Clear Browsing History On Your Laptop and Phone to Keep Your Internet Searches Private!
You should be chanting the phrase, “clear browsing history, clear browsing history,” repeatedly whenever you’re online.
If you’ve arrived here to learn how to delete your browsing history—to “erase” your internet surfing activity—you’ve landed on the right page. We show you how to cover your footprints, so to speak, so that anyone who uses the same computer after you won’t know your business. They will not be able to 1) know where you’ve been online or 2) see a list of the websites where you have been spending time on the internet.
This article will tell you how to do it on Google Chrome first, and primarily, because it is the most popular browser. We also cover Safari (the default browser on Apple Mac computers); Microsoft Edge, which has replaced Internet Explorer; and Mozilla Firefox. Once you’ve explored clearing your browsing history on one, it’s easy to do it on the others…if you use different browsers.
Just be sure to read the complete article, because there’s much more to getting privacy on your computer and the internet than you may think. (By the way, if you want to read some basic information on browsers, we’ve written an article called, “What is a browser?”.
How to clear browsing history on Chrome
Here is a look at how Google support tells you to do go about erasing your browsing history (but we show you right below two other ways to get to the same page faster).
- Open your Chrome browser
- Click on the “More” icon at the very far upper top right of any Google page:
- First click on More Tools
- Then Clear Browsing Data
- A box will appear that lets you choose how far back you want to clear your browsing history. Clear an hour’s worth of browsing data, 24 hours’ worth, the past seven days, the past four weeks, or for all time.
- If you want to, you can additionally clear “Cookies and other site data” and “Cached images and files,” by checking the related boxes.
- Once you’ve made your choices, click the blue box that says Clear Data. (There’s no reversing this action.)
As mentioned above, there are two other ways to get to the same History page (where you’ll find the prompt to Clear browsing data. Here they are:
- 1st Way: Click on the word “Chrome” at the upper left top of any Google page, then scroll down to “Clear Browsing Data”
- 2nd Way: Click on the History menu tab at the top of any Chrome page, the click on “Show Full History” at the bottom.
If you use Chrome as your everyday browser, you’re definitely not alone. It is the leading browser in the U.S. It is very simple to delete any screen record of where you’ve been online using Chrome.
Once you learn how to clear your browser data on Chrome, you’ll find it easy to do the same on any other browser.
How to delete browsing history on Safari
Safari is the second most popular browser and if you haven’t used it, you should give it try. It is the default browser for Mac computers, but it is available for PCs as well.
Safari makes it super simple to erase your steps online, on screen.
Quick history clearing: The process of clearing your browsing history on Safari is like Chrome’s. When you’re on Safari you’ll see a “History” menu tab at the top of page. Click on it and you’ll see a list of close to 20 of your most recent webpage visits. All of them.
At the bottom, are the two words you’re looking for—Clear History.
Click it, and a simple window pops up, not a complete page. It simply asks you what do you want to clear? “The last hour? Today? Today and yesterday? All History?”
There’s another way, just so you know. At the top left of the page when Safari is open and active, just click on the word Safari. Halfway down the drop-down menu you’ll see Clear history. You can start there.
The Safari way.
Finally, here’s how Safari support guides you if you Google the topic:
Delete history, cache, and cookies
Here’s how to clear information from your device:
- To clear your history and cookies, go to Settings > Safari, and tap Clear History and Website Data. Clearing your history, cookies, and browsing data from Safari won’t change your AutoFill information.
- To clear your cookies and keep your history, go to Settings > Safari > Advanced > Website Data, then tap Remove All Website Data.
- To visit sites without leaving a history, turn private browsing on or off. When there’s no history or website data to clear, the setting turns gray.
Clear browsing history on Microsoft Edge
Internet Explorer, owned by Microsoft, was the king of internet browsers at one time, but it was replaced by Microsoft Edge as the default browser on all new versions of Windows. Together, they seem to account for about 5% of the browser market. (That shows you how dominant Chrome has become.) Explorer is just about history now. Here are Microsoft’s instructions for clearing browser history for Edge:
First off, they advise turn off “sync,” because items that are synced will get cleared over all synced devices.
- Select Settings and more > Settings > Privacy, search, and services .
- Under Clear browsing data, select Choose what to clear.
- Choose a time range from the Time range drop-down menu.
- Choose the types of data you want to clear. (They provide options, so if you want to keep passwords and form-fill data, you can.)
- Select Clear now.
Firefox: History is on your side.
Firefox is the third-most popular internet browser. Like Chrome and Safari, it’s reliable and easy to use. You can also delete your tracks pretty easily on this browser too.
Oh… It’s basic and good to know something else first, which is to check your own online history routinely, and see what your browser is catching—in other words, to see it would tell you or someone else where you’ve been browsing.
