Keep your browsing private: delete your search history on Mac

9 min read

There are a number of reasons you may want to delete your browsing history. From searching for a surprise birthday present for a loved one to surfing sites you shouldn't while at work. It's not just a case of removing the evidence from the History menu in your browser – that won't stop Google highlighting search results you've clicked on in purple, for example. Nor will it stop adverts for products you've researched appearing when you, or your spouse or boss, visit a completely different site.

What is browsing history and why remove it

Basically, it's everything you search online, remembered by your computer. Each time when you dive into the internet, you leave footprints in a browser. The information picked up by browser when you're searching the web is stored in a log – the website name and its URL. That's why you see the sites you've visited before in auto-suggestions once you start typing.

Helpful as it is, browsing history deprives you of anonymity and can pose serious risks to data security. Any person who has an access to your Mac can easily track your online activities. Creepy. But it gets worse. If you don't remove history and there's some kind of malware on Mac, your data can be compromised by a malicious program.

Easy ways to clear browsing history on Mac

To get rid of every trace of your surfing you need to securely delete your history and get rid of all the evidence.

It's worth noting that if you invoke Private Browsing in Safari or Incognito mode in Chrome, your browsing history will be deleted when you close the browser window, along with cookies and the contents of any forms you filled in while you were browsing.

Here's how to securely delete your browsing history:

Note: Once you permanently delete browsing history on your Mac, there's no way to recover it.

How to delete search history manually

Apart from logs, browsing history also covers cookies and caches. These are files that decrease storage on your Mac when they pile up. To free up space and ensure your browsing anonymity, make it a healthy habit to clear search history regularly.

Clear browsing data in Safari

If you use multiple browsers, you won't sleep well until you remove history in each of them – every browser has an own track of your online activities. It takes a few simple actions to manually delete search history in a browser. Or, you can get one tool that wipes it all away in seconds.

Below you'll find the working tips on how to build a secure browsing environment without any third-party software.

How to view and clear your browsing history in Safari

To view your Safari search history:

  1. Click on the Safari menu and click Clear History. 
  2. Choose an option from the dropdown menu and click Clear History again.
    All the sites you've visited in the period specified by the option you chose will disappear from the History menu. That won't remove all traces, however. 

How to view and clear your browsing history in Safari

To get rid of data stored by sites you've visited, click on the Safari menu again and click Preferences. Click the Privacy tab and click Manage website data.

You'll see a window with a list of sites you've visited and notes on what data they have store on your Mac. If you want to remove all traces of every site you've visited, click remove all. Otherwise, scroll through the list or search for a site whose data you want to delete, then click on it and click Remove.

clear browsing history safari
Tip: To visit sites without leaving a history, turn private browsing on or off.

If you want to remove a specific site, access Safari's History tab in menu and click on Show All History. Find a website you'd like to remove, click on it and press Delete. Hold down Command in case you want to get rid of several items at once.

remove specific site cache

To make sure everything has been deleted, click on the Go menu in the Finder, click Go to Folder and paste this: ~/Library/Safari/Databases and delete the contents of the folder.

databases safari clear

Also, delete the contents of the Local Storage and Databases folders. These are used by websites you've visited to store data relating to your activity on those sites.

Clear browsing data in Chrome

The first thing to note about using Chrome is that Google wants you to be logged in whenever you use it. That's because, whenever you're logged in, Google can collect your browsing data and use it to serve you adverts. So, if you don't want Google to know where you go on the web, make sure you're not logged in when you use it.

To clear browsing data in Google Chrome:

  1. Click on the History menu and click Show Full History. 
  2. Now click on Clear browsing data in the left hand sidebar. A new web page will open with the options to 'Clear the following items from…' 
  3. Choose a time period for which you want to clear data and then tick the boxes next to the data you want to delete. 
  4. Click Clear Browsing Data.

google chrome browsing history

The whole process won't take more than 2 minutes. Sounds easy, except clearing your Chrome history doesn't mean it disappears from Google.

Go an extra mile and remove all the traces of your online Google activities! 

Your can view,  control and delete data about all your activity from your Google Account.

To delete multi device searches and other activities of your Google account:

  1. On the top navigation panel, click Data & personalization.
  2. Access My Activity from Activity and timeline panel 
  3. In the top right corner click the More icon.
  4. To delete all history, choose Delete activity by > Delete by date > Down arrow > All time > Delete.
  5. To remove only specific items, select More > Item view. You can either search it manually or apply filters. Click More > Delete on the history item you want to remove.

clear browsing history google chrome

You can also prevent Google from tracking your activities in the first place. In My Activity tab, choose the menu button in the top left corner. Go to Activity controls and disable tracking for every service.

clear browsing data chrome

Delete browsing history in Firefox

  1. Click on the History menu and click 'Clear History.'
  2. In the window that opens, click Details and then choose a time period for which you want to delete data. Click the tick-box next to the data you want to delete and click Clear Now.
  3. To remove a specific item from your Firefox history, go to History > Show All History. Find an URL you want to delete – you can filter by date or start typing it – right-click and select Forget This Site.
  4. To prevent Firefox ever storing history data, click on the Firefox menu and choose Preferences. Under the History heading, choose 'Firefox will:' and then 'Never remember History.'

