There are plenty of reasons that someone would want to clear their web browser history. To better understand these reasons, we should probably start by establishing exactly what types of things are included in your web browser history.
What’s in My Web Browser History?
When you visit a website, you type the address into the bar at the top of your browser window. If you notice, when you start typing the address of a website you’ve already visited, it’ll autocomplete the rest of the address. The websites that you’ve already gone to are a big part of your browser history. You can access a full list of your browsing history in the ‘History’ menu of any browser. The history of files that you’ve downloaded is also stored in the ‘Downloads’ list.
Web addresses aren’t the only things that your browser stores for future autocomplete use—if you’ve entered personal data, such as your name, address, phone number, etc., into online forms, your browser may have stored it to auto fill in future forms. Additionally, your browser will save terms that you’ve searched so that they’re easily accessible the next time you search for them. Cookies are another bit of information that your browser may store—they store your preferences on certain websites, including login criteria such as usernames and passwords. Cookies are also used by third parties to track your actions online.
Your browser has something called a ‘cache,’ which is storage for temporary files, such as web pages and other media, which your browser downloaded while websites were loading in order to speed up the load time. Your browser will also download website files if you designate that you’d like to be able to access the site when you’re not connected to the internet. That’s saved in your browser as ‘Offline Website Data.’ Lastly, if you save preferences that are specific to particular sites, those are saved in your web history. Suppose there’s a site you visit often that uses especially small fonts—you can set your browser to zoom in on that site when you visit it.
While this is useful if you need to remember a site that you’ve been to in the past, this may not be information you want to keep stored if you share your computer with other people. All of this is done for your convenience, but it’s not necessary helpful all the time.
Check back with us for a step-by-step tutorial on how to delete your web browser history on the most popular browsers—Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox!