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How to Clean Up and Tame Quick Access in Windows 10

Like Windows 7 with Vista, Windows 10 was an effort on Microsoft’s behalf exists to improve on the mistakes and criticisms that came with Windows 8, complete with small, biannual updates and mandatory security patches to keep computers safe during everyday use. It isn’t a stretch to say Windows 10 is the best operating system Microsoft has ever shipped, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Like any other operating system, Windows 10 has its fair share of problems and complaints, and some longtime Windows users may take umbrage with certain changes made when shipping the newest updates.

One of the revamped features in Windows 10 is the “Quick Access” view in File Explorer. Quick Access replaced the “Favorites” view from Windows 8.1 and aims to blend user-defined favorite locations—i.e., Desktop, Downloads, and Documents—with an automatically generated list of frequently and most recently accessed files and folders.

Some users may find Quick Access in Windows 10 to be helpful, as it has the potential to keep a user’s most important information easily accessible from a single location, but those who prefer to manually manage their data will likely find Quick Access more annoying than useful. While Quick Access can’t be disabled completely in Windows 10, it can be tamed to the point where it operates similarly to the File Explorer Favorites from Windows 8.1. Here’s how to clean up and restrict Quick Access in Windows 10.The Windows 10 Quick Access settings are found in File Explorer’s Folder Options interface. To get there, open a File Explorer window and navigate to the View tab at the top. Once on the View tab, find and click on the Options button, which by default is located on the far right side of the File Explorer toolbar. This will launch the Folder Options window.

In the Folder Options window, make sure you’re on the General tab and then locate the “Privacy” section at the bottom of the window. These options control how Quick Access populates and displays your data.

If Quick Access has cluttered its interface with files and folders that you think aren’t relevant or useful, the first step you may wish to take is clear everything from Quick Access and basically start over. You can do this by clicking the Clear button, and you’ll instantly see all of your data disappear from the Quick Access interface in File Explorer.

If you prefer to be more surgical in your approach to taming Quick Access, you can always manually remove any file or folder by right-clicking on it and selecting Remove from Quick Access.

If Quick Access has taken the liberty of pinning a file or folder for you and you wish to remove it, the process is similar, except this time you’ll right-click on the item and select Unpin from Quick Access.

These steps will help you clear the files and folders that Quick Access has gathered thus far, but if you stop now, then Quick Access will simply start collecting recently and frequently accessed data all over again. To stop this process and prevent Quick Access from automatically populating itself with your data, you’ll need to also uncheck one or both of the check boxes in the Privacy section of File Explorer’s Folder Options.

The two options — Show recently used files in Quick Access and Show frequently used folders in Quick Access — behave as their names indicate, and will prevent Quick Access from further populating its interface with new files or folders going forward. If you wish to completely limit Quick Access, check both boxes. If, however, you like the idea of having Windows automatically track your most frequently used folders but not your recent files — or vice versa — then check only one of the boxes as appropriate.

Going further, you can avoid Quick Access entirely by changing the default view when you open a new File Explorer window. We’ve discussed this tip [1] in the past but, briefly, simply change the “Open File Explorer to:” option at the top of the Folder Options window from Quick Access to This PC. Once you’ve made your choice on how Quick Access operates, click Apply and then OK to save your changes and close the window.
Just because you’ve tamed Quick Access in Windows 10 doesn’t mean that it’s completely useless. You can still manually pin your favorite folder locations to the Quick Access sidebar for easy access.

To do so, simply right-click on any file or folder in File Explorer and select Pin to Quick Access. The folder will be immediately added to the Quick Access section of the File Explorer sidebar, where you can arrange it among your other manually pinned Quick Access locations by dragging and dropping them into the desired order.

A final note: for those new to Windows, it’s important to point out that manipulating files and folders in Quick Access does not change or alter the original files or folders in any way. Quick Access (along with Favorites [2] and Libraries [3] in previous versions of Windows) acts only as a pointer to the original files on your PC, and removing a file or folder from Quick Access doesn’t remove or delete the original.