Deleting cookies: how to clear stored data

Small data packets ensure that you do not have to log in to your social media account all the time, and they save a website’s shopping cart after closing the browser – they’re called cookies. But not all of them contribute to making surfing the internet easier – some cookies also have disadvantages. Therefore, it is advisable to change some basic settings in the browser and clear cookies from time to time.

What are cookies?

Cookies are tiny text files that are stored locally on the computer or mobile devices and store information about interactions with visited websites. For example, this could be information about products in your shopping cart, or registration data for e-mail or social media accounts.

How does this work? If you visit a website, this places a cookie on your hard drive. The text file is stored in the corresponding default folder of the browser used. If you return to the page, the file is automatically transferred from the browser to the web server – and also the information about your previous activities and settings on the website.

Fact

Not all cookies are stored permanently and only deleted by the user. Some of them will be automatically deleted when you close your browser or after a period of inactivity. Others have a fixed expiration date and will disappear after a few hours, days, or weeks, depending on the cookie.

Should cookies be deleted in general?

It is not necessary to clear all cookies. Whether or not you should delete them depends largely on the type of text files. There are two types of cookies: session cookies and tracking cookies.

Session cookies

Session cookies ensure that information is stored that makes browsing more convenient. This includes, for example, language settings, user names, watch lists or shopping baskets in online shops, as well as other information that allows you to tailor your visit to the website to suit your needs. They are also referred to as initial provider cookies, because they originate directly from the website visited.

If you delete session cookies, you will need to update your settings on the page and log in again the next time you visit. Information on products in shopping baskets is also lost. Frequently visited pages may not work in the way you are used to but will return to this state if you visit them enough – when the data has been saved again.

Tracking cookies

Tracking cookies are text files from third parties. When you visit a website, several cookies can be stored in the memory of your browser. If you visit a page on which an advertising banner is placed, the ad server also saves a tracking cookie. It collects information about your individual surfing behaviour, meaning you receive personalised advertising. Retargeting is based around user profiles being created from collected information, making it possible to target consumers who have shown interest in a particular product or service at an earlier stage.

Fact

You will not be identified as an individual when you use cookies for retargeting. Only an anonymous profile based on the information stored by cookies is used

By deleting tracking cookies, you prevent retargeting – at least temporarily. In the long term, however, you can prevent tracking by browsing in a private window or adjusting the appropriate cookie settings in the browser. For example, if you choose not to accept cookies from third parties, the text files of visited pages remain allowed, while tracking cookies are not stored by ad servers.

Important: Even if you clear or block cookies, this does not prevent adverts being displayed – the ads just no longer match your browsing habits, so the advertised offers are probably not as relevant to you.

Should I clear cookies regularly?

In the browser's cache a lot of information accumulates over time. Since the data requires storage space and can slow down the computer or app, it is advisable to clear your cache regularly.

However, the amount of memory used is not the main reason for deleting cookies, unless it is a mobile device with very low storage capacity. Data protection and privacy are more important for most users. Deleting cookies on a daily basis does not make sense as they contain a lot of useful information that makes browsing more convenient, but you can also be selective by removing only individual unwanted files from the browser's memory.

How do I clear cookies in different browsers?

How you delete cookies and adjust the storage settings varies from browser to browser. We will explain how this works with the most popular browsers.

Shortcuts

For Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer (IE) and Opera, the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Delete gives you quick access to stored cookies.

Clearing cookies in Mozilla Firefox

If you want to delete cookies in Firefox and make individual settings, follow these steps:

Deleting cookies

  1. Open Firefox, click on the menu icon at the top right of the window (the icon with the three horizontal lines) and select settings from the drop-down list.
  2. Select the privacy & security section on the left and go to the history section. Alternatively, you can go to this view by opening the address ‘about: preferences#privacy’ in a new tab.

If you maintain the default setting Firefox will remember history, you will get access to the stored cookies via the option recently created history. Then confirm clear now to delete all cookies stored in the time period you specify.

  1. If you only want to delete certain cookies, select the Firefox option remove individual cookies. Here you can use the search function or the list to search for and clear certain cookies.

Configure cookie settings

To specify certain settings for how cookies are saved in Firefox and for viewing stored cookies, adjust the default setting by selecting the option Firefox will use custom settings for history.

