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I need a way to play the common video formats without remembering the file names of files I have viewed in a recent files list, so that no one can know what has been watched.

This is for privacy reasons. Ideally I'd want something that never writes an MRU, rather than clearing it after use, or better yet, leaves no footprint on the system I have run it on at all.

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Shopping/product recommendations are off-topic here. Almost any decent program will allow you to clear its Recent File List (MRU). Ask "him" to try a few and decide. BTW, Windows also stores things like this, so a tech savvy user can always figure out what's been watched unless all traces are cleared from the registry as well (for which there is an entire industry dedicated to selling you cleaners/privacy utils). –  Karan Nov 28 '12 at 0:07
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@karan - point taken about recommendations (guess that got me the downvote, huh?). I am new here & in future I will not. However, I don't want something that allows me to clear the MRU if I remember to, but something that never creates one. As to the registry - my friend's wife is not tech savvy - but much better if the program doesn't write there either. As to cleaners, I don't want something after the fact, just a program than never creates tracks in the first place. Can you help? Thanx again –  Sam Fox Nov 28 '12 at 0:21
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"guess that got me the downvote, huh?" - (Shrug) Not from me. –  Karan Nov 28 '12 at 0:26
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SE -- helping people take their porn paranoia to whole new levels... :) –  TC1 Nov 28 '12 at 8:50
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closed as off topic by Xavierjazz, Breakthrough, 8088, TFM, ChrisF Nov 28 '12 at 12:22

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6 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You could just use a portable movie player, like vlc portable or others, which are specifically designed not to leave tracks. Have it in a USB key or a truecrypt encrypted folder for extra deniability - considering this is content you don't want found, keeping the media on the same drive of folder may be a great idea too.

You'd also likely want to avoid using explorer to open files to avoid them being added to windows recent file list. Open it from the file open menu inside the software you're using

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Even when using Open command from the program, Windows will usually add the file to its Recent files (Open dialogs use Explorer to browse files). To avoid it, drag-and-drop video file on the player window. (Even WMP did not add video file to the system recent items list in this case, although the file became visible in its Jump list.) –  Alexey Ivanov Nov 28 '12 at 7:51
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You can use VLC together with Sandboxie.

Just empty the Sandbox after each viewing.

Also: http://forum.videolan.org/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=84330

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Sounds good, @luizangelo. I tried to upvate you answer but I can't until I have 15 reputation. Maybe if you upvote my question, I can upvote you. In the meantime, I am off to google Sandboxie. Thanks –  Sam Fox Nov 28 '12 at 0:12
    
@SamFox: I was almost off looking for something since you stated that you don't want to clean up after the fact. But here you are, happy with a suggestion to clear the sandbox every time. So, does this fulfil your requirement? –  Karan Nov 28 '12 at 0:28
    
@Karan: The main difference is that other people will only see the File History if they also run VLC Sandboxed. But I get that. Dunno how acessible is to clean the list of files on Media Players, but it's really simple (right click on icon) to clean a Sandbox. –  Luiz Angelo Nov 28 '12 at 0:34
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All right, after some searching and testing I believe KMPlayer (Wikipedia article) should do what he's looking for. It's self-contained just like VLC and so can play almost all formats without requiring any codec packs, and can be configured not to keep any history of opened files, subtitles and the like:

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As for Windows itself, I don't know of any media player that that prevent those MRU entries in the registry, so he will have to use something like CCleaner after playback if he's that paranoid.

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If you use VLC media player, there are two options.

First, you can go to Tools -> Preferences (Ctrl + P), and on the first tab (Interface, should be selected by default), you can uncheck "Save recently played items" - which will obviously cause no history to be saved until the option is enabled again.

Second, you can launch videos using the --no-qt-recentplay flag (so you call vlc --no-qt-recentplay myfile.avi, see the documentation for details) to disable saving the played items in the menu. This can be used with a script, or or add it to the Windows right-click menu.

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The answer to this question really comes down to just how paranoid you want to be. EVERYTHING you do on a machine has the possibility of being logged somewhere.

For example, even when a program has a setting to not save the name of a video file in a "played list", it might still log an error somewhere with the video name if something goes wrong while playing the video. It really comes down to how much you can trust the programmer that designed the program, and if that programmer had privacy in mind while working on it.

The only way you're guaranteed no footprint is to use a linux livedisk on a cd, or booted from ISO on a USB drive. This method is guaranteed not to leave a trace because it loads the entire operating system in memory (ram). The hard disk is never used to read or write data. Obviously this method has downsides:

  1. Limited Memory (can't store data that exceeds the amount of ram on the computer)
  2. No Saved Data (can't save data past reboots, unless you explicitly write to the hard disk)
  3. Computer runs slower due to limited memory.

The easiest setup would be to download a burn a linux distribution to a cd, getting ISOs loaded into ram correctly takes much more effort to configure correctly.

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I haven’t tried this (and I’m not about to), but what if you picked a video player that you like, found out where in the registry it saves its history, and set the permissions on that registry key to deny yourself write access?  Or do you require that videos “your friend’s wife” plays must show up in history?

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