Delete browsing, search and download history on Firefox

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  • Creator: GrandmaLovesAFox
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  • Reviewed by: Verdi
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As you browse the web, Firefox helpfully remembers lots of information for you – sites you've visited, files you've downloaded and more. All of this information is called your history. However, if you are using a public computer or share a computer with someone, you may not want others to be able to see these kinds of things.

This article explains what information is stored in your history and gives you step-by-step ways to clear all of part of it. To temporarily have Firefox not store any history, see Private Browsing - Use Firefox without saving history.

What things are included in my history?

  • Browsing & Download History: Browsing history is the list of sites you've visited that are shown in the History menu, the Library window's History list, and the Location bar autocomplete's address list. Download history is the list of files you've downloaded that are shown in the Downloads window.
  • Form & Search Bar History: Form history includes the items you've entered into web page forms for Form autocomplete. Search Bar history includes items you've entered into Firefox's Search bar.
  • Cookies: Cookies store information about websites you visit, such as site preferences or login status. This includes information and site preferences stored by plugins such as Adobe Flash. Cookies can also be used by third parties to track you across sites. For more info about tracking, see How do I turn on the Do Not Track feature?.
    Note: In order to clear cookies set by Flash you must be using the latest version. See Updating Flash for instructions.
  • Cache: The cache stores temporary files, such as web pages and other online media, that Firefox downloaded from the Internet to speed up loading of pages and sites you've already seen.
  • Active Logins: If you have logged in to a website that uses HTTP authentication since you most recently opened Firefox, that site is considered "active". Clearing this logs you out of those sites.
  • Site Preferences: Site-specific preferences, including the saved zoom level for sites, character encoding, and the permissions for sites (like pop-up blocker exceptions) described in the Page Info window.
  • Browsing & Download History: Browsing history is the list of sites you've visited that are shown in the History menu, the Library window's History list, and the Location bar autocomplete's address list. Download history is the list of files you've downloaded that are shown in the Downloads window.
  • Form & Search Bar History: Form history includes the items you've entered into web page forms for Form autocomplete. Search Bar history includes items you've entered into Firefox's Search bar.
  • Cookies: Cookies store information about websites you visit, such as site preferences or login status. This includes information and site preferences stored by plugins such as Adobe Flash. Cookies can also be used by third parties to track you across sites. For more info about tracking, see How do I turn on the Do Not Track feature?.
    Note: In order to clear cookies set by Flash you must be using the latest version. See Updating Flash for instructions.
  • Cache: The cache stores temporary files, such as web pages and other online media, that Firefox downloaded from the Internet to speed up loading of pages and sites you've already seen.
  • Active Logins: If you have logged in to a website that uses HTTP authentication since you most recently opened Firefox, that site is considered "active". Clearing this logs you out of those sites.
  • Offline Website Data: If you've allowed it, a website can store files on your computer so that you can continue to use it when you are not connected to the Internet.
  • Site Preferences: Site-specific preferences, including the saved zoom level for sites, character encoding, and the permissions for sites (like pop-up blocker exceptions) described in the Page Info window.

How do I clear my history?

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click the Firefox button, go over to the History menu and select Clear Recent History....
    For Windows XP: At the top of the Firefox window, click the Tools menu and select Clear Recent History....
    On the menu bar, click the Tools menu, and select Clear Recent History....At the top of the Firefox window, click the Tools menu, and select Clear Recent History....
    History Win1
    History Mac1
    History Lin1
  2. Select how much history you want to clear:
    • Click the drop-down menu next to Time range to clear to choose how much of your history Firefox will clear.
    History Win2 History Mac2 History Lin2
    History Win3 History Mac3 History Lin3
  3. Finally, click the Clear Now button and the window will close and the items you've selected will be cleared.
  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click the Firefox button, go over to the History menu and select Clear Recent History....
    For Windows XP: At the top of the Firefox window, click the Tools menu and select Clear Recent History....
    On the menu bar, click the Tools menu, and select Clear Recent History....At the top of the Firefox window, click the Tools menu, and select Clear Recent History....
    History Win1
    History Mac1
    History Lin1
  2. Select how much history you want to clear:
    • Click the drop-down menu next to Time range to clear to choose how much of your history Firefox will clear.
    History Win2 History Mac2 History Lin2
    History Win3 Fx11 History Mac3 Fx11 History Lin3 Fx11
  3. Finally, click the Clear Now button and the window will close and the items you've selected will be cleared.

How do I make Firefox clear my history automatically?

If you need to clear your history every time you use Firefox, you can set it to happen automatically on exit so you don’t forget.

  1. Click the menu button New Fx Menu Fx57Menu and choose Options.Preferences.
  2. Select the PrivacyPrivacy & Security panel and go to the History section.

  3. In the drop-down menu next to Firefox will:Firefox will, choose Use custom settings for history.
    customhistory38 Fx56Privacy&Security-CustomHistory-new CustomHistory fx57 Fx60HistorySettings-UseCustom
  4. Check the box for Clear history when Firefox closes. History Win4 History Mac4 History Lin4
  5. To specify what types of history should be cleared, click the Settings... button next to Clear history when Firefox closes.
  6. In the Settings for Clearing History window, check the items that you want to have cleared automatically each time you quit Firefox.
    History Win5 History Mac5 History Lin5
  7. After selecting the history to be cleared, click OK to close the Settings for Clearing History window.
  8. Close the about:preferences page. Any changes you've made will automatically be saved.

How do I remove a single website from my history?