Via the menu you can determine:

  • Whether cookies are generally accepted
  • Whether third party cookies are always, never, or only accepted by visited third party providers
  • How long cookies remain stored
  • Which websites are exempted from custom settings

Clearing cookies in Google Chrome

Open Chrome, click on the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen and select settings from the drop-down list.

Select the advanced options in the upper left corner under settings and click on security and privacy.

Deleting cookies

  1. Open Chrome, click on the icon with the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen and select settings from the drop-down list.

  2. Select the advanced options in the upper left corner under settings and click on security and privacy.
  1. Select the option content settings from the menu and select cookies from the list. To clear the cookies from Chrome, select the option see all cookies and website data. Alternatively, the address ‘chrome: //settings/content/cookies’ will take you to the same view.
  1. Click on remove all to delete all cookies at the same time. If you wish to delete individual cookies, you can click on the trash can next to each one.

Configure cookie settings

To set your preferences for saving cookies in Google Chrome, follow the same route as before – content settings and then cookies.

You can choose the settings from the menu shown above. You can select:

  • Whether websites are allowed to store and read cookies
  • Whether local data should be deleted after closing the browser
  • Whether third-party cookies should be blocked
  • Which websites are exempted from the custom settings, for example, if you want to allow cookies in principle, but exclude some websites or generally prohibit the storage of cookies, you can add individual websites as exceptions (this also applies if the cookies of certain websites are to be deleted after closing the browser)

Clearing cookies in Internet Explorer

This is how to clear cookies in Internet Explorer, and how to configure basic settings to save them:

Delete cookies

  1. Open Internet Explorer, click on the cogwheel icon in the upper right corner and select security.

  2. Select the option delete browsing history and activate the option cookies and website data in the menu that opens. In earlier versions of Internet Explorer, this point may be referred to as cookies only. Confirm with delete.

Configure cookie settings

If you want to set basic cookie settings in Internet Explorer, click the cogwheel icon again and select internet options. To make settings, go to the privacy tab in the window that opens.

In the menu, you can make cookie settings under various submenus:

  • Default: Use the slider to set whether you want to allow or block cookies from third-party or initial providers.

  • Advanced: Override automatic cookie processing and specify how you want to handle primary and third-party cookies.

  • Sites: Specify which websites are exempted from these custom settings.

Clearing cookies in Safari

Apple's own Safari browser is also available for Microsoft Windows – but only in an outdated version. The latest version is no longer compatible with Windows. Since the old version is no longer maintained by Apple, potential security flaws pose a potential threat. We therefore advise against surfing on a Windows computer with Safari.

Our instructions on how to delete cookies in Safari and basic cookie storage settings therefore only apply to the Safari version for macOS.

Delete Cookies

  1. Open Safari, click safari in the top left-hand corner of the menu bar, and select preferences from the drop-down list.

  2. Now select the privacy tab.

  3. To remove all stored cookies at the same time, click on remove all website data in cookies and other website data and confirm the command in the window that opens with remove all website data.

  4. To delete individual cookies, select the option details, click on the respective cookies and delete them manually.

Configure cookie settings

By default, Safari only accepts cookies from websites you visit. However, the default settings can be adjusted so that cookies are always accepted or blocked. To do this, click on the privacy tab in the settings, where you can determine whether cookies should be blocked either only from third parties, always, or never.

Clearing cookies in Opera

To delete cookies in Opera, follow these steps:

Delete cookies

  1. Open Opera, click on the Opera icon in the upper left corner and select preferences from the drop-down list.

  2. Select privacy and security and go to the cookies section.

  3. Under all cookies and website data delete either all stored cookies or only individual cookies. To delete individual cookies, click on them in the overview and remove them with a click on the appearing cross. Use the delete all button to delete the cookies.

Define basic settings for cookies

To make basic settings for the treatment of cookies, click on the Opera icon and then go to privacy and security. Under the section cookies you can then define the desired settings:

  • Allow storage of all data
  • Delete local data when exiting the browser
  • Block data storage for websites
  • Block third-party cookies and website information

Exceptions to the set rules are determined by adding the respective URL to the website using the manage exceptions option. Then select whether to allow cookies from the site, delete them when you exit, or block them completely.