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Access & Discovery: Clearing History, Cookies & Cache

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Browser History, Cookies & Cache

Web browsing history is the list of web pages a user has visited recently, which is recorded by web browser software as standard for a certain period of time. In addition to browsing history, other private data components are also saved during a browsing session. Cookies and cache are sometimes referred to under the browsing history umbrella, but has their own purpose and format.

A cookie is a small string of data created by a Web server, transmitted to a computer connected to the Internet, and stored in the cookie file of its Web browser. Originally intended to reduce the amount of time required for Web site registration by retrieving from the user's hard drive input provided in a previous visit, cookies can also be used to determine what a user viewed on previous visits and on visits to other Web sites. Potential invasiveness has made cookies the subject of debate over privacy. Web browser software can be set to allow the user to accept or reject a cookie at the time it is offered or to reject all cookies automatically. Click here to learn more about cookies, courtesy of HowStuffWorks.

The browser cache is the portion of microcomputer memory reserved by Web browser software for storing the contents of Web pages previously visited by the user, reducing the amount of time required to revisit a page using the same machine. Clicking on "Reload" or "Refresh" in the toolbar of a browser will cause the Web page displayed on the screen to be retrieved from its original remote address, rather than from the cache. Most browsers allow the user to specify the length of time search history will be retained before it is automatically deleted. Click here to learn more about cache, courtesy of HowStuffWorks.

Clearing cookies can be accomplished in different ways, depending on the browser you’re using: