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David Baxter

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No, I don't mean the ones made with chocolate chips or peanut butter. I think we all know what those are and how to "get rid" of them... :)

I'm talking about the kind that inhabit your temporary internet files folder on your computer.

There is probably more unnecessary worry about cookies than any other aspect of internet surfing. The reality is that cookies are used by pretty much every website you visit, including this forum, to keep track of which pages you have visited, which forum threads you have read and not read, etc. They do not store personal information on the website you have just visited. Indeed, they do not store ANY information anywhere except on your own computer.

You really don't need to do anything about cookies in the vast majority of cases. However, if you're curious, read on...

If it worries you, you can delete all cookies through your browser (see below). If you want to keep some and delete others, you can also do that. And if you want to have a look at what cookies are currently residing on your computer, Fred Langa from the newsletter Windows Secrets has this advice:

How to determine which cookies can be deleted
If you've poked around in your browser's settings, you've probably discovered an easy way to see what cookies are being stored on your system. For example, in IE 7, click Tools, Internet Options, then in the Browsing History section, click Settings, View Files. In Firefox, it's Tools, Options, Privacy, Cookies, View Cookies. If you haven't done a cleanup in a while, you'll probably find a pile of cookies waiting for you.

Cookies are just ASCII text files created via your browser by Web sites you visit. Some cookies are very useful, storing login information for the Web sites you frequent, the date of your last visit (so the site can flag newer information for you), your favorite search terms, and so on. These cookies are worth saving. Other cookies really only benefit Web advertisers, and can be deleted with no negative consequences to you. But how do you tell which cookies are which?

Because cookies are plain text files, they can be opened and read with Notepad. Even so, the data stored inside a cookie may not be very easy to figure out.

That's where a tool like Karen Kenworthy's free Cookie Viewer can help. Cookie Viewer works with Internet Explorer and Firefox cookies, and presents all of a cookie's data in a comprehensive but easy-to-understand way. You can see when the cookie was created, by whom, when it expires, and more. The program also lets you delete any cookies you don't want.

Firefox users can also use any of several cookie-viewing add-ons, such as the free View Cookies download.

Once you know what cookies you want to keep, managing them becomes much simpler. For example, you can mark the cookies you want to keep as read-only, mass-delete the rest, and then clear the preserved cookies' read-only attribute.

Another alternative is to copy the cookies you want to preserve to a safe place, mass-delete the rest, and then copy the cookies back. If you have any skill with batch files or other scripting tools, you can easily automate this process.

There's also a huge number of cookie managers available for sale on the Web, but I've never found them particularly useful. As you can see from the above, managing cookies manually isn't particularly difficult. The first time you do it can be somewhat time-consuming, but subsequent cleanups can be easy and lightning-fast.

To subscribe to the free Windows Secrets newsletter, click here. There's also a paid version (I think it's still $12 USD per year) with additional articles.
 

Halo

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That was a great post....thank you so much :) One quick question, I run CCleaner quite frequently and was wondering if that got rid of all the cookies as well?
 

David Baxter

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I run CCleaner quite frequently and was wondering if that got rid of all the cookies as well?

If you have it configured to delete cookies, yes. Mine isn't set to do that because I visit several sites regularly and I like to keep my history with those sites up to date. When you log out of Psychlinks, all cookies are deleted. I prefer to remain logged in so mine are never deleted.

Antispyware programs routinely delete certain kinds of cookies too (e.g., AdClick cookies, which keep track of which ads you've viewed), although I've never fully understoood why. There really isn't any significant risk, unless you want to hide or obscure your surfing history (e.g., if it's a shared computer).
 

sister-ray

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I have a budgie called Cookie and I dont want to get rid of her!!:D

When I first found out about cookies many years ago I was really worried about "these things" in my computer and went about trying to manually delete them all and there where alot, these when in the days before I knew anything about the computer I was using!! Nowadays I just do it through internet tools and also WinCleaner, AOL also has it own software to delete them and also to delete "footprints". I doubt if the cookie viewer will work with AOL, but I might give it a try later just to see, anyway thanks for the post:)
 

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