How to Clear Your Google Search History

Learn how to turn off Web & App Activity at Google.com

Google searches on phone and laptop
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If you've ever used Google for your searching, you probably noticed that the Google search field keeps a running tab of your activity. As you search, Google suggests search terms based on the first few letters of your previously searched-for terms to save a little time. This feature is helpful, but it has the potential of revealing private information to anyone who comes behind you and performs searches on the same computer.

Your Google searches are considered private, but you need to take steps to make sure they stay that way, particularly on a public or work computer or any computer that is used by more than one person. Protecting your privacy is particularly true if you have signed in to your Google account.

If another person uses your computer; that person can see your complete Google search history and all sorts of other information. You can avoid a potentially embarrassing situation by preventing Google from saving your searches in the first place or by clearing your previous Google searches at the browser level whenever there is something you would rather keep to yourself. Here's how you do it.

Clear Google Searches at Google.com

Google stores your web searches and other things you do online when you use its Maps, YouTube, or other services, including your location and other associated data. When Web & App Activity is turned on at Google.com, the data is saved from any of your signed-in devices.

Turn it off if you don't want Google to save this information. You control this in your account activity controls screen. Use the slider in the Web & App Activity section to pause the collection of your search activity. 

Google wants you to leave this setting on so that it can deliver faster search results and provide an overall better experience in addition to other reasons.

The site suggests you use incognito mode to be anonymous on the web. Most browsers have an incognito mode, although they don't all call it that. Internet Explorer refers to it as InPrivate Browsing. In Safari, you open a new Private Browsing window. In Firefox, you open a new private window to enter Private Browsing, and in Chrome, it is indeed Incognito mode.

You don't have to be logged in to your Google account to use its search capabilities. If you aren't logged in, you don't leave a history trail. When you open a Google search screen, look in the upper right corner. If you see your account avatar, you are logged in. If you see a Sign In button you are logged out. Search while you are signed out and you won't need to clear your history.

Prevent Search Suggestions 

Preventing individual search suggestions that appear when you begin a Google search is usually controlled at the browser level. For example:

  • Chrome: In the Chrome browser, click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar. Select Settings Advanced and then deselect Use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed in the address bar.
  • Safari: In Safari on a Mac, go to the Safari menu on the toolbar. Click Preferences. On the Search tab in the Smart Search Field, uncheck the box next to Include Safari Suggestions.
  • Firefox: In Firefox, click the Menu > Preferences > Search. Deselect Show search suggestions in address bar results.
  • Internet Explorer: To turn off search suggestions in Internet Explorer, open the desktop and select the IE icon on the taskbar. Click the arrow to the right of the address bar and select Turn off search suggestions.

Clear Your Browser History

Each of the popular web browsers keeps a history of each website you visit, not just Google search results. Clearing the history protects your privacy on shared computers. Most browsers allow you to erase your history immediately. Here's how:

  • Chrome. In the Chrome menu bar, click History > Show Full History > Clear Browsing Data. In the screen that opens, click the Advanced tab and select Browsing History and any other topic you want to clear, such as Download History Clear Data.
  • Safari. In the Safari menu bar, click History > Clear History. Select All History from the drop-down menu and click Clear History. You don't have to clear everything. You can also select The last hour, Today, or Today and Yesterday.
  • Firefox. In the Firefox menu bar, click History > Clear Recent History. Select a range in the drop-down menu next to the Time Range to Clear field. Choices are Last Hour, Last Two Hours, Last Four Hours, Today, and Everything. Click Clear Now.
  • Internet Explorer. In Internet Explorer, select the Tools button > Safety > Delete browsing history. Choose the types of data or files you want to remove and click Delete.
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