How do I clean up my search history?
April 6, 2007 1:33 PM   Subscribe

How do I delete the references to things I've searched for?

The little white boxes on sites like,, etc. all seem to be storing my searches. Whenever I type, the previous searches come up. I'm slightly terrified of things I've searched for being visible to anyone who uses my computer. Is there a way to delete them all in one fell swoop?
posted by jefficator to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on what browser you're using, it will be different. Go to your browser's options, and tell it to delete saved form information.
posted by rxrfrx at 1:37 PM on April 6, 2007

If you're on Firefox, go to Tools, then Options, then Privacy and finally Saved Forms and select the "clear saved forms" option. If you uncheck the wee box there, firefox won't save that info in the future. You'll still be able to hang on to your saved passwords, however, so don't worry about that.
posted by dazed_one at 1:54 PM on April 6, 2007

Ccleaner - which is free - will also do this for all your browsers in one step, plus remove your recently accessed documents, etc.
posted by desjardins at 2:00 PM on April 6, 2007

In Firefox, you can delete individual entries. Say I type the letter 'G', I get a list of search terms starting with 'G' in a drop-down menu. If I move my mouse over one item on that list so it's highlighted then press delete, it's gone.
This also works for urls in the address bar.
posted by Abiezer at 2:01 PM on April 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

in older versions of explorer i found adaware would get rid of everything in a full system scan. you'd just have to be sure and delete the folders that weren't highlighted red, but yellow or green. sorry, it's been years since i tried covering my tracks.
posted by andywolf at 2:06 PM on April 6, 2007

You could create a new firefox profile by running firefox with the -p flag. When other users open firefox they will go to the default profile. Additionally you could delete the new profile after every use if you were really worried about it. Well I guess if you were really worried about it you would do your browsing from a live cd such as knoppix
posted by phil at 2:35 PM on April 6, 2007

Sorry that should have started with if you want to prevent running into this problem again
posted by phil at 2:37 PM on April 6, 2007

in safari, go to the SAFARI menu at the top and turn on "Private Browsing".
posted by twistofrhyme at 3:06 PM on April 6, 2007

desjardins suggestion of ccleaner is the easy, and best, way to go. It will clean up search and browsing history in other places as well (besides your browser). It's a good privacy tool.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 4:04 PM on April 6, 2007

Response by poster: Burhanistan-- Say WHAT? Can you elaborate/send a link to more info??
posted by jefficator at 4:13 PM on April 6, 2007

You can opt out of Google saving your search history. Click "My Account" and follow the links.
posted by pantsrobot at 5:42 PM on April 6, 2007

There's a plugin for Firefox that does the same thing as Porn, er, uh, Private Browsing. It's called Distrust.
posted by bink at 6:01 PM on April 6, 2007

There are the local issues -- history, cached pages, saved form info, cookies, and then there's the related issue (that you weren't explicitly asking about and may not care about) that Google logs your searches with your IP, and they can be correlated with your Google login if you have one and use it (for instance, for gmail.)

Most of the solutions suggested so far address the first. Many of them involve letting the info get written to disk and deleting it later. That opens the possibility of someone with adequate motivation and opportunity reading the deleted files. You can decide for yourself whether that's a concern.

For the second, if you want to address it, never use any Google services involving logging in, and always use a Tor proxy. Google recently made a big change in the favor of user privacy: they're anonymizing their log data after 18-24 months.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:45 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

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