Delete browsing history in Firefox

How to clear history from all browsers at once

Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, it's pretty easy to get rid of your browsing history in a few minutes. However, if you use more than one browser or other people have an access to your computer, the whole process can be cumbersome. Not to mention that you can simply forget to get rid of all traces. To ensure browsing privacy, set up automatic clearing or clearing on exit.

Alternatively, you can use one small app from Setapp that wipes away all the history in one scan. Plus it detects malware on your Mac. Here's how to use CleanMyMac X for browsing history removal:

  1. Launch CleanMyMac and click Privacy in the Protection section, then click Scan.
  2. Click on the first web browser whose history you want to delete and then click the box next to each of the items you want to delete.  If you only want to remove history for specific sites, click the dropdown arrow next to Browsing History and check the site whose history you want to remove.
  3. Repeat that process for each browser whose history you want to delete from your Mac. When you're done, click the Remove button at the bottom of app's window.

Clean up privacy

And that's it! Told you it was easy! CleanMyMac has now removed the history from the web browsers you chose, along with any other data you specified, with just a few clicks.

If you want to remove traces of servers you have connected to, rather than websites you've visited, you can do that too. 

Click on Recent Items List in the Privacy section of CleanMyMac and check the box next to Recently accessed servers – or click on the dropdown arrow and click the box next to specific servers – and click Remove.

Clean up recent items list

Tips on how to search the web without being tracked

Clear browsing history on exit

You can take internet privacy to the whole new level by making your browser clear history on exit. This means all traces of the websites you visit are gone once you close a browser. Especially if you share your computer with anyone, the feature of automatic history removal is a necessity.

On a Mac, this option is available to Chrome and Firefox users:

To clear history on exit in Chrome, open browser and click on More in the top right corner. Go to Settings > Advanced > Content Settings. Open Cookies and use a switcher to activate the option "Keep local data only until you quit your browser."

To clear history on exit in Firefox, click on Firefox in the top left corner and choose Options. Access the Privacy tab > History > Firefox will > Use custom settings for history. Lastly, check the box next to "Clear History when Firefox Exits" and click Ok.

Although it's impossible to clear on exit, there's automatic history clearing in Safari. Open Safari's Preferences and access General. Click on Remove History items and choose a specific time range, based on when you want Safari to remove your browsing history.

Going incognito

Any browser you use on a Mac has tools for private browsing. Basically, it's a mode that you can apply to prevent a browser from remembering your local data. In case you use a shared computer, this is a perfect solution for keeping history under wraps.

safari private window

It's worth noting, though, that incognito mode doesn't ensure your data disappears from hidden caches, DNS logs, or flash cookies. What's more, there's always a chance you can get redirected to a malicious website. To exclude all the risks and keep your history confidential, consider getting a VPN instead.

VPN for secure surfing

Removing your browsing history from your Mac doesn't make it go away completely. As we said above, if you use Chrome while you're logged in to a Google account, Google will still have access to your history data.

Your internet service provider can collect and sell your browsing history to the highest bidder. That's the creepy truth , and it's motivate users to check out tools that can hide their browsing histories and disguise their internet traffic. 

If you want to surf the web completely anonymously, you should use a virtual private network, or VPN. VPNs work by masking your IP address from the websites you visit and preventing your ISP from seeing where you go on the web. It also encrypts information you send across the internet, making it unreadable to anyone who intercepts your traffic. 

We'll, now instead of your ISP the VPN has your search history and traffic. What's to stop the VPN from selling your information to the highest bidder? Of course, there are reputable VPN services out there. In addition to making sure the VPN will actually keep your data private, you'll want to make sure there's nothing shady in the terms and conditions.

To use  a VPN, you need two things, an account with a VPN service and a VPN client to set it up. Shimo is an excellent client and makes it very easy to set up and connect to most VPN services.

Shimo VPN app

Specifically, the VPN network helps to ensure privacy, as it hides your online habits. Here's the main reason to start using VPN with Setapp from $9.99 per month.

You don't have to be an FSB official to care about your browsing privacy. No matter where you go online, it's pretty easy to make personal data vulnerable. And, well, sometimes you just don't want anyone to know how many YouTube videos about cats you watch. Make it a habit to regularly clear your search history or use CleanMyMac X to remove all the traces in one go.

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