How do I remove cookies?

Question

Can cookies be deleted without adversely affecting my computer?

Answer

This question was answered on June 8, 1999. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

First of all, what the heck is a cookie file? “Cookies” are small text files that are stored on a Web user's hard drive to serve as a unique identifier for tracking that users preferences and profile on that Web site They take very little space (I have over 200 Cookie files on my system that take less space than a single floppy disk) so “filling up your hard drive with Cookies” is not a real concern No personal information about you or your computer, is stored in these files, but rather a profile of your movements and preferences when surfing In the beginning, Cookies were to be used within one Web site to track specific information such as usernames and passwords for membership-based sites, to track your on-line purchases via a "shopping basket" or to store your preferences for that site (i.e show me sports news but only about hockey) These were good uses of cookies that made getting in and around our favorite Web sites easier and more enjoyable

But then along came the “marketing wizards” that put up sites such as DoubleClick (www.doubleclick.com) and NetGravity (www.netgravity.com ) that now use cookies to silently track a user's movements between their clients sites that carry their ads When a user visits AltaVista to use the search engine, for example, a cookie is sent along with that site's images, and the information is stored in a database on a remote server at DoubleClick This information is supposed to be used to display “banner ads” that would specifically appeal to you based on your previous uses whenever you visit a member Web site, not just AltaVista This worries some users, who feel like they are being watched Most people that are concerned about “cookie” usage will either block or delete the cookie files on their hard drive Is it a case of paranoia or just playing it safe? It depends upon what you believe is possible with the information that is being gathered Most people that “fear” cookies, are more concerned about what may be done with them in the future

Deleting cookies is fairly easy Most cookie files are stored in the “C:\WINDOWS\COOKIES directory or folder If you have activated user profiles, each of your users that have accessed the Internet has their own cookie directory in the C:\WINDOWS\PROFILES folder Double-click the “username” folder (where “username” is the name you use to log on to Windows) to locate the COOKIES folder Simply delete the entire COOKIE folder when you finish surfing and none of the information that was gathered will be available the next time you connect to the Web When you delete all your Cookie files, however, any personal preferences or user registration information for certain web sites will be deleted as well You may have to go through a registration or reset of your preferences every time you go to these types of sites if you use this practice

Blocking cookies is fairly easy in most current Internet browsers Programs like Microsofts Internet Explorer or Netscapes Communicator/Navigator give you options to either be notified before accepting a cookie or just plain block all cookies Most current versions of Microsofts Internet Explorer allow you to change these settings by going to the VIEW/INTERNET OPTIONS menu, then click on the Advanced tab Look for the word cookies in the listings for the options to accept, ask before accepting or blocking all cookies Current Netscape versions will generally allow you to change Cookie options by clicking on the EDIT/PREFERENCES menu, then click on advanced Be aware, however, some Web sites will not allow you access without placing a cookie on your computer, so you may be limiting your surfing options

Another option for dealing with cookies is to load a program that monitors and deletes them as per your instructions A nice little shareware (try it before you buy it!) utility for Windows 95/98/NT that deals with cookies as well as temporary Internet files and history files (all of which can gobble up disk space on Internet connected computers) is Complete Cleanup A free evaluation version can be downloaded at www.softdd.com/complete/index.htm Simply run the program before or after connecting to the Internet to clean up one of 8 potential areas on your system that contains information that is no longer needed

If you really want to know everything about Cookie files, you guessed it, go to the Internet I visited the Cookie Central site (www.cookiecentral.com) and checked out their latest information Cookie Central has enough information about Internet Cookies to make your head hurt Be sure and ask yourself one question before you visit this site, Got Milk?

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on June 8, 1999