How to Manage History and Other Browsing Data on Your iPhone

Basic tips and instructions for getting rid of personal browsing data

Safari, Apple's default web browser for iOS and macOS devices, behaves like most browsers when it comes to storing private data on a device's hard drive. Items such as browsing history, cache, and cookies are saved on your iPhone while you surf the web. The information is stored to improve your browsing experience in a number of different ways.

This tutorial is only intended for users running the Safari web browser on Apple iPhone devices.

iPhone History, Cache, and Cookies

iphone browsing data
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Browser data stored on your iPhone include history, cache, and cookies. When stored, the data deliver faster load times, automatically populate web forums, tailor advertisements, and provide records of your web searches. Here's an overview of the types of browser data that gets stored on your iPhone:

  • Browsing history: This is a log of the web pages you have visited; it's helpful when you want to return to those sites.
  • Cache: The cache is comprised of locally stored Web page components such as images, used to speed up load times in future browsing sessions.
  • Autofill: This information includes form data such as your name, address and credit card numbers.
  • Cookies: These bits of data are placed on your iPhone by most websites, used in some cases to store login information as well as provide a customized experience on subsequent visits.

While this data may be useful to store, is is also sensitive in nature. Whether it be the password for your Gmail account or the digits on for your credit card, much of the data left behind at the end of your browsing session could be harmful in the wrong hands. In addition to the security risk, there are privacy issues to consider. That's why it's important to have a good understanding of what this data is comprised of and how it can be viewed and manipulated on your iPhone.

This tutorial defines each item in detail, and walks you through the process for managing and deleting the respective data.

It is recommended that Safari be shut down prior to deleting private data components. For more information, learn how to close apps on the iPhone.

Clear Browsing History and Other Private Data

Follow these steps to clear your browsing history and other data on the iPhone.

  1. Open the Settings app, located on the iPhone home screen.

  2. Scroll down and select Safari.

  3. Scroll to the bottom and select Clear History and Website Data.

    If the link is blue, it means Safari has browsing history and other data stored on your device. If the link is gray, then there are no records or files to delete.

  4. Select Clear History and Data to confirm the action.

    This action also deletes cache, cookies, and other browsing-related data from your iPhone.

Block All Cookies

Apple has taken a more proactive approach to cookies in iOS, allowing you to block all that originate from an advertiser or other third-party website by default. Follow these steps to block all cookies:

  1. Open the Settings app, located on the iPhone home screen.

  2. Scroll down and select Safari.

  3. Scroll down the section titled PRIVACY & SECURITY and toggle the Block All Cookies option to On (green).

Older versions of iOS provided several options for blocking cookies: Always Block, Allow from Current Website Only, Allow From Websites I Visit, or Always Allow.

Delete Data from Specific Websites

Up to this point, we have described how to delete all of Safari's saved browsing history, cache, cookies, and other data. These methods are perfect if your goal is to remove private data in one fell swoop. If you want to clear data saved by specific websites, however, Safari for iOS provides a way to do just that.

  1. Open the Settings app, located on the iPhone home screen.

  2. Scroll down and select Safari, then scroll to the bottom and select Advanced > Website Data.

  3. Select Edit in the upper-right corner.

  4. Select the red dash icon next to the website(s) whose data you would like to delete, then select Delete.

  5. Repeat this process until you are satisfied. When you are finished, select Done.