Frequently Asked Questions > Online Safety

How to delete browser history in major browsers

Web browsers keep track of your past activity for a reason.  This history helps you retrace your steps, bring back pages you want to refer to again, and reach your favorite sites more quickly.  All of this can come in handy at times, but your internet history contains all of your past browsing sessions (the list of sites and pages that you have visited in the past), some of which you may not wish others who use the same computer or device to find.  Today's web browsers, however, make it very simple to erase your history and get rid of your online tracks.

Browsers also track your download history, which is a list of files you've downloaded. Don't confuse this history with the actual downloaded files themselves, which you have stored somewhere on your computer's disk. It's simply a list of references to them, which helps when you've previously downloaded a file and now can't find it, or if you want to download the same file again.

Next, there are cookies, little pieces of code that sites store on your system. Cookies help websites recognize who you are, but there are many different forms. For example, if you go to a weather website and it immediately shows you the cities whose weather conditions you've previously searched, that's a cookie in action. If you come back to a previously visited shopping site and it still has the same items in your shopping cart, again, that's cookies at work. These files don't harm your computer, but some users don't prefer to be tracked this way and prefer to delete them regularly.

Browsers also keep a "cache," containing local copies of graphics and other elements that your browser uses to load pages more quickly. When you return to a site you've just visited, for example, the browser may pull site images from the cache intead of pulling them from the web again. In this way, the amount of data downloaded is reduced,  and the whole page-loading process is sped up. 

When you decide to erase your internet history, most browsers will list all these types of data separately. If you decide to clear everything out, you will start all over again as if you had a new browser on a new computer.  Or you may wish to keep certain types of files, like the cookies and cache, to make your browsing life more convenient.

In Google Chrome click on the three dots to the right of the address bar opening the application menu, then click "Settings". Scroll down and click "Advanced", then click "Clear browsing data". Select from the list options, set the time period you want to clear, then click the "Clear browsing data" button. Note: If you've set your browser to sync with other computers via a Google account, clearing your history will also delete that data across all the other devices that you've signed into in Chrome.

In Mozilla Firefox  click the three horizontal lines to the right of the address bar to open the Firefox menu, then select "Options" (called Preferences in the macOS version of the browser). Click "Privacy", then click the link marked "Clear your recent history". Switch to the "Details" tab to see different types of data, and set the time period using the drop-down menu at the top and click "Clear Now" to confirm.

In Apple Safari on macOS, your browsing history will be deleted by opening the Safari menu and then clicking "Clear History". Select the time period you want to erase from the drop-down menu, then click "Clear History" to confirm the action. Note: When you clear your Safari history, you won't get the option to delete different types of data, wiping out your cookies and cached files along with your history.

In your Microsoft Edge browser, to clear your browsing history, click the three dots to the right of the address bar, then select "Settings" from the menu that appears. Under the "Clear browsing data" heading, click "Choose what to clear". Next, make your choices from the list, which includes browsing history and cached data, and then click "Clear".

In Internet Explorer, you clear your browsing history by clicking the cog icon in the top-right corner then selecting "Internet options". On the subsequent dialog box, open the "General" tab and click "Delete" under Browsing history. Then choose your data types and click "Delete" to finish..

In the Windows version of the Opera browser, first click 'Menu' in the top left of the screen. Then select "More tools" and "Clear browsing data" to bring up the correct dialog box.  Then choose your data type, specify the time period, and click "Clear browsing data". On macOS, Opera requires a slightly different process: Open the menu, click "Preferences", then select "Privacy & security", and then click "Clear Browsing Data". You'll then end up with the same history-clearing options—types of data, time period, etc—that you would see if you were in the Windows version.