. As far as I can see the method I have described above is the only real way to do this without deleting the files.

What if I delete or mess up the default Recents Query?

When modifying the Recents query, there is always a chance you will mess up or delete the default query that you started with. If this happens, it’s not really a problem. All you need to do is reboot your Mac and the Recents query will be reset to its original state.

Why did my modified query get reset back to the original Recents Query?

Unfortunately, when you modify the Recents query in Finder, it is not permanent. If you reboot your Mac, the query will revert back to its default. Most likely you have restarted your Mac since you created your modified query and it has been reset back to the default.


Your Recents in Mac Finder can get so cluttered with so many files that it can often become useless. By modifying the query that creates the list of Recent files, you can narrow down or clear the list so that it contains far fewer files and is much more useful.

I hope the information above has helped you to clear or reduce the number of files in your Recents and make it more useful for you. As usual, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you.

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