If you’re like most people, you use your internet browser on a regular basis to cruise Facebook, shop, catch up on the news, watch videos, read work and personal emails, check your bank accounts, and hundreds of other tasks. Thing is, all that information—internet search terms, web banking addresses and more—are then stored in your browser and on your computer until you decide to manually clear them out. Not good, especially since all these bits of information take up precious space on your hard drive and, in some cases, can also be a security risk.
Here’s how to salvage your hard drive and keep websites from tracking your every move online.
Let’s start with a few basic definitions so you know exactly what you’ll be cleaning up.
What are cookies?
Cookies are stored on your Mac until they expire. Cookies sometimes expire when you log out of an account like Gmail, Amazon or your banking website. Logging out prevents the next person who uses your Mac from being able to purchase something from Amazon without your knowledge or fiddle around in your email account. Tracking cookies—the sort used by most advertisers—can stay with you for months or even years, unless you clean them up manually.
What is your web history?
Your web history is a record of all the websites you’ve visited. They’re stored in your browser’s cache. Your web history identifies which websites you’ve been hanging out on, when you were there, and even how long you spend on a particular site. It’s not bad, per se, to hang on to your website history. When you hit the “back” button on your browser, it’s your history that knows which page to return to. That said, your browser history can also take up unnecessary hard drive space, and it should be cleaned up at least from time to time.
How to clear your cache and cookies in OS X
When you’re using Safari on a Mac, you need to perform these tasks individually if you haven’t set up your browser to take care of this on its own. Each job takes only seconds.
To clear your web browsing history, tap the History option at the top of any open browser window and click the very last option called Clear History. Your browsing history will automatically be wiped from your Mac within seconds.
To get rid of stored cookies, move your cursor to the top of your screen in Safari and click Safari, then Preferences. Now click the Privacy tab and choose the Remove All Website Data button.
You can change your browser settings to automatically clear stored cookies and other data on a schedule so that you don’t have to routinely perform these tedious tasks. To do this, go back into Safari settings, open the General tab, then adjust the settings in “Remove history items.” You can set Safari to automatically clear data manually, as we’ve just done, or to do so each day, week, every two weeks, every month or every year.
Practicing good browser hygiene by clearing out your cookies and history will help to slim down wasted space on your hard drive and keep Safari (or whatever browser you use) running smoothly.