WWW FAQs: How do I erase my browsing history?

2005-08-22: the process is straightforward and effective for most browsers... with the unfortunate exception of Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows. Erasing your browsing history via the options provided by that program unfortunately does not do a thorough job.

Firefox (The Best Internet Privacy Solution)

If you can, follow these recommendations to maximize your online privacy:

1. Use Firefox as your browser, not Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer leaves a trail of evidence in multiple places on the hard drive.

2. Uninstall any third-party "toolbars" and "extensions" like the Yahoo search bar. These all keep their own histories and this advice can't possibly cover how to clear all of them.

3. When you are ready to clear your history, go away from the site you want to be certain is forgotten.

4. Select the "Tools" menu, then "Options," then "Privacy." Click "Clear All" to remove evidence of your browsing.

There is no perfect solution -- professionals could still retrieve something -- but these steps provide very good privacy.

You can obtain the Firefox browser here. The quickest way to improve your online privacy is to install Firefox now and leave Internet Explorer behind you.

Internet Explorer for Windows

In Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows, it is currently impossible to completely erase all traces of your browsing history without additional software. I have written a free program which correctly erases your Internet Explorer browsing history, which I recommend you try first, since it is free and effective for most users. If the program does not work for you, contact us with a detailed problem report.

The following steps will allow you to manually remove some of your browsing history information, but there will still be many traces of your browsing history which professionals could quickly locate.

In Internet Explorer, follow these steps to erase your browsing history from the "history" window.

1. Make the following sequence of menu choices:

Tools -> Options -> Internet Options -> General

2. Click "Delete Files," then "OK."

3. Click "Delete Cookies," then "OK."

4. Click "Clear History," then "Yes."

Internet Explorer may also remember your form entries for you, which can result in past searches appearing in a drop-down box when typing in search keywords on your favorite search engine or similar. To erase this information, follow this sequence of menu choices:

Tools -> Internet Options -> Content -> AutoComplete -> Clear Forms

You can also clear the "Forms" checkbox to prevent the program from trying to recall your form selections for you in the future.

America Online

The America Online browser is based on Microsoft Internet Explorer. In addition to the information above, here are specific steps to clear your AOL browsing history:

1. Select "settings" from the set of buttons at the top of the AOL window.

2. Select "preferences."

3. Select "toolbar and sounds."

4. Select "clear history trail now."

For additional information, consult "How To Clear Your AOL Computer History & Cookies" at thepcyoubuy.com.

Other Browsers

Other browsers offer similar functions; investigate their menus thoroughly. These techniques prevent other users of the machine from accidentally or casually discovering your browsing habits. Professionals could still find traces, by examining deleted but not yet reused files on your hard disk, for example.

Legal Note: yes, you may use sample HTML, Javascript, PHP and other code presented above in your own projects. You may not reproduce large portions of the text of the article without our express permission.

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