Clear Cookies in the Most Popular Web Browsers

An Internet cookie, also called a web cookie, HTTP cookie, or browser cookie, is a small text file sent from a website and stored by the browser on the user's computer. Websites use cookies to remember data about the user's actions, including clicking certain buttons, visiting certain pages, entering names and passwords, and more.  Think of cookies like a unique footprint left on every website you visit. The footprint allows the websites to follow your tracks and remember certain things about your browsing habits.

How do Internet cookies work?

When you visit a website that uses cookies, your actions on the website are stored on your computer as text files. The next time you visit the site, your browser will "pull" those cookies and send them to the web server. The website will then be able to use those cookies to bring you back to a "saved" version of the website.

Essentially, the cookie helps the website know that you are a specific user and take you back to the website as you left it. It is a sort of "save" function that requires no action on the part of the user. For example, cookies save certain things you do on websites so you don't have to do it every time you visit the same website.

This can be your login information, your search or watch history within the site, or anything else that could enhance the user's experience. Think of it as a week-long hotel visit. Instead of having to check in every single time you return to the hotel, the front desk gives you a key that takes you straight to your room.

Cookies are quite useful for streamlining your browser experience. It helps websites take you back to where you left off, remember your login information, preferences, and if there were any items in your shopping cart. However, there are times you may not want to keep your cookies or browsing data.

Cookies contain a lot of information about you and your browsing habits. They can keep any personal information that you put in forms. That includes your name, address, and login credentials. The same information is often used in marketing to create targeted ads for each consumer. This, admittedly, can be unsettling.

Benefits of Internet cookies

Cookies do help us in many ways that we take for granted. They greatly enhance the online shopping experience; for users who add items to their cart online and close the site, cookies help websites keep items in your shopping cart even after you close your browser.

Websites also use cookies to personalize your experience based on your past preferences. Facebook is a great example. They offer friend suggestions based on who you're already friends with. They also show you ads related to your interests and previous actions. These give users an overall better experience, since the user is getting information that's actually relevant to them.

Cookies also allow websites to save your username and password. This way, you don't have to manually enter that information each time you log in. If you've ever clicked "Remember Me" when signing in to an account, that's cookies at work.

Drawbacks of Internet cookies

While cookies mostly just make your time on the Internet more efficient and enjoyable, there are some privacy concerns that come with them. As with most things, increased convenience usually means less privacy. They also can affect your computer's speed; though cookies themselves are small pieces of data, they can take up a significant amount of storage space altogether. Blocking cookies and clearing your cache can let your computer rum smoother.

Cookies do improve your experience on the Internet, but they do so by tracking your habits online. One way that tracked information is used is through targeted ads. Some companies sell cookies to advertisers. With your cookies, an advertiser can gain insights into what kinds of ads you'll be most likely to click.

They can record device information, search history, watch history, and more or less any activity on a cookie-enabled website or browser. They don't do anything particularly notorious with this information - again, the most common use is for targeted advertisements - but nevertheless, it's a lot of information.

How to clear browser cookies

If this information makes you uncomfortable, many browsers offer the option to disallow cookies. This may make your browsing experiences less efficient, but you'll have some added anonymity. Additionally, you can use incognito or privacy mode which will automatically delete cookies once your browsing session is over. This article provides step-by-step instructions for clearing cookies in Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Explorer, and Safari, as well as common electronic devices.

How to clear cookies in Chrome

  1. Click the three dots in the top right corner of the Google Chrome browser window.
  2. From the drop-down list, click "Settings."
  3. Scroll down to "Privacy and Security" and click "Clear browsing data."
  4. From here, you can clear your browsing history, cookies and other site data, and cached images and files. You can delete from a specific time range in addition to other options if you open the "Advanced" tab.

Setting window for clearing browser cookies in Chrome
In addition to deleting your cookies, you can also change your cookie settings. To clarify, in "Cookies and other site data" under the "Privacy and Security" settings, you can choose to allow all cookies, block third-party cookies, or block all cookies. You can also choose to clear all cookies whenever you close your browser or choose to allow only certain sites to use cookies.

How to clear cookies in Firefox

  1. Click the hamburger menu in the top right corner of the browser window.
  2. From the drop-down list, click "Settings."
  3. Select "Clear your recent history."
  4. Check the box labeled "Cookies," select the time frame, and select "Everything," marking that you want to delete all cookies.
  5. Click "Clear now."

How to clear cookies in Edge

  1. Click the three dots in the top right corner of the browser window.
  2. From the drop-down list, tap "Settings."
  3. From the menu on the left, click "Privacy and services."
  4. Under "Clear browsing data," click the button labeled "Choose what to clear."
  5. From here, select which data you want to clear, select the time range, and click "Clear now."

With Edge, you can also choose which data to clear every time you close your browser. Moreover, you can choose to clear browsing history, download history, cookies, cached files, and more. To clarify, you won't ever have to manually delete your cookies or other browsing data.

How to clear cookies in Explorer

  1. Click the Settings gear in the top right corner of the browser window.
  2. From the menu, hover over "Safety."
  3. Click "Delete Browsing History..."
  4. Select which data you want to clear and then click "Delete."

How to clear cookies in Safari

  1. Click on "Safari" at the top left corner of the browser in the menu bar.
  2. Click on "Safari Preferences."
  3. Select the "Privacy" tab.
  4. Click "Manage Website Data."
  5. Select "Remove All" and click "Remove now."

To turn on blocking features permanently, select "Always Block" for "Cookies and Website Data" in the Privacy settings; Safari will save your preferences and block cookies from that point on, unless you adjust your settings again.

How to clear cookies on iPhone

iPhone users have a few different options when clearing cookies. They can clear their history and cookies, or just clear their cookies and keep their history.

To clear history and cookies:

  1. Go to "Settings."
  2. Find "Safari" under the Settings menu and tap "Clear History and Website Data." This will clear your history, cookies, and browsing data fro Safari. It won't, however, change your AutoFill information. You can also block cookies at this step; from "Safari," turn on "Block All Cookies."

To clear cookies and keep your history:

  1. Go to "Settings."
  2. Find "Safari" under the settings menu.
  3. Go to "Advanced," then click "Website Data."
  4. Tap "Remove All Website Data."

This works for other handheld Apple devices, too; to clear cookies from your iPad or iPod touch, follow the same instructions.

How to clear cookies on Mac

  1. Open the Safari browser.
  2. Click "Safari," then "Preferences."
  3. Click "Privacy."
  4. Here, you have several options. If you want to keep trackers from using cookies and website data to track you, click "Prevent cross-site tracking." If you want to always block cookies, select "Block All Cookies." If you want to clear out the stored cookies and data, click "Manage Website Data," select websites, and then choose "Remove" or "Remove All."

These instructions apply whether you use a Macbook Pro, a Macbook Air, or any other Apple Mac computer.