Keep your browsing private: delete your search history on Mac

10 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 be while at work. It’s not just a case of removing evidence from the web history menu in your browser — that won’t stop Google, for example, highlighting search results you’ve clicked on before. Nor will it prevent adverts for products you’ve researched from appearing when you, or your spouse or your boss, visit a completely different site.

What is browsing history and why you should remove it

Basically, web history is everything you search for online being remembered by your computer. Each time you dive into the internet, you leave footprints in your web browser. The information picked up by the browser is in turn stored in a log, along with the website name and URL. That’s why you see the sites you’ve visited before as auto-suggestions once you start typing them in your address bar.

Helpful as it is, browsing history deprives you of anonymity and can pose serious risks to data security. Any person who has access to your Mac can easily track your online activities. That’s creepy enough. But it gets worse. If you don’t learn how to delete history, your data can be compromised in case there’s a malware attack on your Mac. So let’s see how to clear search history from your Mac in a timely manner.

Easy ways to clear browsing history on Mac

To get rid of every trace of your web surfing activity, you need to know how to delete history from your browser securely.

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 out while you were browsing.

So here’s all you need to know about how to 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 or use private search functionality.

Prevent cross-site tracking in Safari

If you use multiple browsers, you won’t sleep well until you remove history in each of them — every browser has its own track of your online activities. Good news is that it takes a few simple actions to manually delete search history in any given browser. You can also get a special tool that would help you delete it all in seconds.

Let’s start with some tips on how to build a secure and private 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

How to view and clear your browsing history in Safari

All the sites you’ve visited in the period specified by the option you’ve chosen will disappear from the History menu. That won’t remove all of the traces, however. 

To get rid of data stored by the sites you’ve visited, click on the Safari menu again and then Preferences. Select the Privacy tab and then Manage Website Data…

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

clear browsing history Safari
Tip: To visit sites without leaving traces in your browsing history, turn the private browsing feature on.

If you want to remove a specific site from your history, access Safari’s History tab in the menu bar and Show All History (⌘ + Y). Find a website you’d like to remove, select it and Delete. Hold down ⌘ 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 Go in the menu bar, pick Go to Folder, paste in ~/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 the websites you’ve visited to store data related to your activity on those sites.

How to clear search history 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 for the most part. 

To clear browsing data in Google Chrome:

  1. Click on the History menu and Show Full History
  2. Now select “Clear browsing data” in the left sidebar. A new web page will open with the option to “Clear the following items from…”
  3. Choose a time period for which you want to clear data and then check 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 a few minutes. Sounds easy, except clearing your Chrome history doesn’t mean it disappears from Google.

Go the extra mile and remove all the traces of your online Google activities, since you have the power to view, control, and delete data about your activity from your Google Account.

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

  1. Click “Data & personalization” from the top navigation panel
  2. Access My Activity in the “Activity and timeline” pane
  3. In the top-right corner click More
  4. To delete all history, choose “Delete activity by” ➙ “Delete by date” ➙ “All time” ➙ Delete
  5. To remove only specific items, select More ➙ “Item view.” Here, you can either search 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

How to delete browsing history in Firefox

Luckily, Firefox positions itself as a privacy-minded browser and makes it quite a bit easier to clear history compared to Chrome. Here’s how you'd do it: 

  1. Click on the History menu and then Clear History
  2. In a new window, click Details and then select a time period for which you want to delete data. Check the box next to the data you want to delete and Clear Now.
  3. To remove a specific item from your Firefox history, go to History ➙ Show All History. Find a URL you want to delete — you can filter by date or just start typing it — right-click and select Forget This Site.
  4. To prevent Firefox from ever storing history data, click on the Firefox menu and then Preferences (⌘ + ,). Under the History heading, choose "Firefox will" and then "Never remember History."

delete browsing history in Firefox

How to delete history from all browsers at once

Whether it’s Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, it’s pretty easy to get rid of your browsing history in any of them in a few minutes. However, if you use more than one browser or other people have access to your computer, the whole process would take longer than it needs to be. Not to mention that you can simply forget to get rid of all traces. To ensure complete browsing privacy, you should set up something like automatic clearing or clearing on exit.

