We all delete our browsing history to maintain privacy and speed up our systems but what exactly happens when you clear your browsing history?
Well, the thing is that browsers don’t simply save the sites you accessed but a lot of other information that helps making your surfing experience a breeze. They have certain data such as cookies, passwords and site information so you don’t have to struggle finding something that you would have probably read a while ago.
Though this is a helpful feature, some people may find it a bit intrusive and would resort to deleting their browser’s history.
I’m going to break it down for you and take you through what happens when you clear your browsing history and if it’s a beneficial process or not.
What Happens When You Clear Your Browsing History
Clearing your browser history helps you cover your tracks and gives you a better surfing experience and speeds up your browsing capabilities. Before you get into what happens when you clear your browsing history it’s good to know what kind of data is collected and what deserves to go.
The first thing you need to know is that your browser history helps you retrace your steps and reopen pages you accessed a while back. Many browsers tap into your browsing history to suggest sites and URLs when you start typing out an address in the search bar.
They even track your download history, which is a reference of the files you have previously downloaded so you can either locate them on the desktop or if need be, re-download them.
But the question of the hour is what happens to the information when you clear your browser’s history?
Truth be told, not everything gets deleted. There are still bits of information that remain untouched after clearing your history such as certain search information, data shared with websites etc.
What Information is Saved by your Browser?
If you’re inquisitive about what kind of data is stored you can simply press Ctrl+Shift+Delete or you can go to Settings and tap on Clear Browsing History to see what data your browser is tracking.
Here are the types of information browsers track:
- Browsing History – Consists of the complete list of URLs accessed in the past and is segregated based on tee date and time of day.
- Download History – The list of files you have downloaded in the past. This helps you locate files on the computer with ease or to download the file once again.
- Cached Images and Files – The Cache of images and files that gets stored help web pages load faster. Basically once you’ve visited a page, your browser traces out site images and stores them so the next time you visit the same page, it loads faster.
- Cookies and other Site Data – Cookies are pieces of information that contain details of the site you accessed such as preferences or cart data. There are some third-party cookies that are capable of tracking your behavior across a range of websites.
- Passwords and Sign-In Data – Most browsers come with a built-in password manager that makes it easier to log in to sites. In case you forgot your password or sign-in data, you’re able to retrieve that information from within your browser.
- Autofill form Data – This feature collects personal information such as the details you’d fill in a form. Here, you’ll be able to autofill forms with the click of a button.
- Site Settings – Browsers allow you to store the permissions such as blocking pop-ups, accessing the camera or microphone so the next time you access that website you will not be prompted to grant permission.
Now that is a lot of data collected every time you browse or open a website. Browsers such as Google Chrome do not delete all your browsing history when you click on “Delete Data and History”
Instead, if you’ve cleared your browsing history and want to view what all you have accessed earlier simply type out Google.com/history in your browser search bar to view what sites you’ve accessed and when.
While it may seem easy to clear your browsing history with the tap of a button, sites like Google and Facebook collect a whole lot of information such as your searches, websites accessed, videos you’ve watched and places you have visited.
Let’s get into the kind of data shared with third-party websites and the methods by which you can clear up your online history.
Clearing your Browser History Does Not Take Down Information from Third-Party Sites
Clearing your browser does not necessarily mean that every single piece of information you’ve searched for will disappear, in reality it’s actually a little bit more complicated than that.
Sites like Google and Facebook tend to collect information which they claim will help you in the long run and provide you with a personalized experience. So, if you do clear your browser history, you must note that it only clears your history for the browser and not sites like Facebook and Google that constantly track your every move.
Scary right? Let me tell you how you can put a stop to these sites constantly tracking you.
- You can start by clicking on your Avatar in the top right-hand corner of Google Chrome.
- Tap on Manage your Google Account
- Click on Data & Personalization located on the left side of screen.
- Manage your activity by using options under the Activity Control tab.
The only way to put a stop to Facebook tracking your every move is to delete your Facebook account.
Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) Still Knows What You’re Up To
Now I know that most of you may not have realized this as yet but our service providers gain access to everything that’s searched for online. This is done in accordance with the government of your particular country.
Even if you use Incognito mode or clear your browsing history your data is stored and shared with the government to create anonymous browsing logs that will be later sold to marketing companies.
