How do I remove cookies from my computer?

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When you think of „cookies”, you probably have a delicious chocolate cookie in mind. But in a technical sense, cookies have a completely different meaning.

Perhaps you have already been informed by various popups that a website is tracking your activities with the help of cookies, but without paying much attention to this notice. But are cookies actually harmful? Should you delete them?

You probably want to stay anonymous while surfing. Cookies, on the other hand, can make you feel like you’re being watched – after all, they track your activities on the Internet. A better understanding of what a cookie is and how it works will also help you decide whether to delete it.

Here’s everything you need to know about cookies and how to remove them on the three most popular browsers – Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari.

What is a computer cookie and how does it work?

Computer cookies, also known as web or browser cookies, are files that are stored in your web browser and that record your activities on websites. Here are some examples:

  1. Your navigation on a particular website – e.g. B. which buttons you clicked or which pages you visited
  2. Your entries on forms – e.g. B. Username, password or address
  3. Items that you have placed in an online shopping cart or your activity on a specific website so that this website can show you personalized advertising

Cookies are not a new invention. On the contrary – Lou Montulli developed it for Netscape back in the mid-1990s when he was programming an e-commerce platform (an online shop) for a customer. The cookies were used to track and save the items that users placed in the company’s digital shopping cart in the web browser.

Montulli referred to them as „magic cookies”. They are now part of the standard Internet repertoire and are used to show you advertisements, enable you to buy new shoes, or to store your personal information so that you can fill out forms faster.

Are cookies harmful to my computer?

There are different types of cookies with different properties. They’re usually as harmless as their savory namesakes, but could be abused by some cyber criminals.

Here is a list that shows you what’s stored on your computer:

  • First-party and third-party cookies , i.e. cookies from first -party and third-party providers, are generally not a problem. First-party cookies record information that is recorded by the website you are currently surfing on. Third-party cookies are data that are logged by an external provider, e.g. B. a digital advertising service.
  • Cookies labeled „Secure”, „HTTPOnly” and „SameSite” have built-in security functions that prevent them from being misused by hackers. They are the „good guys” on the internet.
  • Session and persistent cookies have an expiration date. They are either deleted as soon as you close the browser or after a certain period of time. 
  • Super cookies and zombie cookies are harmful. You are the villains in this piece and can steal sensitive or important information. They are not to be joked with!

Cookies usually have a practical use. They store information such as passwords or the URLs of the websites visited so that you don’t have to remember them. For example, when you shop online or register on a website, it will certainly be useful if the website can remember you because it has recorded and saved your entries.

However, that does not mean that you should automatically give each website permission to track your activities or to keep these cookies forever. Data protection is important. Occasionally, you should therefore delete the information that the websites hold about you.

Security products or web browser extensions offer blocking functions with which you can determine which types of cookies are allowed to run in the background.

Every now and then you should delete the cookies stored in your browser, as they can slightly affect the speed of your Internet connection while surfing. However, you should keep the cookies from shopping portals, social media or other services to which you regularly log in.

You can of course refuse the use of cookies if this option is displayed to you when you visit a new website. However, you may then no longer be able to access the domain because some websites will not function properly without cookies.

How to delete cookies in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari

Google Chrome users can do the following to delete cookies:

  1. Navigate to the button with the three dots arranged one below the other.
  2. Click on „Settings”.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click „Advanced”.
  4. Find the content settings.
  5. Click on „Cookies” and use the trash can icon to remove individual cookies or select „Remove all”.

Mozilla Firefox users can proceed as follows to delete cookies:

  1. Look for the button with the three bars arranged one below the other and click on it.
  2. Click on „Library” and then on „History”.
  3. Click the „Clear Recent History” button and set the time period you want.
  4. Tick ​​the „Cookies” check box and any other archived data that you want to be removed and click „Delete Now”.

Safari users can do the following to delete cookies:

  1. Next to „File”, click the „Safari” drop-down button.
  2. Look for „Settings”.
  3. Go to the „Privacy” section.
  4. Click on „Remove all website data” or „Details” to delete cookies individually or collectively.