No-History Browsing: Clear your browser History
How can I clear cookies?
Manually or using tools!
Doing it manually
There is no keystroke shortcut for cookies like there is for history. Unless you have installed a browser plugin such as "Cookie Culler" (Firefox) or the Developer's Tools (Firefox) it is a bit tedious to do.
Cookies are harder to find and are often the undoing of unsophisticated surfers who know enough to delete their browsing history, but aren't clever enough to know about nor find cookies and temporary internet files.
There are a number of cookie viewers available, which will also give some information about the meaning of the content. A good freeware program is Karen’s Cookie Viewer by the well-known programmer, Karen Kenworthy. Other software is listed in the sidebar. These programs can also be used to delete selected cookies.
Where are Cookies Kept?
Each type of Internet browser designates a particular place for storing cookies.
- Internet Explorer (IE) has a folder Cookies\ where cookies are kept as small individual text files. In Windows 98/Me, the IE cookies folder is a sub-folder of the Windows folder. Windows XP has different folders, one for each user, \Documents and Settings\[User name]\Cookies\. As part of a complex caching scheme, pointers to IE cookies are also kept in the folder Temporary Internet Files\. As if that weren't difficult enough, Windows Vista has now moved the cookies folder again - Microsoft LOVES moving things around just when users get used to them and are able to quickly find things.
- Windows Vista: To find most things in Vista, you start typing its name at the Start menu. When you type "cookies", it points you to C:\Users\username\cookies. Seems simple, right? WRONG! When you click it, you will see "Access Denied". The cookies are not really there after all. Micro$oft!
Open Windows Explorer, press F10 to see the menu, and choose Tools | Folder Options. Click the View tab. Find the option to Show hidden files and folders and check it. Find "Hide protected operating system files and uncheck it" (ignore the warnings). Now you can find the following:
C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies and C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies\Low.
Since AOL uses Internet Explorer underneath its proprietary interface, it employs the same method as IE and cookies are in the same place.
- Firefox, Netscape and Mozilla related browsers use a single text file, cookies.txt, with each cookie occupying one or more lines within this one file. The location of the file depends on your version and type of browser.
The easiest way to find where cookies are kept is to do a Find or Search either on the folder name "Cookies" or the file name "cookies.txt", depending on your browser then go and have a cup of coffee... by the time you get back, you will have found your cookies folder.
Now you see why a lot of people get tripped up by cookies!
Can I still see what sites have been viewed after cookies and the history have been deleted?
Yes, there are STILL two other ways to check, or more accurately ,two other places where your browsing history could be uncovered:
- Temporary Internet Files (Cache)
- Address Bar memory
People have deleted their browsing history only to be caught red handed with cookies or cached temp files. Use one of the browser plugins listed below to ensure that this does not happen to you - if you wish to browse privately.
Cached files are things like temporary internet files which your browser stores to make pages load faster. Such files will be header images and images that tend to appear with some sort of frequency. This saves your bandwidth and speeds your browsing experience by not sending requests to the server all the time to retrieve the same images. So, for example, when you visit a site such as Google or Yahoo, the logo image is retrieved over the internet only once. Subsequently, your computer simply plucks it out of its cache instead of sending the request to the remote server again and again.
How can this get you caught? Simple, if you are surfing forbidden sites, images and logos from those sites end up in your cache where they may be found quite easily.
You have probably already seen how the address bar in most browsers will display a dynamic drop down menu in anticipation of the address you may be typing. These items can reveal secrets. They are simple enough to remove, simply use your arrow keys to select the ones you wish to remove and hit the "DELETE" key. Done.
- Cookie Monster: Block all cookies with this add-on, view cookies for every site you visit and automatically see cookie permissions from different sites from a popup menu.
- Cookie Button 0.9: Install this button to get easier access to cookie permissions.
- CookieCuller: This app gives you the option to keep or delete cookies as you choose.
- CookieSafe 3.0.3: This popular app is downloaded to your status bar and lets you manage cookies by viewing cookies, deleting them, temporarily allowing them for different sites, and more.
History and Cache tools :
Addons to your browser which will manage your history, cookies and cache for you, such as the Firefox Anonymization toolbar - which is a does-it-all solution for browsing privacy.
- Anonymization Toolbar: Clear your online cache and history with this add on, which also lets you surf the Web with Firefox anonymously.
- Attention Recorder: This open source add-on lets users control their Web history and other "attention data" that can be stolen by hackers.
- Browse at Work: Visit personal profiles and other sites that may be considered taboo at the office with this add-on, which keeps your identity a secret.
- Clear Private Data: This addon builds upon Firefox's "Clear Private Data" feature as shown above, making it more effective and easier to access.
- Temporary Inbox: Set up a temporary e-mail address and inbox with this app, which can help you avoid spam, viruses and someone tracking you to risque sites.
- SafeHistory: Keep hackers from finding out your online history with SafeHistory.
- SafeCache: SafeCache is a similar app that checks cookie settings and "segments the cache on the basis of the originating document, defending against web privacy attacks."
- hideBad 2.0: This tool is great for surfing the Web at work and for general security purposes. hideBad "quickly closes tabs that you do not want others to see" and clears your online history.
- PhProxy - InBasic 3.0.3B: Only your server’s IP address will show up when you visit sites, not yours.
- Ghostfox: This app doesn’t work with MacOSX, but it can be handy tool for Windows users who want to keep their Firefox browser invisible from passers by.
- KeyScrambler Personal: Here’s a great tool that encrypts your keystrokes so that passwords and other private information can’t be tracked.
Points to remember:
If I clear my history, does it remove my cookies too?
This bears repeating. Many have been betrayed by their cookies after meticulously deleting all scandalous links from their history. Don't forget the cookies!
If I clear my cookies, does it clear my cache too?
Also bears repeating! Someone could snoop through your cache to see what you have viewed as well.
Last but not least, do not forget your address bar drop-down history.