How (and Why) You Should Delete Google Search History (and is it Really Deleted?)

Delete Google Search History

So, you searched for something you “shouldn’t have” and are now afraid that someone might find out and get you into trouble. 

That’s fine, because you can delete Google search history and never get discovered!

But is deleting your Google search history really the magic bullet?

Unfortunately, just like “Incognito” mode, which we busted the myth of recently, the same is true for deleting your Google activity history. 

In this article, we are going to show you exactly:

  • Why you should delete Google activity history
  • How to delete Google search history
  • What does deleting your Google search history do?
  • How can your “deleted” history still be recovered?
  • Some better options if you want online privacy

So let’s get started by answering the first important question:

Why You Should Delete Google Search History?

The most obvious answer to this question would be “you searched for something you don’t want others to know about”.

Say you Googled some porn and you don’t want your partner or parents to view your search history. 

So what do you do?

You erase your Google browsing history.

Genius!

But clearing your search history has some other, much more important benefits as well.

One is that it increases the privacy you can enjoy. Your search history will include some much more important stuff than “searched for porn”. It can also reveal where you’ve been through the Google maps data and location and maybe you don’t want others to see this.

Another reason is that this basically “refreshes” Google’s content (and ad) recommendations. So, if you’re tired of seeing the same old, same old stuff on Google or YouTube, clearing your browsing history might give you something new to look at.

What is “Browsing Data” and What Happens to it When You Delete it?

Have you ever wondered what happens to your search data once you delete it? 

First of all, browsing data includes:

  • Your browsing history – every website you visited
  • Download history – every file you downloaded
  • Cached files – this helps Google Chrome to load websites faster for a repeat visit
  • Cookies – they “help” websites remember your preferences and are stored on your computer
  • Passwords and other sign-in data – these are the passwords you saved into Google Password Manager
  • Autofill form data – this includes all your form data, saved credit card information and addresses
  • Site settings – which is any site-related permissions, such as download permissions, camera or microphone permissions

So what happens to each of these when you delete them?

  • Deleting the browsing history will clear your history log from the “History” tab in Chrome and stop Chrome from repeatedly suggesting sites you already visited
  • Download history will erase logs from your “Download” tab. This WILL NOT delete your downloaded files
  • Cached files can help fix some problems with obsolete cached data where sites don’t load properly (or at all)
  • Removing cookies is a good idea if you want to get rid of tracking cookies and make sure sites don’t recognize you in repeat visits. Plus, you can clear up some disk space this way
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  • Passwords will get rid of the passwords you have saved in the Chrome Password Manager. Though on that point, I would question the idea of letting Google control your passwords. Better use an independent password manager tool like LastPass for instance
  • Autofill form data will delete form data, credit card information and addresses you used for payment online. This will not affect your payment information from Google Pay
  • Clearing site settings simply removes any download, camera and microphone permissions and resets it to default

How to Delete Google Activity History?

Okay, now let’s  finally see how to delete Google search history. 

First of all, we should distinguish here between “deleting your browsing history” and deleting your activity” because these two will do different things.

Deleting Your Browsing History

This will remove the record of websites and webpages that you’ve visited in the past via Chrome. 

To delete Google search history:

  1. Open Chrome
  2. Click the three dots icon on the top-right of your screen
  3. Open History > History
  4. Select Clear browsing data
  5. A new box will appear now. In the dropdown menu, select All time if you want to clear everything, or choose how much history you want to delete (24h, a week, a month, etc.)
  6. Now check the boxes for what you want Chrome to delete
  7. Select Clear data

And voila! You’ve deleted your browsing history!

Delete Google Activity History

My Google Activity

You can also delete Google search history from the account. This way you can also delete other browsing and activity data 

To do this:

  1. Go to myactivity.google.com
  2. Click the “Menu” icon on the top-left 
Google My activity
  1. Click Delete activity by
  2. This will open a new box. Select the period you want to delete your Chrome activity by (Last hour, Last day, Always, or select a Custom Range)
Delete activity

You can also delete individual items, like something you searched for.