  1. Click the Library button 57 library icon , click History and then click the Show All History bar at the bottom to open the Library window.Click the menu button New Fx Menu , click History and then click the Show All History bar at the bottom to open the Library window.
  2. Search for the website you want to remove from your history by typing its name in the Search History field in the top-right corner and then pressing EnterReturn.
  3. Then, in the search results, right-clickhold down the Ctrl key while you click on the site you want to remove, and select Forget About This Site.
    All history items (browsing and download history, cookies, cache, active logins, passwords, saved form data, exceptions for cookies, images, pop-ups) for that site will be removed.

    History Win6 History Mac6 History Lin6
  4. Finally, close the Library window.

How to clear history automatically regardless of your Firefox Settings?

If you are serious about protecting your browser sessions and history from either malicious spyware, viruses or hackers, as well as individuals that may have access to your PC after you turn it off there is a quick and easy way that will erase all traces of your browsing history, forms, passwords and everything else every time you shut down. This method DOES NOT work in Windows or the Mac OS, rather you will be using one of the Linux operating systems that run in RAM and cache all data in RAM. These systems lose or FORGET all history, form data and settings every time you power off, since nothing is stored to your hard drive. The disadvantage is that bookmarks and add-ons are also lost unless you back them up and then re-install them each time you reboot. Some Linux packages do allow you to save specific Firefox configurations, such as bookmarks or restore them on the next boot. Some Linux versions can also be installed without wiping out your entire Windows system. So what you'll want - if you want to keep your Windows AND want to have all history removed without thinking about it AND use Firefox (good idea - and not all Linux versions have Firefox) - is to download a Linux that runs in RAM and runs Firefox and runs from a USB Flash Drive so it doesn't affect your Windows system. These criteria narrow down your Linux choices quite a bit. It means you can still run Windows when you want and since Windows is not a very secure system - there are a lot of hackers who attack all the various releases - just don't expect to be secure or reliable or consistent when in Windows. For that you'll rely on Linux running Firefox - a great, secure, 100% open source combination. One problems is that not all PCs and Laptops can boot from a USB Flash Drive, so you will need to check your BIOS to see if yours will. If so, you can create a bootable USB Flash Drive with your flavor of Linux on it and when you want a secure browsing session that disappears when you poweroff, you boot your Linux USB Flash Drive with Firefox on it and when you shut down - POOF - history and everything else is gone. You can still save data, downloads, docs, images - all that jazz - but preferences, cache, forms, passwords etc. related to Firefox will disappear and were never written to your hard drive in the first place so there's no worry that some hidden file might exist that someone could find later. Here are the basic steps to creating a bootable USB Flash Drive with Linux, also called a LIVE LINUX at some web sites.

  1. Check your BIOS to see if you can boot from a USB Flash Drive. When you first power up your system try pressing F2 or Delete. These are the most common keys to enter your BIOS settings. You have to do this pretty quickly, usually in under 3 seconds after turning on the PC or Laptop. Some boot screens will actually tell you when to press these special keys. Also, many PCs don't use F2 or Delete and you may have to go to the web site of the manufacturer of your PC to find the BIOS HOT KEY or BIOS KEY to enter the BIOS settings of your PC.
  2. Once inside the BIOS find the BOOT PRIORITY or BOOT SEQUENCE or BOOT ORDER screen. It will often show a CD ROM as the first boot device and a hard drive, sometimes listed as HDD as the second boot device. Look for a device called USB Removable Hard Drive or USB Flash Drive and if you can find that, you are in luck and simply need to move that to the first top position. If your system finds a bootable USB Flash Drive it will run the operating system there and if not it will go through your list in the order you specify and boot from the other devices. Ignore USB FDD which means Floppy Disk or USB CD/DVD ROM which is an external CD/DVD. That won't help unless you are using a CD version of the Linux you select. If you do NOT see a USB Removable Hard Drive or USB device then you can't boot from a USB Flash Drive and you will need to install your Linux directly on the same hard drive as your Windows system. Be very careful about that. BEFORE you install any Linux on your system go to the forum or ask an expert and make sure the Linux will install without wiping out your Windows system. DO NOT install a Linux or any other OS on your hard drive without checking with an expert first. DO install Linux to a USB Flash Drive if at all possible. Its safer and means you can take your Linux and Firefox with you to any PC that can boot from a USB Flash Drive.
  3. Select your flavor of Linux. There are over 200 of them but most will NOT boot from a USB Flash Drive and many will change your hard drive - partition it etc. - and wipe out your Windows. A few good choices for a USB Flash Drive capable Linux are Tiny Core Linux http://tinycorelinux.com which is good for Techs, Puppy Linux http://puppylinux.com which is good for the general user and Pocket Rocket Linux http://pocketrocketlinux.com which is actually based on a Firefox driven desktop. Though Puppy is a popular Linux and fairly small and can run from a USB Flash Drive, of these three, Tiny Core and Pocket Rocket Linux are actually designed to do just that.
  4. Create your bootable USB Flash Drive. Most Linux web sites have help pages that show you how to do that. When done, you can test your new installation by booting it, connecting to the internet and firing up Firefox. Once Firefox is running change the preferences and options, for example save passwords or form data, change the home page. Make a few changes and write them down so you remember what you did. Visit some web sites. Save some bookmarks. Load up the history files with a bit of data.
  5. Now shut down your Linux and reboot again. If your favorite flavor of Linux was running in RAM you will see all your changes are gone - you are back to the default version of Firefox or the original version and settings that particular Linux uses.
  6. Want even more security? Try using the TOR Browser with Aurora. Aurora when combined with TOR is a very safe way to browse the internet, complete with encryption and IP location protection and TOR is very good about clearing all your history and cache data.