Unfortunately, the only way to get around this is to use a premium VPN (Virtual Private Network) that blocks out your ISP and instead reroutes your traffic through hidden servers situated around the globe.
Incognito Mode In Your Browser Does Not Limit the Information Collected
Yes, though Incognito mode is described to be a private and anonymous browsing experience, there is one catch.
Though there’s no browser history that gets stored, accessing sites like Amazon, Facebook, Google or any other third-party sites that require you to login with a registered account will result in your information being captured.
So if you’re searching for a particular product while using Incognito Mode chances are you may receive personalized ads at a later point in time even when you’re not using Incognito mode.
Here’s How You Can Clear Your Browsing History in Any Browser
Regardless of the browser you use, clearing your history is normally a three step process. Here, i’ll take you through how you can clear your browsing history in various web browsers.
To clear your browsing history in Google Chrome, follow these steps:
- Click on the three dots located at the right side of the address bar to open the Menu.
- Tap on Settings and scroll down till you see Advanced, click on it.
- Now proceed to click on Clear Browsing Data.
- Make your selection of what needs to be cleared (cache, cookies, downloads, history, autofill data) and then click the Clear Data button.
Note: For those who have synced their Google Accounts with their computers – Clearing your browser history will erase your data across every device that you’re signed in using your Google Account.
If you’re a Firefox user, you can try these out:
- Start by clicking on the three horizontal lines situated toward the right side of the address bar to open the Menu.
- Now, click on History to view all the sites you’ve visited.
- Click on Clear Recent History and select what needs to be erased along with the time frame.
- When you’ve selected the appropriate options, click on Clear Now to delete your browser history.
For those using Safari on macOS, here’s how you can delete your browser history:
- Open the Safari Menu and click on Clear history.
- You’ll be presented with a drop-down menu to choose the time-period.
- Click on Clear History.
Note: Safari does not give you an option to select the types of data you want to delete. Clicking on Clear History will wipe your Cookies and Cached Image files as well.
Edge users or those running on Windows 10 can clear their browsing history by following these steps:
- Click the three dots located to the right of the address bar and select Settings from within the menu.
- Scroll down and click on Privacy & Security. Here you’d find the Clear Browsing Data option.
- Proceed to select what needs to be deleted and finally click on Clear.
Opera Browser for Windows
In the Windows version of the popular Opera browser, you can clear your browsing history by:
- Clicking on the Menu situated in the top left side of the screen.
- Tap on History and Clear Browsing Data to locate the appropriate dialog box.
- Choose what needs to be deleted and select the time frame as well.
- Now click on Clear Data to wipe the history from your browser.
Opera Browser for macOS
With macOS, Opera requires a different process to have your history deleted.
- Start by opening the Menu and click on Clear Browsing Data.
- You will be prompted to select the type of data and time period.
- Upon selecting the data to delete, click on Clear Browsing Data to complete the process.
Is it a good idea to clear your browsing history?
It’s a good idea to clear your browsing history only if your system is running slow. Clearing the history also gets rid of Cookies and Cache that accumulate storage and hamper the performance of your browser. The downside to clearing your browsing history is you’d lose your passwords and usernames.
How often should you clear your browsing history?
Clearing your browser history solely depends on your requirement. If you are looking for optimum privacy or for the browser to perform faster, then it’s a good idea to clear your history at least once a fortnight.
How do I permanently delete my Google history on phone?
It’s a simple task, you will have to open the Chrome App on your Android or iOS and navigate to the “three dots“. Then tap on History and click on Clear browsing data. Select the “time range” and tap Clear data to have your browser history deleted on your phone.
Clearing your browsing history is a great step to ensure your data is not misused. Deleting the cookies and cache will result in websites loading slowly, which is something we do not want.
As proven, even using Incognito has its downsides.
However, you should not be too concerned about what information is stored unless you have visited a shady website in the past or if you have keyed in your login credentials.
Always stay safe and try your best not to upload private information on the web.
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Daniel Moore is the Founder & Editor-in-chief of Private-Spy, an experienced hacker, lecturer and an all-round fun guy! A writer by day and reader by night, he holds a Master’s degree in Computer applications and believes that privacy is our god given right. Daniel has been known to have published in-depth guides and tutorials that have been used by millions of people across the world.