How to clear/wipe/delete your search history is a really popular term, but also a really diverse term, because there’s lots of different places where it’s stored, and where you can clear it from (browser, search engines, devices, routers).
Therefore in this guide, we’re going to try and produce as broad a guide as possible covering in simple, quick terms how to clear browsing history from all the major places regular internet users will tend to have it stored.
We’ll cover all major browsers and search engines, plus how to stop tracking of history going forward when possible with these tools, plus how to clear history from your router and anonymize all history from remote tracking using a VPN, so we’re covering as many bases as possible when it comes to deleting and hiding browsing history.
Let’s get started.
How To Clear Search History For All Major Browsers
Let’s start with the most obvious place where history is stored unless you configure it otherwise within settings – on web browsers.
Here are quick instructions for wiping history on all major browsers, with links to more detailed guides for each as well:
Firefox (full illustrated guide here):
- Desktop – Click the 3 lines burger icon on the far top right of the screen, then click History…..Manage History. The select Organize at the top and click Clear to delete all history.
- Mobile/Tablet – Tap the 3 dots icon, then tap History, then tap the trash can icon to clear all history items.
With Firefox, if you go to Settings….Privacy & Security, there’s also a box you can check to “delete cookies and site data when Firefox is closed” so it’s done automatically. See our guide on Firefox history for more info.
Chrome (full illustrated guide here):
- Desktop – Click the 3 dots More icon at the top right, then click History….Clear History. The select the data and time range to delete and click Clear data to wipe all history for the selected period.
- Mobile/Tablet – Tap the 3 dots icon in the top right corner, then tap History and Clear browsing data. Select the data and time range you want to delete and tap Clear data to wipe all selected history and data.
Edge (full illustrated guide here)
- Desktop – Press Ctrl + H to bring up History, click the 3 dots icon, click Clear browsing data. Select the items and time range and click Clear now to delete.
- Mobile/Tablet – Tap the 3 dots icon, then to to History, tap the trash can icon, select items and time range and tap Clear data.
Brave Browser (full guide here)
- Desktop – Click Ctrl + H, or click on the 3 dots burger icon in the top right corner, and then click History. Click Clear Browsing data, and then select all types of data plus time frames you want to delete and click Clear data.
- Mobile/Tablet – Tap the 3 dots icon in the bottom right corner, tap History….Clear Browsing History. Tap clear data to wipe all browsing history.
With the Brave desktop browser, there’s also an “On Exit” tab to select what type of data you want deleted automatically every time you close the browser. See here.
Opera (full illustrated guide here):
- Desktop – Click Ctrl + H to bring up history, then click on Clear browsing data in the top right corner. Select the time frame and flick between Basic/Advanced and select what you want deleting, then click Clear Data.
- Mobile/Tablet – Tap the person icon in the bottom right corner, then tap History, then tap the trash can icon in the top right corner. Tap OK to delete all Opera history.
Safari (full illustrated guide here):
- Mac desktop – Open Safari, click on Safari menu, click on Clear History, select time frame and click Clear history again.
- iOS – Tap the Settings icon, go to Safari……Clear Website & Data History and tap Clear history and data.
How To Clear Search History From Your Google Account
For regular users of Google that browse whilst signed into their account, history is also stored here as well as in the Chrome browser, unless configured otherwise.
Here’s how to delete history stored on a Google account:
- Sign in to your Google account, load up Google’s home page, and click on your icon in the top right corner, and then click Manage your Google account.
- Click Data and Privacy on the left hand side.
- Under History Settings, click Web & App Activity.
- Click Manage Activity. A list of logged-in history should be displayed.
- Click Delete and select a time range, as with the Chrome browser.
- Click Delete again to wipe all selected History from your Google account.
- Go back to the main History Settings menu and repeat these steps for Location History and YouTube History if desired.
Also, if you want to pause all logged-in history on your Google account, there is an option to do so – toggle it off from the Web & App Activity menu, along with YouTube and location history as well if desired.
