How to Disable the Most Recently Used (MRU) List and Delete MRU Entries in Windows XP

Data privacy is becoming a big issue nowadays. Especially with shared computers, it becomes important to have some way of keeping private data secure and inaccessible. Because of this, many operating systems already offer built-in security measures that can create separate password protected accounts for different users, or even simply password protect specific files or folders. Most internet browsers also offer the option of clearing private data accumulated from browsing sessions, such as website history, cookies, and so on.

However, there is another, less obvious way of sneaking a peek at private information: MRU or most recently used lists. These lists are implemented by many programs, and keep track of which items have been most recently accessed on the computer. While this was intended to simply be a convenient feature to grant easy access to recently used items, they also represent a moderate vulnerability. That is, these MRU lists, if left filled, enable other users to possible look at the details of what one has been working on, what documents have been accessed recently, and so on.

For those who do not use these MRU lists and would like to disable them, the first step is to stop the creation of new entries on these lists. In Windows XP, this can be done by editing the registry. (A note of caution: editing the registry incorrectly may cause serious problems for the operating system. Be sure to double check each step of the process, and be extra careful whenever working with the registry.)

Click Start, then Run, and type “regedit”. After clicking OK, the Registry Editor will open. Look for the entry

“HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesComdlg32”. If this entry is not found, meaning that it does not yet exist, create it by clicking to the Policies key. Then go to the Edit menu, select New (then select Key), type in “comdlg32” and press Enter.

Once the “Comdlg32” key is created, go to the Edit menu and select New again. This time, select DWORD Value. In the entry box that pops up, type in “nofilemru” and click OK or press Enter. Finally, go to the Edit menu again, select Modify, type in 1, and press Enter. Then the registry editing is finished, and no more new MRU entries are going to be created.

For those entries that have already been created and are already on the MRU list, it is necessary to download MRU deletion utilities. There are several options available on the internet for download, of varying sizes and feature packages. Some of these utilities would also be able to detect and delete browsing histories, browser caches, and cookies, along with MRU items. Others are smaller and to the point, deleting only MRU entries for specific programs. Depending on one’s particular need, one should select the proper MRU deletion software. The use of these programs is typically described either in an online help file or within the program itself, while it is running.

Use of these MRU deletion programs, after disabling the MRU list in the registry, will ensure that no information would be available to others through MRU items.

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