Cookies can be a tasty treat, but they can also be rather annoying, leaving crumbs on your keyboard. On a PC or mobile device, they can be just as aggravating, compromising your privacy and filling up your storage.
If you’re concerned about what websites are leaving behind, and how advertisers are accessing that data, we’ve provided instructions on how to clear cookies from the latest version of your favorite web browser.
So what are cookies, and why aren’t they delicious?
Cookies are small text files written by a web browser that contain information about your interaction with one specific site. They include information such as what you shoved into a virtual shopping cart, you username for logging into the site (not the password), products you viewed during your last visit, and any other information that could be used to tailor the visit just for your needs.
Typically, cookies pose no threat to your computer. But many cookies can compromise your privacy. That’s because advertising companies are prone to embedding cookies with web advertisements, allowing them to easily track your browsing history, and tailor ads toward your individual habits across multiple sites. It’s creepy, we know.
Cookies don’t take up much space on your hard drive. In fact, they’re extremely small, and should only be a concern for mobile devices with small amounts of storage. For instance, even without clearing the cookies in Chrome on PC for many, many months, we’ve only accumulated around 4MB worth of cookies. That said, the amount of volume they use isn’t troublesome; it’s the privacy risks that are difficult to ignore.
Wanting to toss your cookies because of one or all the aforementioned issues is understandable. But be warned: cookies have legitimate functions, and can be essential to the functionality of your favorite websites. Some sites just don’t work properly without them, so be careful with that cookie-smashing hammer!
The Digital Trends staff voted Google Chrome as the best browser of 2017. It lets you easily delete cookies, control browsing data, and specify what sort of files Google Chrome should accept or block. Here’s how:
Access content settings: Click on the “Menu” tab in the upper-right corner, and select “Settings.” Once the new tab opens, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Advanced.” This will expand the “Settings” page to include additional options.
The first expanded window you should see is the “Privacy and security” panel. Next, click on “Content settings,” and then select “Cookies.”
You may also simply type “chrome://settings/content/cookies” into your address bar, and Chrome will take you to your intended destination.
Cookie juggling: On the “Cookies” panel, you will see three toggles: allow sites to save and read cookie data (recommended), keep local data only until you exit Chrome, and block third-party cookies. This third option means advertisements won’t be able to read cookie data provided by a parent website, preventing them from using that information across multiple sites.
Smashing cookies: Google also provides options to block specific sites from leaving cookies, to allow specific sites to leave cookies, and to clear cookies left behind by specific websites when exiting Chrome. If you want to delete it all, click on the “Remove All” button, and you will be cookie-free. You can delete cookies individually, too.
Finally, if you’re curious as to where Chrome stores cookies on Windows 10, and how much space they take, the sole “Cookies” SQLite file can be found here:
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 and site data.” There are also options for clearing your naughty browser history and removing space-eating cached images and files.
Mozilla’s Firefox browser came in second in our 2017 vote. The open-source browser actually offers more options than Chrome when it comes to customizing these settings — and that was before Quantum turned things on its head.
Access custom settings: Click on the “Menu” three-lined icon in the top-right corner. In the drop-down menu, select “Options,” which will open a new “Preferences” tab. On this page, select “Privacy and security” listed on the menu to the left, and then head to the “History” section. Here you will need to choose “Use custom settings for history” in the drop-down menu located next to “Firefox will…”
For the impatient, simply use this address in a new tab: about:preferences#privacy
Cookie juggling: With the advanced history settings enabled, you should see an option to toggle on/off “Accept cookies from sites.” To the right, Mozilla provides an “Exceptions” button where you can control the cookie flow. These include blocking or allowing cookies from specific sites and allowing a cookie from a specific site for only one browsing session. This is done by merely inserting the address of the website.
Next, you have the ability accept or deny third-party cookies, or accept third-party cookies from sites you already visited. You can also keep all cookies on the plate until they become stale, or clean the plate entirely once you close Firefox.
Smashing cookies: To manually delete cookies in Firefox, hit the “Clear your recent history” link and select “Cookies.” You may want to specify a timeframe to delete them from, before hitting “Clear now” to remove them for good.
Alternatively, click the “remove individual cookies” link. A window appears with a search field for locating a specific cookie, and a list of all cookies stored on your device. You can hit the “Remove Selected” button to delete a highlighted cookie, or hit the “Remove All” button to nuke the entire pile from your plate.
On Windows 10, this is the general area where Firefox keeps the cookie jar (cookies.sqlite):
Firefox (iOS): Tap the New Tab button (top right, with the number in it). Now tap the cog button in the top left of the screen. Scroll down to “Clear private data.” On the next screen, make sure “Cookies” is selected, then tap “Clear Private Data.”
