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Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to permanently disable .LNK files created by Windows 7 and Office

This is a good tip, especially for people who use an SSD as their OS drive.

The problem:
Let's say you have a machine with Windows 7 and Office 2007/2010, installed onto an SSD.
Both Windows and Office, by default, keep a history of your most recently used files (MRU in short).
You don't want Windows and/or Office to display any recent files you have opened, both for privacy reasons and to keep your SSD in top shape.

Every time you open a document, an .LNK file would be created for it right on the C:\ drive, which is the SSD. Even though these files are small (1KB), over time they cause a lot of writes to your SSD. So you want to prevent them from ever being created.

Most information on the web suggests that you should do the following:
1. Win7: Right click on the Taskbar -> Properties -> select the Start Menu tab
    Win8: Desktop -> Right click on the Taskbar -> Properties -> select the Jump Lists tab
2. UnCheck both items in the Privacy section, and click OK.

For Office 2007/2010, I've seen this suggestion:
1. Open Word/Excel -> Click on the Orb -> Word/Excel Options -> Advanced tab
2. In the Display section, change the "Show this number of recent documents" to 0.
3. Click OK.

These actions do clean-up the most recently used (MRU) file lists.
However, they don't actually prevent the shortcut .LNK files from being created!!

The registry solution (Windows 7 ONLY, doesn't work on Windows 8):
1. After you've performed the above suggestions, open the registry (regedit) with admin rights.
2. Go to: HKey_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer
3. Create a DWORD (32-bit) value called NoRecentDocsHistory with a value of 1.

The GPedit.msc solution (Win7 Pro & Ultimate):
Open GPedit.msc > User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar. On the right side, Double-click "Do not keep history of recently opened documents" and set it to ENABLED.
This basically changes/creates the same registry value as above, but the change is also reflected in the Group Policy setting.

The MRU lists in both Windows Explorer and Office applications will now be disabled.
No restart required.