When you’re browsing using Firefox, check out the very top of the window and you’ll see the “History” menu sandwiched between View and Bookmarks. Click on the menu and you’ll see (be reminded of) where you’ve been cruising online.
It won’t miss a thing.
Here’s how Firefox answers the question, “how do I clear my browser history?” For some reason, they make it more complicated than it needs to be.
- Click the Library button, click History and then click Clear Recent History…
- To select how much history you want to clear, click the drop-down menu next to Time Range to Clear to choose how much of your history Firefox will clear. …
- Finally, click the Clear Now button
There’s much more to internet privacy than deleting browsing history.
Now, here’s the important question:
With the instructions read above, will you be able to clear your browser history and permanently hide the fact that you looked at a certain website?
WELL, not really. Not 100%. (Keep reading on for an explanation of that.)
But for what you probably want to happen—keeping your privacy and avoiding questions, shock and shame at home or work—you’ll be satisfied with the results deleting your browsing history gives you.
But others might not be. It turns out clearing data is a touch subject.
You’d think browsing history would be private and respected. It isn’t.
If you kept a personal diary, you’d expect that everyone would respect your privacy and not go leafing through your personal thoughts. Most likely, they would do that, without having any objections.
It is NOT the same with browser history. For some reason, many people (husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends) believe that if you delete your browsing history, you’re (guilty of) hiding something. Don’t believe it? Just ask your spouse or partner how they feel. (In fact, don’t…that’s just inviting trouble.)
So instead of having to defend yourself, why not simply say, for instance, that you’re taking care of your computer.
There’s even a legitimate rationale for saying precisely that.
Tell them you’re practicing “browser hygiene.”
On the website VerticalResponse.com (an online company providing support for business), you can read about a smart and important reason for deleting your browser history and internet cookies at the same time.
They advise you should get into the habit of clearing your “cache”—or browser history, cookies and more—regularly.
That’s good and useful information for you to know, too.
When you delete your browsing history, you’re clearing out more than the onscreen list of your visited websites. You also have the option to also take care of some other behind the scenes “house cleaning” on your computer.
It’s not just an exercise in erasing your tracks: it helps the performance of your computer.
Think if it like clearing off all the clutter on your desk (not just one stack), going through your backlog of old emails or clearing your voicemail to get a fresh start. We all know we should do that occasionally to keep things organized and prevent complications.
So, make a proclamation of innocence. You’re not hiding secrets when you clear browsing history on your computer: You’re being computer-savvy and smart.
See for yourself.
Browser history…and beyond.
Here’s how to clean house with Microsoft Edge, for example. Here’s all that you can do when you clear data. (Note: some of these might be different on your default or favorite browser.)
- Browsing history: The onscreen list of the websites you’ve visited will be cleared.
- Cached images; temporary internet files. Copies of pages, images and other media content temporarily stored on your computer from browser visits.
- Cookies: The information that websites place/store on your computer to remember your preferences or habits, such as your geographic location.
- Download history: The list of files (but not the actual files) you’ve downloaded from the internet.
- Form-filled information. Information you may have filled-in online forms, including your email addresses or shipping/billing information.
- Passwords: Passwords that you previously indicated to save for specific websites.
- Favorites: The list of websites you indicated as your faves.
A clean device is a smooth-working one.
If you don’t take care of this additional “house cleaning” when you clear and delete browsing data, your browser may get bogged down with retained information and over time it could cause trouble or slow down your computer when you try to log in or even load websites.
You’ve probably experienced that already and wondered what was going on. Now you know.
And, yes, clearing your browser history, cache and cookies will prevent that from happening. The benefit? Your browser and your computer will perform better…and your privacy is protected, too.
So, you’re taking care of your computer while deleting your history. You’re free and clear, right? No one will know your secrets, correct?
Not so fast.
Cleared from your browser and from on screen, but NOT erased on the internet
Here’s something you should know that might be very important to you. You have to do more than clear history to stay private with your internet comings and goings.
In other words, even though the next person to use your computer won’t be able to discover where you’ve been when you clear your history, others could. For instance, your internet service provider has a digital record of the websites you visited. More than that, they typically share that information with law enforcement if presented a warrant or sell it to advertisers.
The websites you visit also know that you have been there. Well, they at least know your device has been there.
They’re not sharing your name and address, per se, or publishing on lists. Still, they are identifying where your computer/device has been online.
How? Do they do that? How do they know it’s “you”?
Through your IP address.
Your IP address: your digital “fingerprint” on the internet.
Your IP address has nothing to do with your browser, but it everything to do with your internet connection.
Think of an IP address as the “home address” for your internet connection. It’s how websites know to send information to you and not some other internet user across the globe.
Your internet address at home is not the same as the internet address at your local coffee place, just like your home mailing address is not the same as your work mailing address.
There is a way to hide your home IP address and, yes, your internet provider won’t be able to see what you’re doing online. But…hiding you IP address still won’t help you delete your computer or mobile on-screen browsing history.
In other words, you still need to know how to delete your browsing history if you don’t want your wife, kids, friends, employer or grandmother to know where you’ve been online. So, if you just want to ensure you erase your internet footprints on your computer and browser(s), deleting your history properly will work for you.
But if you’re not hiding anything (truly not trying to be sneaky) then it may not be necessary to clear your browser every time you go online. Why? Because having that history list there comes in extremely handy if you spend a lot of time getting information online.
Your browser history is there for your convenience, not to “track you.”
Each time you visit a website, your internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc.), saves a copy of every page that you visit. This list of web pages—and related pieces of information, such as date of visit – is your web browsing history.
It’s there to make life easier for you when you’re online.
- Isn’t it easier to look at your history list to find that website on grilling a steak you visited last week, rather than starting with a fresh Google search?
The Google History feature has you covered when it comes to helping you find past visits.
- There is a list of your 10 most recent closed websites
- That’s followed by 15 entries of your computers recently visited sites
- Finally, you can click on show full history, and it’s all there.
Google even has a history search box…it looks like this:
So, you can type in the name of that famous grill master, and if you visited that site (and haven’t deleted the history) you’ll see all possible related searches. You’ll see exactly where you’ve been.
Of course, that means so can anyone else who uses that computer after you, if you keep your history alive.
That’s the point of all this. To help educate you about managing or deleting your browsing history on your computers and other internet connected devices. Because our Androids and iPhones—and tablets too–and browser histories too.
Protecting your privacy.
But since you’re here to learn about deleting your browsing history, you’re obviously interested in internet privacy, at home, work or on the road.
In that case, you need to also know about Private Browsing, where you don’t leave footprints of where you’ve been on any history list—on a computer screen—in the first place.
Private browsing: Your browser stops keeping track.
It’s time to take a closer look at browsing the internet in private mode—it’s named differently on different browsers, but they all do the same thing.
Google Chrome says “Private browsing essentially lets you prowl around the internet with your browsing history turned off.”
Incognito mode, which is Chrome’s name for private browsing, turns your browser’s history-tracking capabilities off. Once you close your private window, there won’t be a list of websites showing where you’ve been during that session.
In fact (and technically), when you select the option to browse in a “privately,” you essentially switch to a private window.
Think of it like entering in a “non-tracked” internet session on your browser. It has a couple of other incidental benefits you might like as well. Here’s what happens, with just about all the browsers, when you go into private browsing mode:
- It prevents you from accidentally, automatically and inadvertently “saving” your login credentials and other personal information on some websites. That’s a helpful feature when you’re on a shared or public computer.
- It gives you what’s called “pure” search results, because it won’t be influenced by your previous non-private-browsing history, cookies, social media, frequently visited pages, etc.
Let’s look at what the browsers have to say about their private browsing feature, starting with Chrome.
Chrome: “incognito mode.” (Incognito means “having one’s identity concealed.”) That’s not completely accurate—you’ll see why in a bit—but what the heck. Google explains it like this:
“You’ve gone incognito. Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads and bookmarks will be saved. Chrome won’t save the following information: Your browsing history; Cookies and site data; Information entered in forms.”
However, Google does remind you that, “Your activity might still be visible to: Websites you visit; Your employer or school; Your internet service provider.”
Firefox: “Private Browsing” Why not just call it like it is? Firefox does. Here’s what they say.
“You’re in a Private Window. Firefox clears your search and browsing history when you quit the app or close all Private Browsing tabs and windows. While this doesn’t make you anonymous to websites or your internet service provider, it makes it easier to keep what you do online private from anyone else who uses this computer.”
Safari: “Private browsing enabled”
Safari explains it as if they slip into a memory lapse when you enter (enable) private browsing. They say this:
“Safari will keep your browsing history private for all tabs in this window. After you close this window, Safari won’t remember the pages you visited, your search history or your AutoFill information.”
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when you enter the private browsing zone:
- The screen changes somewhat
- You are not anonymous to websites or your internet service provider
- It helps keep what you do online private from anyone else who uses the computer after you
- You will clear out the search and browsing history when you quit the app or close all Private browsing tabs and windows.
- Downloads and bookmarks will be saved
- Your activity will still be visible to websites you visit, to your employer or school
But you still need to keep two important things in mind:
- Private or incognito browsing is still not the same hiding your identity on the internet. It doesn’t hide your IP address from your internet provider or websites you visit. So even though there’s not an on-screen “history” of where you’ve been online, you still leave digital fingerprints on the internet.
