Computers > Windows > Privacy
Windows Privacy Info

As you already know, a lot of data is stored on your computer that you may or may not want to keep. Here are some notes regarding cleaning up after yourself (the actual menu choices vary depending on the program and version, but maybe you can figure out what's appropriate). As always, it's a good idea to make a backup of your hard drive, especially any vital files, before continuing (you may want to copy any files you're about to edit or delete to a floppy). If you're at all concerned about the following, then don't use them! Use at your own risk.

  1. Web Browsing:
    • Start up your browser
    • Delete any unneeded bookmarks
    • Netscape:
      1. Edit/Preferences/Navigator
        • click Clear History and Clear Location Bar
        • or Communicator/Tools/History
          • then highlight and tap the Delete key for each url (http address) you want to delete
            • (to delete several in a row, Left-Click the 1st url to delete, then Shift-Left-Click the last url, then tap the Delete key)
      2. Edit/Preferences/Advanced/Cache, click Clear Disk Cache
    • Internet Explorer:
      • View (or Tools)/Options/General
        1. click Delete (temporary internet) Files
        2. click Clear History

  2. Email:
    1. Start up your email program.
    2. After you send an email, a copy is usually saved in a Sent folder, delete any unwanted messages from this folder, and any other folders (including Draft and OutBox).
    3. After deleting an email, a copy is usually kept in a Deleted or Trash folder, delete any unwanted messages from this folder.
    4. If your email program has a Compact menu choice (usually under File), using it will more thoroughly remove your recently deleted emails.
    5. You may also want to delete unneeded entries from your email address book (you could save some of these in an address book on a free web-email account like HotMail).
    6. Be aware that it's possible for the operator(s) (and hackers) of your email server to read/intercept any email you send or receive. Unencrypted email is only slightly more private than a postcard.

  3. Temporary Files and Cookies
    • Close your Browser and/or email program before continuing.
    • Many temporary files are of the form: ~*.tmp
    • Start Windows Explorer (Start/Programs/WindowsExplorer). If your hard drive isn't C:, then use the appropriate letter. Don't delete the folders, just the unwanted files. It's usually safe to delete old temporary files and unwanted cookies in these folders:
      • Windows:
        • C:\Windows\Temp\
      • Internet Explorer:
        • C:\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\
      • Netscape:
        • C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\YourLoginName\Cache\
        • Netscape cookies are stored in C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\YourLoginName\cookies.txt
          • you can edit this file with notepad, deleting unwanted cookies; although Netscape warns against this for fear of messing these up.

  4. Document Lists & Logs
    • Many programs keep a list of the most recently used documents, some have an option to 'clear' this list from a menu (Edit or Tools/Options), others require you to File/Open several documents, thus replacing the current list with these newly opened ones.
    • Some programs (like ICQ and mIRC), keep logs of text you've typed and/or received.
      • Many of these programs have a Clear or Erase history menu choice.
      • These logs are often kept in a subdirectory of each particular program (sometimes with a .log or .txt extension).
      • You may want to use WindowsExplorer to find these files and edit or delete them.
      • There an article on the privacy concerns of Instant Messengers.
    • Right-Click on the taskbar, choose Properties/StartMenuPrograms/Clear (Documents menu)

  5. Search Your Hard Drive (for more advanced 'cleaning')
    • Start Windows Explorer (Start/Programs/WindowsExplorer)
    • In Explorer: Tools/Find/FilesOrFolders
      1. 'Named' box can be left blank (or put in *.*)
      2. LookIn box should have just the Drive letter , for example C: (without any subdirectory chosen)
      3. Include Subdirectories should be check-marked.
      4. Containing Text box (sometimes found under the Advanced file tab) is where you type in the word or phrase you want to find (for example your name).
      5. Choose Find Now
        • You can't necessarily just delete any found files; but this will tell you where those files that contain the word/phrase are located.
        • With some files, you can Right-Click/Open or Right-Click/View, and take a peek at their contents before deciding what to do with them.
        • It's possible some file, by random chance, may contain your search-word (for example, let's say C:\Program Files\FuBar\ProgramName.exe contains 'myword', but this would be true for all copies of that program on all computers; and so its use of 'myword' is unrelated to your interest in 'myword'
    • You may want to repeat the above for several sensitive words/phrases.
    • Right-Click on the taskbar, choose Properties/StartMenuPrograms/Clear (Documents menu)

  6. Recycle Bin
    • Using Windows Explorer, Right-Click on the Recycle Bin, choose Open, highlight and delete unneeded files
    • To delete all Recycle Bin files: Right-Click on the Recycle Bin, choose Empty Recycle Bin

  7. Savvy computer geeks can recover deleted files
    • To permanently erase deleted files, use a program like BCWipe (it overwrites deleted files with random data).

  8. For the paranoid:
    • For Word documents, get rid of TrackChanges with the Remove Hidden Data Tool
    • There are programs that monitor your every keystroke. Some of these are extremely hard to detect. For more info, see Technology Terrors.
Best of luck.

General Disclaimer: The above is provided with no guarantees or warranties of any kind. Use this information at your own risk. The author assumes no responsibility for any damages or loss of data resultant, nor for any consequential damages or loss of income, from the use or misuse of the above.

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