The process here is pretty much the same, with one difference. Instead of selecting Delete activity by, scroll down to find the item you want to delete (let’s say a YouTube video), click the “X” above it and this will immediately delete the said item.

Control Your Activities

While you’re in My Activity, you can also control which activity will get saved by Google.

There are four types of activities here:

  1. Web & App Activity
  2. Location History
  3. YouTube History
  4. Ad personalization

You can simply toggle the slider button on/off for items you don’t want to be saved.

web & app activity

Clicking on the slider button will open a message like this one:

pause web & App activity

If you want, you can read Google’s mumbo-jumbo about “personalized experience” and when you’re done, hit that “Pause” button.

A pop-up confirmation window will show up, telling you that the “Setting is off” and that Chrome is no longer saving this activity:

setting is off

Just click “OK” here to confirm.

Obviously, if you’re concerned about your privacy on Google, you should consider turning off some of these activities.

Does Deleting Your Browser History Really Work?

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to delete Google search history. 

But will this really delete your history?

No, it won’t.

First of all, you have to understand that all deleting browsing history does is that it deletes the files that are stored on your computer’s hard drive.

However, if someone knows your username (this is relatively easy since most people will use their real name for this), they will be able to recover your Chrome history by going to (for Windows):

C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default

Another way to recover “deleted” browser history is to check router logs.

This can only be done if the router logs incoming and outgoing traffic, though, for most routers, this will be off by default.

What you need to do here is:

  1. Log in to your router by entering the router’s IP (this is not the same as your regular IP address, don’t mix them up).

For example, on macOS, open System Preferences and go to Network. Click Advanced, select the TCP/IP tab and you’ll see the router IP here.

system network settings
  1. Enter the username and password for your router/modem. 
router login

If you don’t know your router admin username and password, you can probably find it online. Most routers will have a default username/password like user/password ( I’m not kidding), so check your router model online to find what that is.

You can also, if you already changed the username and password but can’t remember what it is now, manually reset the router to return it to factory settings and this will reset the username/password as well.

  1. Once you’re in, go to Logs and select the button next to “Enabled”. From now on, you’ll be able to see the log of all your established connections (make sure to select “outgoing” to see only connections from the computer). 
  1. The problem with this is that it will only show IP addresses under Destination URL or IP address so you will need to find out what website the IP belongs to by using a reverse DNS search tool.

The third way is to check the temporary DNS cache on your computer. On Windows, you can open the Command Prompt (type “cmd” in the start menu) and once you’re in type the following command:

Ipconfig /displaydns

This will show what website the user has visited recently.

How to delete Google location history?

To delete your Google location history:

  1. Sign in to your Google account
  2. Go to myaccount.google.com
  3. Under Activity Controls find Location History. This will probably be “off” by default
activity control
  1. Click Manage activity. If your Location history was “on” you should see it here. 
  2. Delete the items you want to get rid of.

How to delete revision history in Google docs?

The best way to delete revision history for a Google document is to make a copy of that document under File > Make a copy. This will create the same document, minus the revision history.

make a copy

How to delete Google Play search history?

To delete your Google Play search history on your phone

  1. Open your Google Play Store app
  2. Tap the Menu icon (three horizontal bars on the top-left)
search for app
  1. Go to Settings
google play settings
  1. Select Clear local search history
clear local search history

How to delete Google search history?

To delete Google search history:

  1. Go to Myactivity.google.com
  2. In My Google Activity click the Delete dropdown menu
  3. Select the period you want to delete your Google search activity for. You can delete the last hour, last day, all time or for a custom range
Delete Activity

Conclusion

Your search history contains a lot of information about you that you wouldn’t want to get into the wrong hands. And we are not talking about searching for porn here, but much more serious stuff.

Hopefully, this article has shown you why and how you can delete Google search history, but remember that’s not the magic bullet you might be expecting. There are still ways to recover your search history and this will only delete the locally-saved browsing data on your computer.

If you don’t want Google to track you, you are better off using a privacy browser.

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