Computers / Tips and Solutions

A Fresh Start: How to Clear Your Browsing History

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There are many reasons you may want to clear your browsing history, not all of which are X-rated (reminder: this is a family-friendly website). Maybe your browser keeps bringing up the URLs of old websites you no longer visit (sorry, MySpace). Or maybe your browser keeps auto-filling your old address instead of your current one into the shipping-address section. Sometimes, it’s good to start from scratch.

But before you decide to terminate your entire existence on your browser, you should know what info each option deletes. You can delete the websites you’ve visited, but keep your passwords. There are ways to do this. Some of it seems self-explanatory, but others can be vague (and downright delicious—cookies anyone?).

Browsing History

The browser keeps a record of the URLs of all the websites you’ve visited, along with the time and date of each visit. Yes, you heard that right. Every visit.

Download History

There is a list of all the files you’ve downloaded from websites. If you decide to clear this, it will only delete the list the browser has stored. The actual downloaded files will still be left on your computer. If you want to delete those as well, you’ll have to find where they’ve been saved and drag them to the Trash or Recycle Bin.

Passwords

The passwords you have saved for your websites are stored so you don’t have to re-enter them on your next visit.

Cookies

Websites save your info to keep you signed in, remember your site preferences, and more. They can also give you content related to your location.

Cache

The browser remembers sections, such as text and images, of the websites you’ve visited to help them load faster during your next visit.

Autofill Form Data

When you fill out forms and entries, the browser will save that info to make it easier for future forms. Information such as your name, phone number, email, and shipping address are stored.

Media Licenses

These are the licenses for Digital Rights Management (DRM) content.

Now that you know what each option stands for, we’ve listed how to clear your browsing history on four of the most common browsers. See below for details.

Google Chrome

  1. Open Chrome on your computer.
  2. At the top right, click the three vertical dots à History à History.
    Alternatively, you can just press the shortcut CTRL + H while in Chrome.
  3. At the top left, click Clear browsing data. A box will appear.
  4. Choose a time segment, such as past hour or past day. To delete everything, select the beginning of time.
  5. Select the types of information you want to remove.
  6. Click Clear data.

Mozilla Firefox

  1. Open Firefox on your computer.
  2. At the top right, click the three horizontal lines à History à Clear Recent History. A box will appear.
  3. Choose a time range to clear, the options are Last Hour, Last Two Hours, Last Four Hours, and Today. To delete everything, select Everything.
  4. Click on the arrow next to Details and select the types of information you want to remove.
  5. Click Clear Now.

Apple Safari

  1. Open Safari on your computer.
  2. At the top left, click Safari à History à Clear History and Website Data… A box will appear.
  3. Choose how far back you want your browsing history to clear.
  4. Click Clear History.

When you clear your history on Safari, it deletes the following:

  • History of webpages you visited
  • The back and forward list for open webpages
  • Top Sites that aren’t marked as permanent
  • Frequently visited site list
  • Recent searches
  • Icons for webpages
  • Snapshots saved open Web pages
  • List of items you downloaded (downloaded files are not removed)
  • Websites added for Quick Website Search
  • Websites that asked to use your location
  • Websites that asked to send you notifications
  • Websites with plug-in content you started by clicking a Safari Power Saver notice
  • Responses to requests to let websites use WebGL

Microsoft Edge

Open Edge on your computer.

  1. At the top right, click the Hub (three horizontal lines) à History à Clear all history.
  2. Choose the types of data you want to remove.
  3. Click Clear.

Private Browsing Mode

If you know in advance that the websites you or someone else is about to visit are not what you want saved by your browser, you can enable private browsing mode. Private browsing mode doesn’t store any information, and each browser has its own version. Google has Incognito, Firefox has Private Browsing with Tracking Protection, Apple has Private Browsing, and Edge has InPrivate.

A common misconception with the private browsing mode is that it keeps the user anonymous. This is not true. A private browsing window, such as Incognito, only doesn’t store your browsing history. It is not encrypted, which means your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the websites you visit, and law enforcement agencies can still see what you are doing. If you’re looking for encryption and anonymity while surfing the Web, you should get yourself a VPN.

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