Stop OS X Lion from reopening previous files in applications

One of Mac OS X Lion’s new features is the ability to restore your applications to the state they were in before you closed them. The idea being that if you were to restart your computer, it will resume into the same state as before. Or re-opening a closed application will resume to the previously opened files. Microsoft Word would open with the documents you were editing last, the Preview app will open with the pictures your were viewing previously, etc… You can probably see how this feature may become more interfering than helpful.

For this feature to be helpful, you would have to close the files you are working on, before quitting the application. But who does that? Most users tend to just quit the application (Command + Q), but Lion will end up reopening those files on the app next launch. Argh!


Picture this, you’re opening a JPG to show your boss, and Preview decides to also open other images that you shouldn’t be viewing at work. Who thought this was a good idea? This functionality bothered me so much, I was regretting my upgrade to Lion.

But luckily there is an easy fix!

To disable this annoying behaviour there is just one checkbox to uncheck.

    1. Open System Preferences

    1. General (under Personal)

    1. Uncheck “Restore windows when quitting and re-opening apps

That’s it. Take a deep breath.

  • Gina

    Strangely enough this doesn’t seem to work on Office apps like Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

    • mike

      I have the exact same problem. All my Office apps are immune to this and I can’t seem to get this to stop within the Office projects either. Any suggestions?

  • Gina

    Strangely enough this doesn’t seem to work on Office apps like Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

    • mike

      I have the exact same problem. All my Office apps are immune to this and I can’t seem to get this to stop within the Office projects either. Any suggestions?

  • Chrishtar

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This has been driving me crazy for some time. Sometimes I wish they would leave good enough alone.

  • Chrishtar

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This has been driving me crazy for some time. Sometimes I wish they would leave good enough alone.

  • techTeacher

    Thank you so much! It makes a person look foolish to have that old stuff popping up, don’t you think?

  • techTeacher

    Thank you so much! It makes a person look foolish to have that old stuff popping up, don’t you think?

  • http://www.bizmerlin.com/ Amrinder Arora

    This is perhaps one of the most annoying features of OS X Lion.

  • http://www.standardwisdom.com/ Amrinder Arora

    This is perhaps one of the most annoying features of OS X Lion.

  • Oscarminx

    My Lion 10.8 does not have this “restore windows. . . ” in the general tab.

    • roman129

      In 10.8 Mountain Lion, the checkbox is called “Close windows when quitting an application”.
      It must be checked if you don’t want previous windows popping up.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2Q3G3OBUEOFEC2SIWQV5M4XWUU Allie

        Didn’t work for me. Today MS Word crashed, so I had to quit the process using Activity Monitor. When I restarted MS Word, not only did it open the documents I had open at the time of the crash but it opened a long series of documents that I had opened in the past (up to 3 weeks prior, it seems).

        I have the box checked.

  • Oscarminx

    My Lion 10.8 does not have this “restore windows. . . ” in the general tab.

    • roman129

      In 10.8 Mountain Lion, the checkbox is called “Close windows when quitting an application”.
      It must be checked if you don’t want previous windows popping up.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2Q3G3OBUEOFEC2SIWQV5M4XWUU Allie

        Didn’t work for me. Today MS Word crashed, so I had to quit the process using Activity Monitor. When I restarted MS Word, not only did it open the documents I had open at the time of the crash but it opened a long series of documents that I had opened in the past (up to 3 weeks prior, it seems).

        I have the box checked.

      • Prakash Raj Timilsina

        Sorry, It does not work for me…. Even after I checked this option. I am using 10.8.5. Do you think you can help?

  • guest

    Thank you! This is the most annoying thing, especially for confidentiality of clients. Imagine working with a client on a document and the minute you open up Word, eight other clients’ information pops up.. such a bad idea.

  • guest

    Thank you! This is the most annoying thing, especially for confidentiality of clients. Imagine working with a client on a document and the minute you open up Word, eight other clients’ information pops up.. such a bad idea.