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

  1. Launch CleanMyMac X and click Privacy in the Protection section, then Scan
  2. Click on the first web browser whose history you want to delete and then check the box next to each of the items you don’t need. If you only want to remove history for specific properties, use the dropdown next to Browsing History and check those sites.
  3. Repeat that process for each browser whose history you want to delete from your Mac. When done, click Remove.

Clean up privacy

That's it! CleanMyMac X has now removed all of your browsing history, along with any other data you specified, in just a few clicks.

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

Click on the Recent Items List in the Privacy section of CleanMyMac X and check the box next to “Recently accessed servers,” or click on the dropdown arrow and then the box next to specific servers. Then Remove.

Clean up recent items list

Extra Tips On How To Search The Web Without Being Tracked

While knowing how to delete history from your web browsers is valuable, it’s even more important to incorporate private browsing and private search into your day-to-day activities. You need to be able to recognize how your online actions affect your digital footprint so you can adjust them to stay safe and secure at all times. 

Here are a few ideas: clear your history when you quit your browser, go incognito, block ads and trackers, and use a VPN. 

How to clear browsing history on exit

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

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

To clear history on exit in Chrome, open the 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 in Safari, there’s another option for automatic history clearing. Open Safari’s Preferences (⌘ + ,) and go to General. Click on Remove History items and choose a specific time range based on when you want Safari to remove your browsing history.

How to go incognito in your browser

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

To enable private browsing in Safari and Chrome, use a shortcut Shift + ⌘ + N. In Firefox, use Shift + ⌘ + P.

Firefox private browsing

It’s worth noting 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 be tracked via fingerprinting and other malicious tactics. To stay secure online, consider adding an ad blocker and VPN to your daily tools. 

How to block ads and other trackers

Most websites today, especially news ones, go completely overboard with the amount of advertising they use. Loading every ad takes time and data (if you’re on LTE), and doesn’t give you anything in return, apart from bad design. Even worse, most ads contain trackers that invade your privacy and follow you around the web. It’s time to put an end to this once and for all. 

AdGuard is the only app that’s able to block all ads and invasive trackers from every browser you use at once. This utility lives quietly in your menu bar and just works, but you can also specify the level of protection you’re looking for or certain websites where you’d like to have blocking disabled. Overall, AdGuard makes a powerful boost to your private browsing and private search habits. 

block all ads and invasive trackers from every browser

How to enable VPN for secure web surfing

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

Similarly, your internet service provider can collect and sell your browsing history to the highest bidder (mostly advertisers). That’s the creepy truth, and it’s a good motivator for 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 definitely 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 manages to intercept your traffic. 

But 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, you have to find a reputable VPN service out there first. In addition to making sure the VPN will actually keep your data private, you’ll want to make sure there’s nothing shady in its 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. The latter is an easy one. 

Shimo is an excellent VPN client that makes setting up your first VPN service a breeze. It supports top-level AES-256 encryption, lets you connect to a few services at the same time, can be automatically triggered based on specific conditions, and more.

Any VPN network under Shimo will help you maintain your privacy and effectively hide your online activity. 

Shimo, a VPN client

In the end, you don’t have to be an FBI official to care about your browsing privacy. No matter where you go online, it’s pretty easy to make personal data vulnerable. And sometimes you just don’t want anyone to know how many YouTube videos you watch at work! So make it a habit to regularly clear your search history with CleanMyMac X to remove all the traces in one go, use a VPN with Shimo, and block all ads and trackers forever with AdGuard. 

Best of all, CleanMyMac X, AdGuard, and Shimo are available to you absolutely free for 7-days via Setapp, a platform with more than 200 incredible Mac apps created to help you accomplish more. Try them all at no cost and pick your new favorite tools to get some important work done today.

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