For the most part cookies, or small data files used by websites to track your internet usage, generally pose no threat to your computer. Some cookies can, however, compromise your privacy. They can also take up space–albeit a small amount–depending on how your operating system stores and retrieves data. Advertising companies, meanwhile, often embed cookies with web ads to track your browsing history and tailor specific ads.
Fortunately, most widely used Web browsers make dealing with cookies simple.
We’ve put together a guide outlining the various ways you can customize your cookie settings and delete them with browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer, along with data-cleaning applications like CCleaner.
Choose your browser or method:
Google Chrome users can easily delete cookies, browsing data, and specify what sort of files Chrome should accept or block.
Access content settings: Click on the “Menu” tab in the upper-right corner, and select “Settings.” From there, click on “Advanced Settings,” then “Content Settings.” You may also simply type “chrome://chrome/settings/content” into your address bar and Chrome will take you to your intended destination.
Manage cookies: Chrome gives you four options when it comes to how to deal with cookies. You can store all cookies without discretion, store all cookies but delete them once you close your browser, block cookies entirely (we don’t recommend this), and block third-party tracking cookies. Chrome also allows you to manage exceptions for the above settings. This could be useful in the event you want to keep your auto-fill information for a specific website while deleting them from others.
Delete cookies: Click on “All cookies and site data…” to see a list of all the cookies Chrome has stored on your hard drive. From there you can delete specific files individually, or delete everything by selecting “Remove All.”
For Android, iOS: Access Chrome’s menu, go to “Settings” and then find the “Privacy” tab under advanced settings. From there select “Clear Browsing Data” at the bottom and check “Clear cookies: site data” as well as anything else you want to wipe from your hard drive.
Related: How to clear your browser’s cache
Mozilla Firefox is a free, open-source web browser. It became a household name in the early 2000’s for popularizing functions like tabbed browsing that gave the reigning web browser of the time, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, a run for its money. Firefox has declined in popularity in recent years, due to its difficulties in transitioning to mobile (particularly iOS), but still remains widely used. Although Firefox accepts all cookies by default, the browser actually offers more options than Chrome when it comes to customizing these settings.
Access custom settings: Click on the menu button in the upper right and select “Options.” Navigate to the “Privacy” tab and under “History” set Firefox to “Use custom settings for history.”
Manage cookies: Firefox gives you a number of options when it comes to managing your cookies: you can accept or block cookies outright, block third-party cookies, block specific third-party cookies that do not come from any site you visit, or prompt Firefox to ask for your permission every time it wants to store a cookie (running Firefox under this setting exposes just how ubiquitous cookie usage has become).
Delete cookies: Click on“Show Cookies…” which appears once you’ve enabled custom settings for your browser history. From there, you can scroll through a list of cookies accumulated by Firefox, clear them individually or remove them all as a group.
Firefox (Android): Tap the menu button and find settings. From there, tap “Privacy” and select “Clear private data.” Check “Cookies & active logins” and tap “Clear data.”
Safari is the default web browser for Apple devices and is also available for Windows. It ranks as one of the most popular web browsers, especially for mobile. Unlike Chrome and Firefox, Safari only stores cookies from websites you visit. Nevertheless, Safari lets you easily change these settings.
Manage your settings: Safari gives you three options when it comes to managing your cookies: allow websites to send you cookies, block websites from sending you cookies, or block third parties and advertisers from sending you cookies.
Delete cookies: The option to delete all of your cookies stored on your hard drive lies under your under the “Privacy” tab. There, click on “Remove All Website Data…” then click “Remove Now.” To delete individual cookies, click “Details…” under the “Privacy.” From there, find the specific cookie and delete it accordingly.
Safari (iOS): Go into “Settings” and select Safari. To delete all cookies, tap “Clear Cookies and Data.” To delete a specific cookie, tap “Advanced,” then “Website Data” to pull up a list of cookies stored on your phone. From there, hit “Edit,” tap the red circle next to the specific cookie you want to remove, and delete it.
Related: How Safari changed everything
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer currently ranks as the second most widely used browser in the U.S., behind Google Chrome. By default Explorer offers the most comprehensive protection against cookies that could compromise your privacy. Explorer also offers several ways to delete or manage your cookies, as well as extremely thorough presets when it comes to handling cookies.
Access “Internet Options”: Open Internet Explorer, click on the “Tools” menu, and select “Internet Options.”
Delete Cookies: To delete all cookies, head to the “General” tab under “Internet Options” and then click “Delete…”under the “Browsing History” tab. Check “cookies and website data” and click delete.
Alternatively, point to “Safety” under the “Tools” menu and select “Delete Browsing History.” From there, check “Cookies and website data” and then click delete.
To delete individual cookies, click “Settings” under the “Browsing History” tab. From there, head to “Temporary Internet Files” and select “View Files” to see a list of all the temporary internet files Internet Explorer has saved to your hard drive. Select the files you want to remove and delete them manually.
You can also delete your IE cookies manually on Windows. This will require you to access your hidden folders, which contain sensitive data. Only follow this route as a last resort, as any missteps can seriously damage your computer.
Folder options: Search for an application in Windows Explorer called “Folder Options.” There, check the circle that’s marked “Show hidden files, folders, and drives,” uncheck “Hide protected operating system files,” and click “Apply.”
Access your cookie files: Open “Computer” and click on “OS (C:)” to access your hard drive. From there, find your user file and select “AppData” to enter the hidden folder. Head into “Roaming,” then “Microsoft,” then “Windows,” and then “Cookies.”
Delete your cookies: Here, delete the text files and the text files only. Then enter the “Low” folder and delete the text files there. Once you are finished, go back into “Folder Options,” uncheck the circle that’s marked “Show hidden files, folders, and drives,” check the box marked “Hide protected operating system files,” and click “Apply.”
CCleaner (short for Crap Cleaner) is a powerful tool you can download for free and use to clean your hard drive of excess files generated by your web browser and other applications. When it comes to deleting cookies, CCleaner has an edge over web browsers in that it can delete cookies across the board, rather than just files stored with a particular browser. CCleaner can also uninstall programs and fix registry issues.
Download and install CCleaner: Navigate over to Piriform’s website to download CCleaner. As always when installing freeware pay close attention to each step and avoid installing any superfluous software or malware.
Run the program: Close your web browser, run CCleaner and select the “Cleaner” tab on the far left. By default CCleaner will search for a number of different file types to delete from your hard drive. Use the checklist on the left to specify what file types you want to erase; to batch erase all of your cookie files, make sure to select the “Cookies” box under web browsers in both “Windows/Mac OS X” and “Applications” tabs. Then select analyze.
CCleaner will then produce a list of all the files it will delete. To make adjustments to this list, tailor the checklist on the left and reanalyze your hard drive. Once you’re happy, select “Run Cleaner” and CCleaner will delete the files, including the cookies you selected.