- You MUST close the private browsing window after your online session to keep it private. If you don’t, your private browsing history stays up on the private window. So, while you don’t have to clear your private browsing history, you have to close the private window to make that browsing history disappear.
However, if we’re sticking strictly to the topic of deleting browsing history, then knowing about private browsing should be of great interest to you.
Ultimately, clearing browsing history is about privacy.
It’s unfortunate the topic of deleting your browsing history almost sounds deceptive or suspicious.
It shouldn’t. But it does.
For example, on a website where women shared their thoughts about love and life, a woman wrote this:
“I dated a guy a few years ago and whenever I used his computer, I saw that he constantly deleted his browser history, like he didn’t want me snooping on him. Now, I’m normally a trusting person…but isn’t that just odd? Is it a sign that he is hiding something and shady?”
You don’t have to be a sneaky person, hiding things from your spouse, partner, parents, friend—or even your employer—if you want to delete your web page footprints. But friends and family may not buy it if they haven’t learned about the benefits of doing so!
So, it’s one thing to delete your history if you’re using a computer at public library or at school. The next person to use that some computer is a stranger…why should they see what you’re researching?
The same goes for computers in hotel lobbies or business centers.
But the same may not work for your family.
Browser history. Simply part of the app.
Your browser in no different from any other of your programs and applications, if you think about it.
Take Microsoft Word or Excel, for instance. There’s always a way to find the most recent article you wrote or spreadsheet you created. That information is there for your convenience.
So, like all other applications, the software designers realized that as internet browsers, we’d want a way to see where we’ve been, read or seen online over a long internet session.
They called it “history,” and over time, they added helpful options to the feature.
So, each time you go online, your browser keeps the name (and link) of the website pages that you visited. All the browsers do it the same, whether you use Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or something else.
Imagine the hassle it would cause you if that weren’t the case. You’d have to re-do every web search from scratch, or write them down for reference.
There was actually a comment on a social media site where some guy wrote,“I never clean my history. How else am I supposed to find that hot bikini site I found three weeks ago?”
The browser history feature saves the day, because unless you’re doing something you don’t want someone else to see—like buying surprise tickets to Paris for the whole family—it makes your online experience easier.
“What was the website where I found how many home runs Mickey Mantle hit in 1959? Oh, right. It’s probably in my history…yup, there it is.
For the love of history.
Not that you’ve gotten to the bottom of this, it’s clear to see you have a lot of choices when it comes to viewing, exposing or hiding your internet activities:
- You can use your favorite browsers and never clear the history. It won’t hurt your browsing. And remember, it could come in handy thanks to the search feature. Find out—is it a good idea to clear your browser history for usage sake?
- You can delete your browsing history only when you don’t want someone else who might or will use your computer to see where you’ve been. Remember, there could be plenty of reasons to keep your browsing history private, from medical issues to researching a surprise vacation for your spouse—or from visiting websites you “accidentally”—or purposely—stumbled across.
- You can practice good browser hygiene and do a daily or weekly history-cleanse to help keep your PC operating smoothly. That means no need to explain or rationalize your behavior.
- You can hide your browsing history (prevent it from being listed) by using your browser’s “private browsing” feature. This is a feature you can turn off and on, on demand. If you use a shared computer, you might always want to use private browsing on every browser you use. You’re in control of it.
Keep it in perspective.
The history feature on browsers is for your convenience, not for keeping tabs on you. If you get into the habit of clearing your browsing history, you might erase an informative website you found on the 10th page of a Google search results.
It might be hard, or even impossible, to remember what phrase you used for the search and what the name of the website was. So, if you delete your history or use private browsing exclusively, you might do too good of a job hiding good websites from yourself.
So maybe follow these simple guidelines:
- When you’re on the internet using a shared computer, it’s probably smart to open a private browsing window, then close it at the end of the session. By using a private browsing window properly, you can hide your tracks online…on the computer/device.
- If you forget to use the browsing feature, you can still hide your activity. If you learn how to properly delete browsing history on the browsers you use, you’ll wipe out your tracks. It will look like you didn’t go on any websites for an hour, day, week and so on.
Just remember this: clearing browser history is about your device. Your family or friends might now see where you went online, but the websites you visited will recognize your device, if you use the same IP address at home, work or school.
The only way to hide your activity from the internet is to use a VPN, which stand for Virtual Private Network.
Information on VPNs.
Deleting browsing history wipes traces of your online activity from your devices, but not the internet. A VPN, however, lets you hop on the internet with as if it has no memory. It does that by masking your IP true IP address. (Funny thing, you’d still have to clear your history to keep your device clean!)
If you’re fairly new to VPNs, start out by learning the basis. We have article just for you called IP 101.
If you know about VPNs but are only interested in the free ones, read more here.
If you want information on the top reviewed VPNs for privacy, safety and online access, check about our exclusive VPN Simplifier.
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