See here for our full guide with screenshots on clearing and pausing all Google history.
How To Clear Search History From Your Bing Account
Although not used as much as Google, Bing still has a decent user base, and it also does store History when using it, whether logged in or not.
Here’s how you clear it:
- Click on 3 dots burger icon in the top right corner
- Click on search history
- Click Clear All twice
- All browsing history is now cleared from Bing.
Be sure to also clear it from your browser as well, since this is separate from Bing. See here for more on wiping Bing history.
How To Block History On Browsers (Private Windows)
If you’d rather browsers just didn’t store browsing history in the first place, so there’s nothing to delete, there is an option on most browsers to do this. It’s called using a Private Window or Incognito Window.
While browsing in a Private Window, browsing history is not logged or stored, or is deleted as soon as you close the browser. Where applicable, browsing data is not linked up with any accounts.
Here’s how to enable Private Windows for major browsers:
- Desktop – Use the Ctrl + Shift + P shortcut, or click on the 3 dots burger icon in the top right corner, and select New Private Window.
- Mobile/Tablet – Tap the Mask symbol in the top right corner to switch from a normal Window to a Private Window. You should know when using a Private Window as it switches to a purple theme.
- Desktop – Use the Ctrl + Shift + N shortcut, or click on the 3 dots burger icon in the top right corner, and click on New Incognito Window. See here.
- Mobile/Tablet – Tap the 3 dots More icon in the top right corner, then tap New Incognito Tab.
- Desktop – Click on the 3 dots icon (Settings and more), and click New InPrivate Window. Or you can right click and link and there’s an option to open link in an InPrivate Window. See here.
- Android Mobile – Tap on the 3 dots icon in the bottom center of the screen, and then tap New InPrivate Tab.
- Desktop – use Ctrl + Shift + N to open a new Private Window, or click on the 3 dots burger icon in the top right and select New Private Window. See here. There’s also a “New Private Window with Tor” option, which routes traffic through multiple Tor servers, but speeds might be much slower using this.
- Android Mobile – Tap the 3 dots icon in the bottom right corner, and then select New Private Tab at the top.
- Desktop – Click Ctrl + Shift + N or click on the Opera symbol in the top left corner, and select New Private Window. See here.
- Android Mobile – Tap the Home symbol at the bottom to go to the homepage, and then switch to Private at the top, then hit “+” to open a new Private tab which doesn’t store history.
- Desktop Mac – In the app, choose File…..New Private Window. You can also set Safari to always open only Private Windows. Go to Safari…Settings…..General and set it from there. See here.
- iOS (iPhone/iPad) – Tap the overlapping Windows icon, then tap the down arrow symbol at the bottom, and then tap Private (see here)
Private Windows usually have a different color theme to normal windows (they often shade out in either a grey or purple color scheme), so you know when you’re browsing in Private and your browsing history is not being stored.
Again, only some browsers have the ability to always automatically open in Private Windows, so if this option isn’t present, you’ll have to either always remember to manually open a Private Window, or always manually delete history every time you close the browser.
How To Clear Search History From Your Router
Browsing history is also stored on some (but not all) routers. It depends on the router brand and policy of the internet provider (ISP), but browsing history is stored on some routers in logs.
There is usually an option to also clear this history if you want. You can either clear it manually from the logs on the router from the settings, or do a full factory reset to wipe all data, including history. Let’s cover each option.
Option #1 – Clearing history from router settings:
- Log into the router settings using the login URL (often 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1), plus the username and password found on the router sticker.
- Find the router history if present, often under Logs or History, but it may be somewhere else as router interfaces differ.
- Select the option to clear logs or clear history from the settings.
- You may need to reboot the router after wiping history.
