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Cover your tracks: Tricks for you devious underhanders out there

Learn how to manually clear out most recently viewed movie files from the registry.

This tip was submitted to the tip exchange by member Tim Fenner. Please let other users know how useful it is by rating it below.

Have you ever wanted to download and watch movies? How about while you are at work or when you are not supposed to? You may have done so only to get caught after another user (admin) searched your movie program's recently used file lists to see the videos you watched, such as Windows Media Player. After watching a video, Media Player maintains a list under its file menu and in the registry, displaying the names of the files you recently reviewed.

Now, I am sure that there is some shareware or freeware out there that might be able to clear most of the recently used files lists on your PC. But I am going to show you a way to clear them all out manually without having installing software. This tip involves editing the registry, so I highly recommend updating your Emergency Repair Disks and backing up your registry before continuing.

The first step is to search the registry for the 'recently used file lists' of the programs you use. In this example, I will be using Windows Media Player 7 and Real Player 8 as my examples, but you can search for any program, any version using these techniques.


  1. Open the program of choice (example: Windows Media Player).


  2. Start playing a file in the program (file name: Matrix.mpeg).


  3. After playing, verify the file name exists at the bottom of the Windows Media Player File menu ('recently used list').


  4. Go to Start -> Run and type: regedit.


  5. In the Registry Editor, go to the Edit menu and choose Find.


  6. In the Find box, type the name of the file that you had played above (example: matrix.mpeg).


  7. Search the registry until you find it. Example file found in: [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Player\RecentFileList]


  8. This section of the registry holds all the information regarding Media Player's 'Recently Used File List' (see above). Open each of the key values (example: File1), by double clicking on it, and clear out the Value Data so it is blank, like so (in this example, you can disregard the default key, it has no data):


    Name Type Data
    Default REG_SZ (value not set)
    File0 REG_SZ c:\downloads\matrix.mpeg
    File1 REG_SZ c:\downloads\starwars.mpeg
    File2 REG_SZ c:\cool\wow.mpeg
    File3 REG_SZ d:\jurassicpark.mpeg
    File4 REG_SZ  
    File5 REG_SZ  
    File6 REG_SZ  
    File7 REG_SZ  
    File8 REG_SZ  


  9. After clearing out the values, you must export the blank entry to file. You do so by selecting the key or folder that the values are in, and choosing Export from the Registry menu. In this example, the key is: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Player\RecentFileList.


  10. Save the selected key to a directory of your choice, such as a folder on your hard drive. I will use c:regclean directory as my example. Name the exported file after the program (for ease of remembering only; any naming scheme will work). My example is: mediaplayer7.reg.


  11. Now perform steps 1-10 for the other programs you use. My next example is Real Player 8 whose registry branch locations are:


    Note: Unlike Windows Media Player and its single registry branch for the Recently Used Play list, Real Player has a separate branch for each file played, which makes it a little more time consuming when exporting to file, since each branch will be a separate file. My examples are:

  12. Again export the branches the same location as before and perform steps 1-10 for the rest of the apps you wish to clear.


  13. Afterward, open up Notepad. Start adding the file path and filename of every file you exported. In my examples, the notepad file would look like this:
    c:\rclean\mp.reg c:\rclean\Real1.reg c:\rclean\Real2.reg c:\rclean\Real3.reg c:\rclean\Real4.reg c:\rclean\Real5.reg c:\rclean\Real6.reg c:\rclean\Real7.reg c:\rclean\Real8.reg c:\rclean\Real9.reg
  14. Save the Notepad file as a .bat file instead of a .txt file using the File -> Save As option.


  15. After viewing your favorite movies, just double click on the .bat file you saved and it will start updating the registry with the blank keys you exported, thus removing all traces that you watched the movie. You will be prompted to update the registry on each branch -- just answer yes to the prompt.

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