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Clean Out Personal Data

If you're looking to protect your privacy and prevent casual snoopers from seeing what you have been doing on your PC, we suggest our product PC Pitstop Erase. Want to do it yourself? Here are some things you can do. Before starting your cleanup, remember that saved data on your computer may include usernames, passwords, and other information related to sites you visit on the Internet. Be sure that you remember that information or have it saved elsewhere before deleting it from your PC.

Windows Files

Sometimes the most obvious things are the easiest to overlook. If you have deleted files but have not emptied them from the Recycle Bin they can easily be seen by anyone. Just right-click the Recycle Bin on the desktop and select Empty Recycle Bin. By the way, there's a simple trick you can use to delete files in Explorer without sending them to the Recycle Bin: hold down the Shift key when you press the Delete key or delete the file from the menu.

Also be sure to clean out the files that sloppy programs leave behind in the Windows temp folders. These may be located in one or more places:

  • \Documents and Settings\YOURNAME\Local Settings\Temp
  • \Windows\Temp
  • \Temp

The YOURNAME will be your login name; there will be a folder under Documents and Settings for every user created on the computer. Files and folders in the temp directory that are more than a day old are generally safe to delete.

Internet Explorer

Privacy settings for IE are in the Tools, Internet Options dialog, but they are scattered around on different tabs and difficult to find. You should be aware of what they remember and how to clear them.

Internet Explorer's Options dialog holds most of the settings for remembering where you've been and what you typed.

Internet cache:
On the General tab, you can delete most of the files in the cache by clicking the Delete Files button. There is a bug in IE that loses track of some files in the cache, and they won't be deleted. You can clean them out with our Erase or Optimize utilities, or use these steps to clear out the cache manually.

Browsing history:
Also on the General tab, click the Clear History button to prevent someone from seeing the past web sites you have visted by using IE's history feature, or by clicking the down arrow on the right side of the Address bar. If you have turned on URL Inline AutoComplete (Advanced tab, under Browsing), clearing history will also prevent AutoComplete from sites you have previously visited. However, note that clearing history will not completely remove all traces of visited sites from the computer; there will often be some files left behind in this folder: \Documents and Settings\YOURNAME\Local Settings\History\History.IE5. You can delete these files manually if you like.

Form and login data:
On the Content tab, click the AutoComplete button to view or change the IE settings for remembering web addresses, form information, and login information that you have typed. You can also clear any information that has already been remembered. Note that if you just uncheck the boxes in this dialog, it will not clear any information previously saved.

Mozilla Firefox lets you control most of its tracking behavior from this single dialog in the Tools, Options menu.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox puts all the privacy-related settings in a single spot, which makes it easy to clear out personal data. Click Tools, Options and select the Privacy icon. Then click the Clear button next to any of the items you want to remove. If you want to clear everything, you can click the Clear All button near the bottom of the dialog.

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