Developed Technologies

How to Clear Your Cache on Any Browser

It's not always a straight-forward process, but it's always a good thing to do on occasion.

The browser history is a list of every page you've visited online and the time you were there is a standard of modern computing. And it can lead to trouble; it's practically a cliché. Think of the romantic "comedies" where the girl finds a guy's browser history (because it's always the guy's) and he's in scalding hot water.

For most of us, sharing a PC is normal (sadly, setting up multiple user accounts is not) and handing off a smartphone to someone isn't unheard of. It doesn't matter if you're encrypting your emails, using Tor and VPNs while browsing to stay anonymous, or if you wear a false mustache at your desk: if someone has access to your devices, they can see where you've been.

A browser can and will hold your history indefinitely. The goal is to help you find your way back to a perhaps-forgotten corner of the Internet you visited once upon a time. The reality is, it can be used against you by significant others, friends, bosses, subordinates, teachers, even the authorities. It doesn't even matter if you never stopped to look at the contents; these days, simply visiting can be impetus enough for outrage, blackmail, or whatever you fear most in reprisal.

Think that's fear-mongering? Hopefully it is, for 99 percent of us. But consider that in 2016 an employee was accused of destroying evidence in a Canadian court after he cleared the browser history of his own personal laptop. (In the end, he prevailed.) In the US, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is intended to prevent evidence deletion by corporations, yet it's been applied to at least one individual. The caveat: the individual in question also did a lot of other stupid things.

That's a very broad interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley. Still, it's almost a guarantee that if you delete something off your drive just before you get arrested, you'll get a destruction of evidence or obstruction of justice charge, especially if the feds are involved. Apparently, people are corporations, too.

But let's assume you're not a criminal and just want a little digital privacy. What can you do to keep your past visits hidden? Delete it. Regularly. Or perhaps the smartest move of all: make sure it is never even stored. It may make your Web travels a little less convenient, but that's the price of security. Here's how to remove the history.

PC Browsers

Google Chrome

Go to the three-dot menu at the upper-right of Chrome to select Settings > Show advanced settings > Clear browsing data (or in the omnibar type "chrome://settings/clearBrowserData" without the quotation marks). This takes you directly to the dialog box to delete not only the history of your browsing, but also your download history (it won't delete the actual downloaded files), all your cookies, cached images and files (which help load pages faster when you revisit), saved passwords and more. Better yet, you can delete only the info from the last hour, day, week, month, or all of it to "the beginning of time."

Chrome doesn't give you the option to not collect your browser history, or set a window for how much it should hold. It just collects and collects until you go in and delete it.

What's more, if you have a Google account and are signed into it with Chrome, your history is likely being synced to Google My Activity. While it should be secured behind your Google account (use a password manager and two-factor authentication for the best protection), if you truly wish to be rid of history, go here, select the hamburger/three-dot menu up top > Activity Controls to turn off the inclusion of Chrome browser activity (from desktops and handhelds), as well as delete any activity synced with the service.


Opera

Under the main menu in Opera, go to Settings > Privacy & Security. You'll see a Clear browsing data button that offers almost identical settings as Chrome, right down to the "beginning of time" option. (You can also type "opera://settings/clearBrowserData" into the address bar.) It's similar because Opera is built with the engine from the Chromium Project, the same that underlies Chrome. Opera offers a little extra to those who want to go around the Web safely however—a built-in VPN option courtesy of SurfEasy, also found in the Privacy & Security settings.

Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer

Go to the three-dot menu in Microsoft Edge and select settings; in the fly-out menu, click the button under Clear browsing data that reads "Choose what to clear." Get rid of browsing and download history, cookies, cached data, stored form data, and stored passwords; click Show more and you can delete things like sites you've given permission to show pop-ups.

You can't delete just one chunk of data from a time period like a day or week, but there is the option to "Always clear this [data] when I close the browser." That ensures you have no browser history stored, as long as you close the browser regularly. Pick more data types and you'll have next to nothing stored—which is fine until you're entering the same passwords and 2FA logins over and over (the price of freedom, people).


Like Google, Microsoft is keeping some of your history online. Click Change what Microsoft Edge knows about me in the cloud to visit a page for your Microsoft account where you can delete that synced browsing history. You can also delete search history at Bing.com, stored location data showing where you've logged in, and stuff you've stored in Cortana's notebook.

Still using Internet Explorer (IE)? You're not alone. To wipe the history in IE11 and 10, go to the Gear icon at upper left and select Internet Options. On the General tab, you can check a box next to Delete browsing history on exit, or click the Delete button to instantly get rid of history, passwords, cookies, cached data (called Temporary Internet files and website files), and more. If you instead click Settings, you go to a History tab and ensure your history is only collected for a specific number of days, automatically deleting anything older.

You have the option to get rid of your browsing history using the Favorites Menu. Click the star on the top-right > History tab. There, you can see websites you visited on specific dates (Today, Last Week, 3 Weeks Ago, etc.) Right-click to delete everything from a specific time period, or click to view and delete specific websites. If you're using an older version of IE, there are instructions online for deleting the history.


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