Managing History and Other Private Data in Safari for OS X

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. Fortunately, it's easy to erase your Safari history and other private browsing data. You can also use Safari's Private Browsing mode to prevent such information from getting 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 much more:

  • Browsing history: Each time you visit a website, Safari stores a record of each page's name and URL.
  • Cache: Used to speed up page loads on subsequent visits, the cache is comprised of image files and other web page components.
  • Cookies: Cookies from web servers get stored on your hard drive in the form of small text files. Websites use cookies to customize your browsing experience. Login credentials and other private data are also sometimes stored in cookies.
  • Download History: Each time a file is downloaded through the browser, Safari stores a record containing the file name, size, and the date/time of download.
  • Local Storage: Sites coded with HTML 5 store web application data locally without having to utilize cookies.

To save space on your hard drive, enable Safari in your iCloud preferences to store your 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 (,).

  2. Select Privacy in the Preferences interface.

  3. Select Details in the Web sites, stored cookies, or other data section.

  4. You'll see a list of each individual site that has stored data on your hard drive. Directly below each site's name is a summary of the type of data that has been stored. To delete a particular site's data from your Mac's hard drive, choose it from the list and select Remove.

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

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 your browser to automatically delete browsing data after a specified period of time:

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences.

  2. Select General.

  3. Choose a time period under Remove history items and Remove download list items.

    Only your browsing and download histories will be removed. Cache, cookies, and other website data is not affected.

Safari Private Browsing Mode

In Private Browsing mode, no personal data is saved. To activate Private Browsing mode, select File > New Private Window. Alternatively, you can 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, and cookies, as well as AutoFill information are not stored on your hard drive at the end of a browsing session. If a window was not designated as private, any browsing data accumulated within it will be saved on your hard drive.

This is an important distinction to make, as enabling Private Browsing mode in previous versions of Safari would encompass all open windows/tabs. To determine whether or not a particular 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 is not enabled.

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