  • Amy

    Oh my goodness that’s so much better!! Thank you!

  • Amy

    Oh my goodness that’s so much better!! Thank you!

  • Sarnjit

    great thank you. its definitely an annoying and a time consuming feature at times!

  • Sarnjit

    great thank you. its definitely an annoying and a time consuming feature at times!

  • Tori

    OMGOSH!!!!!!!!!! You are a life save

  • Tori

    OMGOSH!!!!!!!!!! You are a life save

  • Wolf Schlegel

    Thank you, a very enjoyable deep breath indeed.

  • Wolf Schlegel

    Thank you, a very enjoyable deep breath indeed.

  • Miriamglick842

    I did that, but all my documents keep coming up?

  • Miriamglick842

    I did that, but all my documents keep coming up?

  • noemail

    Thank you soooo much!!!

  • noemail

    Thank you soooo much!!!

  • M3power

    Thanks a million. it was really annoying

  • M3power

    Thanks a million. it was really annoying

  • Konrad

    Thanks, my sanity was in the balance there… then I thought – “one more Google search” and luckily stumbled across your advice. Thanks a lot.

  • Konrad

    Thanks, my sanity was in the balance there… then I thought – “one more Google search” and luckily stumbled across your advice. Thanks a lot.

  • Casey

    Did this feature change with 10.8.2? I can’t get Adobe fireworks to run because it won’t quit trying to re-open files(resulting in a crash.) This is a painful loop to be stuck in.

    Any suggestions?

    • Julie

      I am having the exact problem today. Did you get a solution you can share with me. We had a power failure and now it wants to open every fireworks document it seems then crashes.

      • TheMarketWatcher

        i had the same problem today and i this workaround solved the problem: For workaround:
        Option-click the Go menu
        Choose Library from the menu to open the folder in the Finder.
        Click on the folder Saved Application State
        Delete the file org.fireworks.script.savedState

  • Casey

    Did this feature change with 10.8.2? I can’t get Adobe fireworks to run because it won’t quit trying to re-open files(resulting in a crash.) This is a painful loop to be stuck in.

    Any suggestions?

    • Julie

      I am having the exact problem today. Did you get a solution you can share with me. We had a power failure and now it wants to open every fireworks document it seems then crashes.

      • TheMarketWatcher

        i had the same problem today and i this workaround solved the problem: For workaround:
        Option-click the Go menu
        Choose Library from the menu to open the folder in the Finder.
        Click on the folder Saved Application State
        Delete the file org.fireworks.script.savedState

  • anon

    Oh my gosh, THANK YOU! That was way too simple of a fix for how much frustration it has caused me over the past few months!!!

  • anon

    Oh my gosh, THANK YOU! That was way too simple of a fix for how much frustration it has caused me over the past few months!!!

  • Fjsfj

    thank youuuuu

  • Fjsfj

    thank youuuuu

  • ProfDante

    That was amazingly useful. I was about ready to smack my Mac for being so annoying with this.

  • ProfDante

    That was amazingly useful. I was about ready to smack my Mac for being so annoying with this.

  • http://www.goodbytes.be/ Joris

    This option doesn’t seem to be available on 10.8.2. Any idea on how to solve it there?

    • Michellepentaxk1000

      The above fix doesn’t exist in the new OSX.

      However, when selecting shutdown there is a box you can un-tick which states “reopen windows when logging back in”.

      You only have to do this once and problem solved.

      You can always re-tick it if the need arises at any time. Hope that helps.

      It was driving me crazy. Useful feature when desired. However, infuriating when you don’t how to switch the darned thing off!

  • http://www.goodbytes.be/ Joris

    This option doesn’t seem to be available on 10.8.2. Any idea on how to solve it there?

    • Michellepentaxk1000

      The above fix doesn’t exist in the new OSX.

      However, when selecting shutdown there is a box you can un-tick which states “reopen windows when logging back in”.

      You only have to do this once and problem solved.

