Cookies are small files that websites put on your computer to store small bits of information. A cookie can keep you logged into a website by writing ID information to a cookie file. Cookies can also be used to store shopping cart information.
However, not all cookies are used for benign purposes. A lot of cookies are used to track your online activity. Ad servers send cookies along with ads to identify viewers and track their habits. This information is used to build profiles of us as viewers that can be used to push relevant ad content at us whether we like it or not. Some of these tracking cookies may be able to actually tie in your online activities to your real-world identity.
Managing cookies is part of a set of simple actions you can take to protect your information and your privacy. You can also easily clear the history of visited websites that each browser tracks if you don’t want other users of your computer to see your online activities.
Here we show you how to delete cookies in Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari.
To manage cookies in Firefox, select Options from the Firefox menu.
NOTE: Clicking Options on the main menu or on the submenu will open the same dialog box.
Click the Privacy button at the top of the Options dialog box and then click the “remove individual cookies” link.
NOTE: If you don’t want websites to be able to track you at all, select the Tell websites I do not want to be tracked check box.
The Cookies dialog box displays showing a list of all the websites that have put cookies on your computer. Click the arrow next to a site name to view a list of the individual cookies placed by that site. To delete an individual cookie, select the cookie in the list, and click Remove Cookie.
NOTE: You can remove all cookies for a specific website by selecting the website folder and clicking Remove Cookies.
To remove all cookies for all websites, click Remove All Cookies.
When you are finished managing your cookies, click Close to close the Cookies dialog box.
You are returned to the Options dialog box. Click OK to close the dialog box if you have made any changes to other options, or Cancel to close the dialog box without saving changes. Your changes to the cookies are preserved no matter which button you use to close the Options dialog box.
To manage cookies in Chrome, click the wrench button and select Settings from the drop-down menu.
The available settings display on a new tab. Click Under the Hood in the left pane.
In the Privacy section, in the right pane, click Content settings.
The Content Settings pane displays. In the Cookies section, click All cookies and site data.
The Cookies and Site Data pane displays, showing you how many cookies have been saved for each site that saved cookies on your computer. To delete an individual cookie, select one of the websites. A button displays for each cookie saved for that site. Click one of the buttons. For example, we clicked the “id” button for the doubleclick.net site, a website infamous for tracking viewers and gathering information.
Information about the cookie displays, including when the cookie expires. To remove this cookie, click Remove. We could also remove the second cookie from doubleclick.net by clicking the “_drt_” button and clicking Remove again.
To remove all the cookies for all the websites in the list, click Remove All.
To close each pane you opened, click the X button in the upper, right corner of the pane until you get back to the main Under the Hood pane.
To close the Settings tab, click the X button on the tab.
To manage cookies in Internet Explorer, click the gear button and select Internet options from the drop-down menu.
The Internet Options dialog box displays. To view and delete individual cookies, click Settings in the Browsing history section.
In the Temporary Internet Files and History Settings dialog box, click View files.
Windows Explorer opens displaying the contents of the Temporary Internet Files folder. Scroll down until you find files labeled as cookies. You can select one or more cookie files and delete them either by right-clicking on them and selecting Delete or by pressing the Delete key. To permanently delete them, hold down the Shift key while you press Delete.
To delete all your cookies, first close the Temporary Internet Files and History Settings dialog box by clicking OK (to save changes) or Cancel (to close without saving changes). This brings you back to the Internet Options dialog box. Click Delete in the Browsing history section.
To delete all the cookies in the Temporary Internet Files folder, select the Cookies check box on the Delete Browsing History dialog box. Select any other desired options and click Delete to remove the selected items.
To manage cookies in Opera, select Settings | Delete Private Data from the Opera menu.
On the Delete Private Data dialog box, click Detailed Options to expand the dialog box and view the available options.
To delete individual cookies, click Manage Cookies.
The Cookie Manager dialog box displays. A list of websites displays in tree form. To access individual cookies for a specific website, click the plus sign to the left of the website name. Select one of the cookies listed and click Delete.
NOTE: You can only select one cookie at a time.
Click Close when you are finished deleting cookies.
To delete cookies that have been placed on your computer during the current session, select the Delete session cookies check box. Cookies with no expiration data assigned to them expire at the end of a session (when you close the browser). These are called session cookies and are normally deleted at the end of a session. However, you can use the Delete session cookies check box to delete them while Opera is still open.
To delete all cookies, select the Delete all cookies check box. Select any other private data you want to delete or clear and click Delete.
To manage cookies in Safari, click the gear button and select Preferences from the drop-down menu.
The Privacy dialog box displays. To delete cookies from specific, individual websites, click Privacy on the toolbar and click Details for Cookies and other website data.
A dialog box displays a list of all websites that have placed cookies on your computer. To delete cookies from a specific website, select that website in the list and click Remove. To remove all cookies in the list, click Remove All. When you are finished, click Done to close the dialog box.
You can also click Remove All Website Data on the Privacy dialog box to delete all cookies, as well as other private data stored as you surf the web. To close the Privacy dialog box, click the X button in the upper, right corner of the dialog box.
If you have some sites you trust and want to have the convenience being able to log in quickly, you might want to delete only specific, individual cookies for certain websites. There is a way, in Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome, to block all cookies except for websites you use often. However, with the advent of tools like LastPass, you can safely delete all your cookies and still have a way to easily log in to websites you use often.
You may think you’ve gotten rid of all your cookies by following the procedures in this article. However, there is another type of cookie, called a Flash cookie, or a Local Shared Object (LSO), that you should also delete to stop websites from secretly tracking you.
Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.
- Published 04/23/12