Option #2 – Factory reset the router:
Most routers have some sort of factory reset button or hole somewhere on the side or back, something like this:
Push a pin into this hole for 5-30 seconds until the lights on the front flash or blink or go out, then wait up to 10 minutes for the router to fully reboot and come back online. Or some routers only have a protruding button instead – try pushing and holding this for 30 seconds instead.
If you do manage to do a factory reset, all custom settings and stored data, including browsing history, will be deleted and the router will reboot with it’s initial configuration and default settings when it was first plugged in. Be aware that all other custom settings like static IP addresses, MAC filtering, DMZ, DNS, remote access setup etc will also be wiped and you’ll have to re-configure them all again.
See here for our illustrated guide on these two ways of clearing your router history.
How To Block Remote Tracking Of Your History With a VPN
If you’re looking for a way to hide and anonymize tracking of your history remotely (ie. by routers, ISPs, companies etc), then the best way to do this is to use a Virtual Private Network or VPN to hide your IP address and location so browsing cannot be tied back to you.
VPNs are powerful pieces of software which route your traffic through strongly encrypted servers or virtual tunnels, masking your actual IP address and location and replacing it with a new one determined by the server selected from within it’s interface (eg. Austin, Texas). Therefore, browsing done when using a VPN can’t be linked with your actual, real IP address, location and ISP, so it’s anonymized.
A VPN will also block your router or ISP or network administrator from tracking the history, since it encrypts traffic before sending it, so it’s concealed in a virtual tunnel that can’t be viewed by any outside party. At best, any snoopers can only see that there is an encrypted connection, plus the volume of data being sent, but they can’t see what that data is because it’s encrypted using strong protocols that basically can’t be cracked in the commercial world.
Therefore, when combined with deleting browser history, and using Private Windows or “clear all history on exit” settings, a VPN is a good complement as it prevents remote tracking of your browsing history, while the browser settings covers the local tracking.
For users wanting to try out a VPN to see how it works, there are some good free options, some of them even with unlimited data, so you can test a VPN and see how it changes your apparent IP address and location, so you appear to be browsing from somewhere else than where you actually are.
See the table below for some free VPN options (ProtonVPN are an especially good free option for USA users):
|Free Server Locations
|3 (USA, Amsterdam, Japan)
|3 (USA East, USA West, Amsterdam)
|4 (USA, Germany, Singapore, India).
|5 (USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore)
|5 (Netherlands, USA*2, Germany, Canada)
|10 (USA, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina)
|10 (USA, UK, Canada, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Romania, Denmark).
And then if you’re wanting a Premium VPN with unlimited use, 24/7 support, streaming access and more advanced features, there’s loads of options, but here are some recommendations:
- AtlasVPN – $3.29/month, 35-40 server locations, great no nonsense option.
- Private Internet Access (PIA) – $3.33/month, 80 locations, best of everything.
- PrivadoVPN – $2.50/month (use our special link), 45 server locations, great option.
Top end options:
- ExpressVPN – $8.33/month – Best VPN for streaming, good speeds, 94 server locations.
- NordVPN – $5/month – Another good streaming VPN, double encryption for extra security.
They’re all good options but you can’t really get much better than PIA for offering good server choice, fast speeds and low price plans. PrivadoVPN would be my choice for a stripped down, budget, no nonsense VPN with just servers in the main countries you’d expect.
Best Practices For Protecting Your Online History
Once we realize all the different places browsing history can be stored, it can all seem a bit overwhelming keeping track of it all.
Here are some simple best practices for protecting your personal data (including browsing history), when online, for best privacy:
- Always use Incognito/Private windows on any browser you use, and if it has the option, set the browser to always open with these windows.
- Also, if available, set the browser to either “never track/store/log user history” or “delete history on exit” to make sure it’s wiped whenever you close it down. Or manually delete history every time you’ve finished using it.
- Always use a VPN to stop your router and ISP tracking or storing your browsing history.
- Never use search engines when logged in, as search history will be stored, and preferably use with a VPN as well to conceal your location and real IP address.