Unlike Chrome and Firefox, Safari only stores cookies from websites you visit. Nevertheless, Safari lets you easily change these settings. Since the Windows version of Safari has been discontinued, our instructions will focus on the MacOS version.
Access cookies: Click on the Safari menu in the upper-left corner and scroll down to “Preferences.” Alternatively, in the same menu, choose “Clear History,” and you can delete everything in one go, from a variety of time frames. If you would much prefer to have more control over what is deleted, choose the “Preferences” option.
Juggling cookies: Safari’s options for limited filtering of cookies are limited. You can, however, ask websites not to track you (the Do Not Track feature, which unfortunately most websites ignore), or have Safari attempt to block cross-site tracking.
Smashing cookies: In the “Privacy” section, you can use “Block all cookies” to remove everything in one fell swoop. Alternatively, click on “Details” to see a list of each individual cookie stored in the browser.
Safari (iOS): Go into “Settings” and select Safari. To delete all cookies, tap “Clear History and Website 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.
Edge is Microsoft’s latest browser integrated into Windows 10, and is intended to replace Internet Explorer 11. But considering that the U.S. Navy still holds onto Windows XP, getting everyone to make the switch to Microsoft Edge might prove a challenge.
Access cookies: Click on the three-dot Settings icon in the top right-hand corner that will generate a drop-down panel. Once you click “Settings” on the panel, it will shift to a different tile providing a section called “Clear browsing data.” To manage cookies, skip that for now and keep scrolling down.
Juggling cookies: When you scroll to the bottom of the current panel, you should see “Advanced Settings.” Click on the associated “View advanced settings” button to access a refreshed list of settings. At the bottom, you’ll find the “Cookies” section with a drop-down menu. Your only options are to block all cookies, block only third-party cookies, or don’t block them at all (default).
Smashing cookies: To return to the previous Settings tile, click on the arrow keys next to “Advanced settings” at the top. On the new panel, go back to “Clear browsing data” and click on the “Choose what to clear” button. In the list, your only cookie-related option is to choose “Cookies and saved website data,” and then hit the big “Clear” button.
That said, your cookie management in Microsoft Edge is currently limited. As to where Windows 10 stores cookies, here is the general location:
Although the Opera browser is based on the same foundation used by Google Chrome, getting to the browser’s cookie jar doesn’t involve the same process. But note that this guide is based on the latest version, so this method may be different on earlier builds.
Accessing cookies: Click on red Opera logo in the top-left corner, which will present a drop-down menu. Select “Settings,” and a new “Settings” tab opens in the browser. Click on “Privacy & security” in the menu to the left, and scroll down to the “Cookies” section listed in the resulting settings.
Juggling cookies: The “Cookies” section provides four options: allow sites to create cookies, keep cookies until Opera is closed, block sites from creating cookies, and block just third-party cookies. The “Manage exceptions” button leads to a pop-up window where you can insert a website, and then select “Allow,” “Block,” or “Clear on exit” options in a drop-down menu.
Smashing cookies: Opera’s “Cookies” section also includes an “All cookies and site data” button. Click on that, and a pop-up window provides a list of all cookies currently stored on your device. There’s also a search field for hunting down a specific cookie flavor, and a “Delete All” button to nuke them into bits. You can even delete an individual cookie by highlighting it, and clicking on its associated circular “X” button.
Opera openly stores cookies on Windows 10 here:
C:Users<your_username>AppDataLocalOpera SoftwareOpera StableCache
Apps and plugins
While browsers make clearing cookies manually fairly easy, there are also a host of apps and browser plugins that can give you a little more control of your cookies.
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 traditional web browsers in that it can delete cookies across the board, rather than just files stored within a particular browser. CCleaner can also uninstall programs and fix registry issues, which is simply an added plus.
This extension serves as a handy security app for Chrome. The simple piece of software touts the ability to scan for malware, and installs a toilet paper icon that allows you to delete cookies with a single click. You can also customize the feature to clear both your cache and browsing history, if you prefer.
This is a valuable little add-on for Firefox. The software creates cookie rules that deal with particularly naughty cookies. If a cookie tries to persist after you close your browser tabs, the add-on will delete it automatically.
If the cookie tries to track what you’re doing, it will also be immediately deleted. There are even advanced options for dealing with zombie cookies, rendering Self-Destructing Cookies an attractive solution if you don’t want to keep deleting cookies manually.
Wipe is designed to remove unwanted data from your computer, such as cookies, browsing history, and other similar items. It’s designed specifically for Windows, and as such, it can remove clipboard data and recent file logs in Windows 10. Although some may not want such a far-reaching tool, those interested in greater privacy may prefer such a complete solution.
Updated 12/05/2017 by Jon Martindale – added info on Firefox Quantum and tweaked layout. This article was originally published on March 8, 2016.