      You can always re-tick it if the need arises at any time. Hope that helps.

      It was driving me crazy. Useful feature when desired. However, infuriating when you don’t how to switch the darned thing off!

  • Ameenijjar

    Thanks. Followed all steps accordingly. Even took the breath!

  • Ameenijjar

    Thanks. Followed all steps accordingly. Even took the breath!

  • Itsanangel77

    O..M…G…. This re-opening of recent files has been driving me ABSOLUTELY mad since upgrading and I knew there must be a simple fix, I didn’t realise it would be this simple – but I thank you SO much for posting this solution up – it’s a small first world problem and it ain’t gonna solve world hunger or war, but goddamn – it helps my sanity haha!!

  • Itsanangel77

    O..M…G…. This re-opening of recent files has been driving me ABSOLUTELY mad since upgrading and I knew there must be a simple fix, I didn’t realise it would be this simple – but I thank you SO much for posting this solution up – it’s a small first world problem and it ain’t gonna solve world hunger or war, but goddamn – it helps my sanity haha!!

  • JehrkE7

    Thank you thank you thank you! This has been a pain. On my iMac the option to check actually says “Close windows when quitting an application — When selected, open documents and windows will not be restored when you re-open an application.”

    Works all the same and is in the same location described above.

    Thanks again!

  • JehrkE7

    Thank you thank you thank you! This has been a pain. On my iMac the option to check actually says “Close windows when quitting an application — When selected, open documents and windows will not be restored when you re-open an application.”

    Works all the same and is in the same location described above.

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/garry.traynor1 Garry Traynor

    Yes!! Too simple! Why couldn’t I have found that myself? Thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/garry.traynor1 Garry Traynor

    Yes!! Too simple! Why couldn’t I have found that myself? Thanks

  • J

    Thanks! I have never once appreciated that feature. So glad to have it turned off.

  • J

    Thanks! I have never once appreciated that feature. So glad to have it turned off.

  • pjsmom

    THANK YOU!!! This has bugged me since I got my new MACBook! I just never took the time to figure out how to disable.

  • pjsmom

    THANK YOU!!! This has bugged me since I got my new MACBook! I just never took the time to figure out how to disable.

  • Tim

    Thank you! This has been driving me CRAZY since I upgraded to Lion, but never just stopped to figure out how to undue it.

  • Tim

    Thank you! This has been driving me CRAZY since I upgraded to Lion, but never just stopped to figure out how to undue it.

  • Helen

    Thank you! I actually thought computer was bugged. So annoying!

  • Helen

    Thank you! I actually thought computer was bugged. So annoying!

  • Carolee1945

    THANK YOU. This feature was driving me crazy!!! I searched all over Word to fix it and had no idea it was the Mac that was doing this!

  • Carolee1945

    THANK YOU. This feature was driving me crazy!!! I searched all over Word to fix it and had no idea it was the Mac that was doing this!

  • Carolee1945

    What I really appreciate is how fast I could find the answer to my question by googling it!! What a big help you are!!

  • Carolee1945

    What I really appreciate is how fast I could find the answer to my question by googling it!! What a big help you are!!

  • IllinoisMike

    Bravo! One of the most annoying things in my daily work. Especially when you are working with large graphic files that take long to open, only to close them.

  • IllinoisMike

    Bravo! One of the most annoying things in my daily work. Especially when you are working with large graphic files that take long to open, only to close them.

  • Whatevs

    Thanks a lot – this led to a few issues!

  • Whatevs

    Thanks a lot – this led to a few issues!

  • Cardsfan4life

    You have saved me from spending an annoying amount of time at the Genius bar :) Thanks!

  • Cardsfan4life

    You have saved me from spending an annoying amount of time at the Genius bar :) Thanks!

  • sheriffderek

    in “Mountain lion there is -> In System Preferences, under General, the setting is “Close windows when quitting application.” — but checking this does not work for me. Also unchecking the “Reopen windows when logging back in” in the shutdown dialog box does not work either. I close each window at the end of each day on purpose. This makes me sad.

