How to cover your tracks with Safari on the Mac

Clear your browser's history to keep safe and secure

Your internet activities are tracked in several ways when you use a web browser, but sometimes you don’t want to leave traces behind as you browse the web. These techniques will cover your tracks.

Safari private browsing

One way to hide your tracks when using the internet is to go to the File menu in Safari and select New Private Window. All your previous internet activity is hidden. What’s more, all browsing activity is erased once you close the private window. Nothing remains on the computer to show what you have been doing or which sites you have visited.

Safari private browsing

There are several reasons why you might want to hide your internet activities and if you use online shopping or banking, you will be safer if you hide your browsing session. Shop and bank in a private window for extra safety.

Safari stores information about the websites you visit, the sites store information about you, and previously visited web pages are stored in a cache on the disk drive.

The browser’s history, cache and cookies reveal what sites you have visited, what you looked at, which sites you logged into and so on.

Sometimes this is useful, but not always. It can be useful if you regularly use a membership site, for example, Facebook and Twitter. The login details are remembered so you don’t need to type in your username and password each time you visit the sites. Other sites have login details that are remembered too.

This is great. Except when you have two accounts at a site, such as two Twitter accounts or two accounts on some other site. Visit the site and you might be logged in with the wrong username and password.

Websites can look different because of your previous visits. A site that knows you from your history, cache, and cookies can present a different web page to you than to an unknown user. For example, this website looks different to me than to you because I have a writer’s account here. To see it the same way you do, I have to open a New Private Window in Safar because it has no history, cookies or cache.

Google presents search results based on your previous searches and if you search Google in a New Private Window you often get different results.

Clear your browsing history

Sometimes you might forget to open a private browsing window and you visit a site with a normal Safari window. You might not want that website stored in your history and cache, or have cookies stored by it. You might want to erase recent history and cached pages because you have been banking or shopping online.

You can easily clear the history, caches and cookies that have been stored. Go to the Safari menu and select Clear History.

Clear history in Safari

Next to Clear is a menu that lets you choose a time period, such as the last hour. This is useful if you want to erase just what you have been doing recently, but you don’t want to lose login information, cookies and history from other useful sites you visit.

Safari privacy settings

Remove website data

Websites can store information on the disk and if you don’t want this hanging around, go to the Safari menu and select Preferences. Select Privacy at the top, wait a few seconds for the cookie and other data to appear, and click Details.

Safari privacy settings

You can browse the list for websites or use the search box to find websites you don’t want or don’t need. Select a site and click Remove.

Safari clear website data

If you remove all website data, you will lose useful information like login details and account information for favourite websites as well as bad websites. It is best to select the ones you don’t want and remove just those.

Auto-clear the history

Sometimes you have to clear your tracks manually, such as when you accidentally visit a site in normal mode instead of a private browsing window. You curse at your stupidity and set about clearing the last hour’s browsing activity.

For less important track-covering, you can leave it in automatic mode. Go to Safari, Preferences and select the General tab. Next to Remove history items is an option to clear items from the history after a certain period of time has passed, such as one day, one week, a month and so on.

Clear Safari history

Sites you visit every day, like Facebook, are unaffected, but sites you have stopped visiting will eventually be removed from the history stored on disk.

Developer’s secrets

There is a hidden menu in Safari that has some useful features. Go to Safari, Preferences and select the Advanced tab. Down at the bottom, tick Show Develop menu in menu bar.

Show Develop menu in Safari

Now there is a new menu between Bookmarks and Window. On that menu are two useful items. Empty Caches removes all the web pages stored on disk. This hides recent activities and also ensures that the next time you visit a web page it is freshly downloaded and not an old copy read from the disk.

Safari Develop menu

Caches can cause problems and after making a change to this website for example, if I don’t empty the cache I often cannot see the change because Safari loads the page from the cache on the disk, rather that downloading it from the site. Clearing the cache ensures that you see up to date information.

Disabling caches might, in some cases, cause Safari to display web pages a tiny bit slower because it always downloads a fresh copy instead of loading an old one from the disk drive. It is useful if you want to ensure that you are seeing the latest information.

 

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