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Delete History

What is history and why is it dangerous?

Your computer (well, actually the programs on your computer) track and save many of your actions. For example Windows remembers which programs you have started, Internet Explorer remembers which websites you have visited, Google Toolbar remembers the words that you have searched for, and so on. These traces of your computer activity are commonly known as history.

Contrary to the popular belief that this is done in order to harm you as part of some sort of worldwide conspiracy, history is actually used for the purpose of making your computer experience more convenient. However, as in many other cases, the good things can be used for bad purposes. In this case the information about your computer habits can be used from someone to gather very private information about yourself and to harm you, your work, your business, or your family. The privacy threats include many more things than history. Nevertheless, history is one of the most obvious traces and is very easy to abuse.

There are two general ways to deal with history. The first one includes manual search and delete of history traces on your computer. The problem with this approach is that it is very tedious and error prone process, and (which is even more important) there are many kinds of history that are impossible to delete manually. The second way is to use specialized privacy-protection program, like Mil Shield that will clean all the traces for you. In addition Mil Shield will clean the content of index.dat files along with history, cookies, cache, UserData records, AutoComplete and any other information about what you have done in Internet or in your PC.

Click here to download the free trial version of Mil Shield 8.0
4.16 MB - 25 sec with broadband or 12 minutes with dial-up link

Although the usage of Mil Shield does not require much (or any) knowledge about history, you can read the next chapters of this article in order to find out what kinds of history are there and how you can delete them.

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What kinds of history are there?

There are generally two types of history: the first one is created by Windows, Internet Explorer or other parts of the operating system; and the second one is created by other applications (such as Media Player, Google Toolbar, Google Desktop, etc.). The second type is covered in the next chapter of this article.

The most important type of history is the Internet history that is created by Internet Explorer (from now on we will call it IE), which records every page that you have visited on the Internet. In order to see this history start Internet Explorer and select View -> Explorer Bar -> History (see the picture below). This will open a narrow window in the left side of the main IE window, which shows the pages that you have opened in the past.

This picture shows how to view the Internet Explorer history

In addition to the History window, every time when you start typing an Internet address in the Address bar of IE, a long list of all addresses that start with this letter (and that you have visited in the past) are shown immediately. This is a major privacy blow.

This picture shows how Internet Explorer reveals the addresses of the pages that are visited in the past (web history), when you start typing an address This feature of IE is called AutoComplete and it is feeded by history records. Note that there is another kind of privacy threatening information that is called AutoComplete forms and passwords, which is not related to history.

Note that not all remembered by IE pages are shown in the History window or in the Address bar. Usually there are many other history records that are not visible but can be extracted from someone with a clue. These history records are kept in some of the infamous index.dat files, which are described in depth in Delete index.dat files article.

The second type of history is Windows search history. It can be seen if you open the Search results window. To do that you need to click Start menu -> Search. In this window there are many fields where AutoComplete compromises your privacy.

This is the main window of standard Windows search utilty. There are many types of history that should be deleted.

As you can see, there are four types of search that you can make - Pictures, music, or video, Documents (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.), All files and folders and Computers or people. In the forms for each of these types of search there are fields that show the words that have been entered in the past.

AutoComplete in search form. The only way to get rid of this search history is to clean it with specialized privacy protection program.
AutoComplete in search form. The only way to get rid of this search history is to clean it with specialized privacy protection program.

You can turn off AutoComplete for the search forms but this does not prevent someone to turn it back on and see the things that you have searched for. The only real solution to this history problem is to clean all these history records.

The next types of history are the Start menu Run history and Start menu most frequently used programs. First one shows the programs that were started by Start menu Run command (see the picture below).

This is the main window of standard Windows search utilty. There are many types of history that should be deleted.

The second one shows the most frequently used programs (only in Windows XP and Windows Vista). This is the most obvious history of all - it is located in the left part of Windows XP and Windows Vista Start menu.

You can use Mil Shield to delete all described types history and also the content of index.dat files, cookies, cache and many other tracks.

There are other types of history but all of them are associated with specific applications. Read the next chapter to find out about the history traces of Media Player, Google Toolbar, Google Deskbar, Google Desktop, WinZip, WinRAR, GetRight, FlashGet, MS Office and other applications.

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Applications history

The first type of application history is called Common file dialog history. Almost every application has some sort of open/save features and most of the applications use the Windows-provided dialogs for these operations. This ensures that open/save dialogs of most programs are very similar to each other. However here comes the bad news - Windows records the names of the files that you open or save. Even if these names do not show in the file open/save dialog of particular application, they are still recorded and can be viewed from someone who knows where to look for them.

Now, let's take a look at the Media Player history items. First, there is a list of most recently opened files in the File menu of Media Player. Second, each played file is remembered in the default playlist. For example you can see all recently played vide files in "All Video Clips" item in the Playlist drop-down list.

Google Toolbar, Google Deskbar, Yahoo toolbar and ICQ toobar all have a special type of search history that records the words that you have searched for. These words are shown when you type the first letter of the word(s) to be searched (see the picture below).

This is the Google Toolbar search history. You can delete this history and many other traces with Mil Shield.

Google Desktop does not show the history for searched words but it records in its database information for all visited pages from Internet Explorer history. Even if you manage to delete the Internet Explorer history, the visited pages are still shown from Google Desktop when a search is made.

Currently only Mil Shield is capable to delete selectively the web history records from the Google Desktop and thus to allow safe usage of the convenient Google Desktop features. Note that during the cleanup, Mil Shield temporarily closes the Google Desktop engine and then starts it again.

There are many other application history tracks that can be deleted by Mil Shield (note that the cleaning of the following types of history is not turned on by default in Mil Shield because some users prefer not to clean them; if you want to clean some (or all) of these tracks, just see the Mil Shield for instructions how to do this):

  • Microsoft Office 2010, 2007, 2003, 2000 and 97. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access all have history of most recently opened files in their File menus.
  • Irfan Viewer. Irfan Viewer has a history of most recently used files and folders. Other traces include the current slideshow list and default slideshow directory.
  • ACDSee. ACDSee has a history of most recently used files and folders. Other traces are in the image database.
  • WinZip. WinZip has a history of most recently used files and folders.
  • WinRAR. WinRAR has a history of most recently used files and folders.
  • GetRight. GetRight has a history of most recent download URLs, save locations and download history. Note that Mil Shield also cleans the records for unfinished downloads because they are privacy threat too.
  • FlashGet. FlashGet has a history of most recent download URLs. Note that Mil Shield also cleans the records for unfinished downloads because they are privacy threat too.
  • Download Accelerator Plus (DAP). DAP has a history of most recent download URLs, save locations and download history. Note that Mil Shield also cleans the records for unfinished downloads because they are privacy threat too.
  • MyWaySearch PopSwatter. MyWaySearch PopSwatter has a search history that is very similar to the Google Toolbar search history.
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How to delete history?

Deleting of all history traces is very hard task that can not be done manually because most of them are stored in system areas that are not directly accessible from the user. Also the history traces are so many and they are scattered at so many places that their manual deletion would be very long and tedious work with high probability of mistakes that could lead to privacy holes or even render your computer unusable.

Mil Shield is a powerful privacy protection program that was designed specifically to delete all types history that are described in this article; to clean and shred the index.dat files; and to clean all other privacy-related traces as cookies, Temporary Internet Files, AutoComplete forms and passwords, UserData records, and many others.

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