How to See Recent Activity on a Computer

Check your computer for unauthorized access.
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Although Windows doesn’t have a built-in “Recent Activities” program, you can still determine if someone was using your computer in your absence without installing monitoring software. You can check your browser’s history, check the event logs in the Event Viewer utility and view the list of your recently modified files to see if your computer was recently accessed. All three methods not only show you what was being accessed, but the date the access took place.

1 Check Browser Activity

2 Launch your browser

Launch your browser -- such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox -- if it isn't already open.

3 Press the Ctrl-H keys

Press the "Ctrl-H" keys to open the browser's History tab or page.

4 Search

Search through the recent browser history using your browser's search options. For example, if you are using Google Chrome, scroll down the History page to view the recent activity. If you are using Firefox or Internet Explorer, click on a date to view the websites that were visited on that date.

5 See Recently Edited Files

6 Type Run on the Windows Start screen and then select Run

Type "Run" on the Windows Start screen, and then select "Run."

7 Press the OK button

Type "Recent" in the Open field, and then press the "OK" button.

8 Right click

Right-click in an empty area of the folder, and then select "Group By." Select "Date Modified" to group the items by the date they were accessed. The most recently accessed items appear at the top of the list.

9 Open the Event Viewer

10 Then select View Event Logs

Type "Event Viewer" on the Start screen, and then select "View Event Logs."

11 Double-click the Windows Logs option

Double-click the "Windows Logs" option in the window's left pane.

12 Select a Windows log

Select a Windows log -- such as "System" -- to view its list of events in the top middle pane. Scroll down the list to the date that you suspect that someone was using your computer, and then click an event on that date to view its details in the bottom middle pane.

  • You cannot see the browser history if the browser's private browsing feature is enabled, such as Google Chrome's Incognito Mode.
  • Information in this article applies to Windows 8.1, Mozilla Firefox 27, Internet Explorer 11 and Google Chrome 2.0.1700.107. Instructions may vary slightly or significantly with other versions.

An avid technology enthusiast, Steve Gregory has been writing professionally since 2002. With more than 10 years of experience as a network administrator, Gregory holds an Information Management certificate from the University of Maryland and is pursuing MCSE certification. His work has appeared in numerous online publications, including Chron and GlobalPost.