  • sheriffderek

    in “Mountain lion there is -> In System Preferences, under General, the setting is “Close windows when quitting application.” — but checking this does not work for me. Also unchecking the “Reopen windows when logging back in” in the shutdown dialog box does not work either. I close each window at the end of each day on purpose. This makes me sad.

    • Mauricio

      All the same here… who was the idiot who created that?!!

  • Íris Ólafsdóttir

    Thank you so much!

  • Íris Ólafsdóttir

    Thank you so much!

  • Simmi

    Ahhhh. Wonderful. On 10.8.4 the button reads “Close windows when quitting an application”, but it works fine. Thanks a million for taking the time to put that here.

  • Simmi

    Ahhhh. Wonderful. On 10.8.4 the button reads “Close windows when quitting an application”, but it works fine. Thanks a million for taking the time to put that here.

  • Michael L. Casey

    Thanks! Another stupid feature. Thanks for helping me turn it off! Does anyone who really does daily work on a Mac beta test these “ideas”? Think of what they might have thought of with the time spend on “features” like this one. At least try it with a focus group, find out no one likes it and don’t implement it. I thought Apple does marketing?!?

  • Michael L. Casey

    Thanks! Another stupid feature. Thanks for helping me turn it off! Does anyone who really does daily work on a Mac beta test these “ideas”? Think of what they might have thought of with the time spend on “features” like this one. At least try it with a focus group, find out no one likes it and don’t implement it. I thought Apple does marketing?!?

  • Jeannie

    Brilliant tip – thanks so much. Great support website – i came on to try and format my external hard drive to work with windows and my mac – worked a treat so many thanks for that too!!

  • Jeannie

    Brilliant tip – thanks so much. Great support website – i came on to try and format my external hard drive to work with windows and my mac – worked a treat so many thanks for that too!!

  • Mauricio

    It was already unchecked here, and it keeps reopening my documents. AND I do close files before quitting the application. Really sad.

  • Mauricio
  • Miles

    Thanks a ton! How did you find it????

  • Paul Auger

    I did that and it is still happening. also when I open safari it always opens to the last page i am on I HATE this

  • Bostonian128

    “Alternatively, for those who want some resume functionality and don’t
    want to globally disable it, you can hold Shift when you launch an
    application to bypass resume and start that app fresh.”

    found here:
    http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/56684/is-there-a-way-to-stop-ms-word-from-automatically-opening-previously-opened-docu

    • Scott

      I appreciate your tip. A lot. It saved me from having to reinstall an old backup of my system. Previously could not close MS word without force quit. An offending corrupt document could not be removed without error while using word. The suggestion on this site did not fix my problem but yours has. Previously, deleting the file didn’t work. Saving the file as something else made the problem worse, and no other google search helped. I’ve had this problem for a number of months. Thanks again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aorap Alexey Orap

    Saved my day! Thanks

  • itteacher

    It is almost a Microsoft thing. Apple taking the view that people can’t think for themselves! Argh! Stop this now and go back to being a thoughtful, but not mothering company.

  • http://joseph.jozwik.me Joseph Jozwik

    The setting seems to be missing under General in El Capitan.

  • Alan Hippman

    I am amazed that people don’t like this option (which is after all, optional). If I have to close an application for one of the infuriatingly frequent microsoft updates (for example) I can simply close the application and when I reopen there are the files I am working on! Excellent!.

    Now here is my question – which is the reverse problem: I have the “reopen” box checked, so the files should reopen automatically, but they don’t. I have checked and unchecked the box repeatedly to try to get this to work, however the files don;t reopen automatically. What’s happening? What do I do to fix this?

    thanks

  • Ollie Morrison

    I accidentally opened all of my files (bloody nightmare) so i was forced to turn my laptop off. Now when I open a file, they all start opening again! I have OSX Yosemite. What do i do?? This is infuriating!