Managing History and Other Private Data in Safari for macOS

Erase your web history from your Mac's hard drive

When you use the default Safari browser on your Mac, your browsing history is stored on the hard drive along with cookies, saved passwords, and other personal settings. It's easy to erase your Safari history and other private browsing data. You can also use the Safari Private Browsing mode to prevent this information from being saved in the first place.

Instructions in this article apply to the Safari web browser for macOS 10.15 (Catalina), 10.14 (Mojave), and 10.13 (High Sierra).

What Types of Data Does Safari Save?

Safari saves the following data to improve your future browsing experience by speeding up page load times, reducing the amount of typing required, and more:

  • Browsing history: Each time you visit a website, Safari stores a record of the page name and URL.
  • Cache: Speeds up page loads on subsequent visits. The cache includes image files and other web page components.
  • Cookies: Cookies from web servers are stored on your hard drive as small text files. Websites use cookies to customize your browsing experience. Login credentials and other private data are sometimes stored in cookies.
  • Download history: Each time a file downloads through the browser, Safari stores a record containing the file name, size, and the date and time of the download.
  • Local storage: Sites coded with HTML 5 store web application data locally without using cookies.

To save space on your hard drive, enable Safari in the iCloud preferences to store browser data in the cloud instead.

How to Manage Browser Data in Safari

To manage stored website data on your Mac's hard drive:

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences.

    You can also access Safari Preferences using the keyboard shortcut Command+, (comma).

    The Preferences option under the Safari menu
  2. Select Privacy in the Preferences interface.

    The Privacy tab in Safari preferences
  3. Select Manage Website Data.

    The Manage Website Data button in Safari Privacy preferences
  4. You'll see a list of sites that stored data on your hard drive. Below each site's name is a summary of the type of data that was stored. To delete a site's data from your Mac's hard drive, choose it from the list and select Remove.

    Select Remove All Website Data to delete your browsing history, cookies, and other web data from your hard drive.

    The Remove button for site cookies in Safari

How to Delete the Browsing History on a Mac Hard Drive

To remove browsing history and website data by time period, go to SafariClear History and Website Data and choose from one of the following options:

  • The last hour
  • Today
  • Today and yesterday
  • All history

History and website data does not include saved usernames, passwords, and other Safari AutoFill information.

Automatically Delete History and Other Private Data

You can also instruct the browser to delete browsing data automatically after a specified period of time:

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences.

    The Preferences option under the Safari menu
  2. Select General.

    The Safari preferences with the General tab highlighted
  3. Choose a time period under Remove history items and Remove download list items.

    Only your browsing and download histories are removed. Cache, cookies, and other website data isn't affected.

    The "Remove History Items" and "Remove Download List Items" menus in Safari preferences

Safari Private Browsing Mode

In Private Browsing mode, your personal data isn't saved. To activate Private Browsing mode, select File > New Private Window. Alternatively, open a private window in Safari on Mac using the keyboard shortcut Shift+Command+N.

When you use the web in a private window, items such as browsing history, cache, cookies, and AutoFill information aren't stored on your hard drive at the end of a browsing session. If you didn't designate a window as private, any browsing data accumulated within it is saved on your hard drive.

The "Private Browsing Enabled" message in Safari

Enabling Private Browsing mode in previous versions of Safari encompassed all open windows and tabs. To determine whether or not a window is private, look at the address bar. If it contains a black background with white text, Private Browsing mode is active in that window. If it contains a white background with dark text, it isn't enabled.

Using Private Browsing and clearing your history doesn't prevent websites and your ISP from collecting personal data from you.