Clearing your browser’s history may be something that you rarely, if ever, think about. On the other hand, some may be thought of as paranoid, which clear it constantly. How often should you really clear it?
There may not be a definitive answer to this, but most likely, the answer is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes above.
I’m Eric and I have been involved with many different kinds of software development over the past decades. I have been using browsers to surf the internet since their very beginnings and browser history is something that has evolved over the years.
While each person has different needs from their browsers, there are advantages and disadvantages to how often you clear your history. Below we will take a look at some of them and maybe this can help you better decide how often you wish to clean out yours.
If you want to learn a little more about browser history, stick around and we can continue the discussion.
What Is Browsing History?
You may have heard people talk about clearing their browsing history and maybe you are a little unsure of exactly what it is. No worries, I will give you a quick explanation here so that you can better understand what we are talking about.
Your browser, the tool you use to surf and navigate the internet such as Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or numerous others, keeps track of all the websites that you visit. It does this in the background without you even knowing it.
The browsers store the name, location (also known as a URL), time, and date of each website you visit in a file or database. If you want to view this history you can easily do so. Just look for a section or menu item called history.
This history can be used to go back and find out what sites have been visited in the past. It is also used by the browser to autofill the URL field when typing in locations that you wish to visit, making it quicker and easier to get to the places you want to go.
In the history section of your browser, you will also find options to clear or remove your browser history.
Pros of Clearing It
If security and privacy are a big thing for you, then clearing your browser history can be beneficial and is something you may want to do often. The main area in which this will help you is if you share your computer with someone else. Yes, they could see your browsing history.
Anyone else that gets onto your computer can open the browser and look at the history just like you can. So clearing it often or even every time you use it will prevent other users from knowing where you have been.
It is possible that a remote hacker or some type of external source could read the history from your browser, so this would also prevent these types of malicious activities, but don’t let it give you too much of a sense of privacy.
Cons of Clearing it
There are downsides to clearing your browsing history. You will lose the record of the places you have visited which can be very useful to you if you forgot the URL of the website that you need to visit and you failed to bookmark it.
Since history can tell you the date and time you were at that site, it can be very useful in figuring out how to get back to the same location you were previously at. Clearing your history will eliminate these very helpful features.
Many browsers also use an autofill feature in their URL field. When you start to type the name of the website or URL in the field, the browser can automatically fill in the remaining portion of it, which is very useful for long and hard-to-remember URLs.
While clearing your list of previous websites does give you privacy from others who use your computer, it may give you a false sense of security in thinking that no one can see where you have been but cookies and external routers can still allow outsiders to see that information.
Is Clearing the Cache the Same As Clearing History?
When talking about browsing history you may have heard discussions around clearing cache. Are these the same thing? No, they are not. The options to clear the cache are often in the same place as clearing browsing history and cookies but it is a little different.
Your browser’s cache stores things like images, text, and other autofill information of websites that you visit. The purpose of this is to help pages you visit frequently load faster by storing static information locally on your computer. Clearing the cache clears all this stored information.
Should I Clear My History And How Frequently?
So, looking at the information above, I can’t give you a definite answer on whether you should clear your history or how often. It is really up to you as the user. Do you share your computer with others and if so do you really care if they see what sites you are visiting?
If you do, you will need to balance this against the convenience of having your history available to use in finding past websites visited and using the autofill feature. If you do want to hide the information, then you might want to clear it after every use.
Some browsers also have an incognito mode which will automatically clear the history when you close the browser. For many who don’t care or don’t have others with access to their computer, you may not ever need to clear the history.
Resources on How to Clear Browser History
If you are unsure of how to clear your browser history, no need to worry. In most cases, it is fairly simple. If you can find a menu selection that allows you to look at the history, it will usually be located there. In any case, here are some links on how to do it for some popular browsers.
You can find the same information for any other browser by simply searching for how to delete history with the browser name. The search will usually bring up the information directly from the creator of the browser.
Clearing your browser history can give you some privacy by keeping others who use your computer or possibly your company from seeing what websites you are visiting. Just remember that there are still cookies and routers that can track you.
If you have no reason to worry about the websites you are visiting and don’t care if other users see it, you may not ever need to clear your history, and keeping it can be a benefit by storing information you can use to find websites that you like.
Let us know what you think about clearing browser history. We would love to hear from you!