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I want to get rid of invalid recentf entries, that is buffers that no longer exist on disk, because I renamed or just plain deleted them ; I just did a M-x recentf-cleanup and apparently lost all my history :/ what would be a sure and safe way to clean this list up?

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    What's the value of the variable recentf-exclude and the value of recentf-keep? – NickD Jan 4 at 2:15
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recentf-cleanup shouldn't remove all your history. According to the documentation (C-h f recentf-cleanup RET):

recentf-cleanup is an interactive compiled Lisp function in ‘recentf.el’.

(recentf-cleanup)

Cleanup the recent list. That is, remove duplicates, non-kept, and excluded files.

One can also edit recentf list manually with the following bit of elisp :

(delete "/the/file/you/want/to/remove.example" recentf-list)

(I'm not an expert, it may introduce bugs or there's probably a cleaner/more appropriate way to do it, I don't know. But it appears to work on my emacs.)

Edit : There's also :

M-x recentf-edit-list RET

recentf-edit-list is an interactive compiled Lisp function in ` recentf.el'.

(recentf-edit-list)

Show a dialog to delete selected files from the recent list.

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