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2,862 Tutorials

How to delete web browsing history on a Mac

Prevent people easily seeing where you've been online

The default web browser for OS X on Apple Macintosh computers is Apple Safari.

To delete your browsing history from Safari, the simplest method is take your cursor to the top menu bar, click on History, then select ‘Clear History...’.

A more thorough way to clear your tracks is to use the ‘Reset Safari...’ command, found from a drop-down list from the top menu again by clicking on ‘Safari’.

This removes more than just a list of websites you've visited, and is a better way to safeguard against your actual browsing history being recovered.

Safari reset box

Here you can select what to reset from a list of ten options: Clear history, Reset Top Site, Remove all webpage preview images, Reset all location warnings, Reset all website notifications warnings, Remove all website data, Remove saved names and passwords, Remove other AutoFill form text, Clear the Downloads list, and Close all Safari windows.

If you actually need to wipe most signs of your browsing history, you’re advised to start with this Reset Safari procedure.

Cookies in particular will betray much of your browsing past, so you’re advised to delete these whenever you wish to delete your browsing history.

‘Website data’ from the above list should also be removed. This includes HTML5 cached data and databases set up by certain websites in order to profile their visitor. This website data includes personally identifiable data used to track your use of websites.

As far as we know, deleting your browsing history using either of the above methods does not securely delete your private data.

To ensure your browsing history stays deleted, manually delete through the Finder the History.plist file from your user directory preferences: ~/Library/Safari/History.plist, and ~/Library/Safari/HistoryIndex.sk.

Note that this folder at ~/Library/Safari also stores the database and local storage data planted by some websites as discussed above, and these should be sent to the bin too.

Once you have put these browser history files in the rubbish bin, make a secure delete by selecting ‘Secure Empty Trash...’ from the Finder menu.

You can automate the removal of browsing history and cookies from Safari using, for example, SweetP Productions’ Cookie, a standalone application for OS X that will also clean up behind Firefox, Chrome, Chromium and Camino.

Firefox: How to remove browsing history in Mozilla Firefox for Mac

Firefox for OS X doesn’t make it quite so easy to delete your browsing history.

From the top menu, click History, then select ‘Show All History’. Highlight the top sidebar item named History, then click on the cogwheel and click on the line ‘Delete Delete’.

Firefox does however have a useful privacy option to automatically delete cookies and browsing history, every time you quit the browser.

Firefox privacy settings

From Firefox Preferences, go to the Privacy tab. Under History, change from Firefox will: Remember history, to the third option of Firefox will: Use custon settings for history.

Here you can tick the box marked ‘Clear history when Firefox closes’. You’re also given an option to deselect ‘Accept third-party cookies’. This is advised for anyone who recognises that third-pary cookies are only ever used for privacy-invading purposes.

Chrome: How to remove browsing history in Google Chrome for Mac

The Google Chrome browser offers the ability to remove your browsing history from your local computer. From the top menu, click History, then Show History. In the webpage that follows is a buttom labelled ‘Clear browsing data...’.

This gives the options of Clear browsing history, Clear download history, Delete cookies and other site and plug-in data, Empty the cache, all pre-ticked.

Google Chrome sandboxed in VM

Additionally you can tick boxes for Clear save passwords, Clear save Autofill form data, Clear data from hosted apps, and Deauthorize content licenses.

The primary command for all the above is Obliterate the following items from: the past hour. You can change this to the past day, past week, right back to ‘since the beginning of time’.

We don't know if Google’s use of the word ‘obliterate’ literally means a secure wipe of the required personal data.

Note that deleting your browsing history in Chrome using the above steps will only remove history data stored on the computer you're currently using.

Google will still keep a record of all your past browsing history, and continue to harvest your continued browsing habits, storing all sites you've visited against the personalised user profile that it maintains of all its Chrome users.

The same remains true when using Chrome’s Incognito 'stealth' mode – your browsing habits are still recorded and logged on Google’s servers whenever using Chrome.

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