How to manually delete web browsing history and computer activities
When you browse the Internet you leave traces of the web sites you have visited. These traces include, not only the URLs (website addresses) where you have been (Internet History), but also entire image files, video files, and other media are stored in your browser’s cache (Internet Temporary Files), plus it stores a list of all the addresses you’ve typed into your browser’s address line (Typed URLs). To make matters worse, when you visit a shopping site or any site that may ask for personal information about you, these sites sometimes store small files on your computer called COOKIES. Cookies are typically used to store website customization information, user preferences, and even login information, making cookies a potentially risky file to leave hanging around on your computer, especially if you are using a public or shared machine!
Your computer also stores and logs what you do when not using the Internet. For instance, when you use your word processor or spreadsheet program your computer logs the files you’ve recently opened with these programs (Recently Opened Documents). Additionally, when you run any programs using the ‘RUN’ box under your START menu or if you enter any websites addresses or open any directory this way, they will also be stored (Start/Run History List). Another person can learn a lot about what you’ve been doing on your computer by examining your computer for these electronic footprints.
It is possible to cleanup these traces MANUALLY with a bit of time and effort on your part. Please be advised that none of these manual methods will SHRED or PERMANENTLY remove these traces from your computer. This is because, in order to make the deletion operation faster, your computer ONLY MARKS the START of the ‘deleted’ file as ‘deleted’. You may not SEE the file appear on your file list anymore, but the CONTENTS of the file are still there, hidden on your hard drive.
In order to PERMANENTLY delete these files you will need the help of a file shredding program. These programs SHRED the files before deleting them by overwriting the file with specially formulated patterns that make recovery impossible. Even though there are programs out there that will automatically delete internet browsing history, web traces, and computer activity history, you need to make sure the program you get also SHREDS this data so the information will permanently be erased. If the data is not shredded first before it is deleted any one with a file restoration program will be able to scan your hard drive and easily extract the files you thought were gone!
Ok, so let’s get started manually deleting web browsing and computer activity history (but please remember that these methods do NOT SHRED or PERMANENTLY ERASE this information!).
Manually Deleting Browsing History
Emptying Your Browser’s Cache (Temporary Internet Files):
What the heck is a cache in the first place? Your internet browser uses a ‘cache’ to speed up your web browsing. When you visit a URL (website address) it first checks the cache to see if you’ve been there before and it checks if any of the information has been downloaded before. For example, if the web site has lots of images the same image may appear on multiple pages. The image gets downloaded to your cache and when you visit the next page that same image does not need to be downloaded again, instead it is displayed from your cache.
So, how do you empty your cache? In Internet Explorer under Windows XP, go to Tools-> Delete Browsing History, then under ‘Temporary Internet Files’ click the ‘Delete files…’ button. This will delete all the files in your web browser’s internet cache. Alternatively, in Internet Explorer you can click Tools-> Internet Options and under Browsing History click the ‘Settings…’ button and then ‘View files’. Now you can delete the files as you see fit. Your Internet Browser Cache directory is typically located at C:\Documents and Settings\[Your Username]\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files, but it may be located anywhere. The location can be changed under ‘Settings’ as well.
Erasing Your Internet History List:
As you surf the Internet, your browser remembers every website and every URL that you have visited within the past few days. You can delete this list of URLs and web addresses in Internet Explorer by going to Tools->Delete Browsing History and then click the ‘Delete history…’ button. This will delete the entire list of websites you’ve visited.
Deleting Your Internet Cookies:
Cookies typically store user-specific information such as user names and passwords used to access web pages. They are also frequently used to store web page customization information. Although they provide you with the convenience of not having to re-enter your credentials every time you visit a web page, the private data they may store can represent a security risk. If you are using a publicly shared computer (i.e. at a library, a school lab, at the office) it is imperative that you remove these cookies before you finish your work on that machine or your login information may be compromised.
You may delete cookies in Internet Explorer by going to Tools->Delete Browsing History and then click the ‘Delete cookies…’ button.
Erasing Your Browser’s Typed URLs List:
Every time you manually type a website address in your browser’s address bar, your computer remembers the addresses you’ve typed. If you click the drop-down on your address bar you will see all the addresses you’ve previously typed. Deleting your browser’s typed URL list manually can only be done by editing your Windows Registry. This should be done by experienced, advanced computer users only and you should exercise great caution when messing with your registry!! Please do not edit or modify your registry if you don’t know what you are doing because you can potentially damage your system! You have been warned! Internet Explorer stores Typed URLs in the Registry Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\TypedURLs. You can delete these keys one by one or all at once if you prefer.
Manually Deleting Computer Activity History
Erasing Your Recently Opened Documents List:
This list tracks your recently opened documents, such as Word and Notepad documents, Excel spreadsheets, etc., and is accessible from the Start->My Recent Documents menu (or just Start ->Documents on Windows XP). To delete this list, in Windows XP, right-click the START button and select ‘Properties…’, then select the Start Menu tab and click the ‘Customize’ button. If you are using the Classic Start menu then click the ‘Clear’ button under the ‘Customize Classic Start Menu’ dialog, otherwise, you have a few more clicks to make if you are not using the classic start menu. In this case, after clicking ‘Customize’, you will have to select the ‘General’ tab, then click the ‘Clear List’ button under the ‘Programs’ section. From here you can also set the number of programs you want your computer to remember.
Erasing Your Start/Run History List:
The commands previously typed into the Start->Run… window are visible by expanding its drop-down control. If not deleted, this list can provide information about recently run programs, recently browsed folders, or even recently visited websites. Deleting this list manually can only be done by editing your Windows Registry. This should be done by experienced, advanced computer users only and you should exercise great caution when messing with your registry!! Please do not edit or modify your registry if you don’t know what you are doing because you can potentially damage your system! You have been warned! Windows stores your Start/Run History list in the Registry Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RunMRU. You can delete these keys one by one or all at once if you prefer.
Don’t want to go thru all this trouble?
Then just use AceErase Professional File Shredder and Internet History Eraser. It not only deletes all this at the click of a button, it also shreds the files before deleting them. AceErase makes internet history and computer activity clean up fast, convenient, and safe!
Also, AceErase is portable which means you can place it on a USB flash drive (and RUN it right from that same USB drive) so you can use it on any Windows PC where ever and when ever you may need it. Shred safely with AceErase!