How to Reset Safari to Default Settings

Restoring default settings is a multistep process

Apple's native web browser, Safari, used to have a reset button that returned the browser to its original, default state, but that one-step option was removed in Safari 8 with OS X Yosemite. Restoring Safari's default settings is now a multistep process that includes removing history, clearing the cache, disabling extensions and plugins, and more.

The instructions here were performed in Safari 13/maOS 10.15 (Catalina), but the procedures are nearly the same in other post-OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) versions.

Removing Browser History

Your browser history helps Safari auto-complete URLs and other items, but you can easily clear it if you are concerned about privacy.

When you clear your Safari browsing history, you reset the browser by deleting:

  • All web page history.
  • Top sites that you haven't marked as permanent.
  • All cookies and website data (you'll need to reenter login information on sites that require logins).
  • The list of downloads (but not the downloaded files themselves).
  • Recent searches.
  • Sites that were added to Quick Website Search.

To clear the history, select History > Clear History and Website Data. This provides an option to then clear all history (by selecting the Clear History button in the popup).

Safari History > Clear History

You can also find a Clear History in the Safari menu itself.

Safari > Clear History

To clear the history for a particular time period, select a value from the Clear dropdown box.

Safari > Clear history options

To clear a particular website instead, navigate to History > Show History, then select the website you want to clear and press Delete.

If you want to retain your website data (such as saved passwords and other entries), you can just delete the websites themselves from your history. Navigate to History > Show History, press Cmd-A to select everything, and then press Delete on your keyboard. This deletes all website history while saving your website data.

Disabling or Deleting Extensions

You can either completely delete or just disable Safari extensions.

  1. Choose Safari > Preferences.

    Preferences... menu item in Safari menu
  2. Click Extensions, then select each and every extension in turn.

    Uninstall button for Webex Meetings extension in Safari
  3. Click Uninstall for each extension.

Disallowing and Deleting Plugins

Disabling plugins is easier than totally removing them. Choose Safari > Preferences > Websites and dselect all the plugins near the bottom of the panel.

Websites tab of Safari Preferences, showing a checkbox to disable near the Google Talk Plugin

This will interfere with the functionality of websites that require particular plugins. In this case, Safari will show a placeholder or ask you if you wish to install the plugin.

If you do wish to completely remove your plugins:

  1. Quit Safari.

  2. Navigate to the location where the plugin is installed. This is usually /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/ or ~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/.

  3. Press Cmd-A to select all plugins, and press Delete.

Resetting to Default Settings on Mobile Browsers

To reset Safari's settings on an iPhone or iPad:

  1. Choose Settings (the gear icon).

    Screenshot of iPhone Settings app
    Tap the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down and select Safari.

  3. Tap Privacy & Security > Clear History and Website Data, then confirm your choice by tapping Clear History and Data when prompted.

    iOS Settings for Safari, Clear History and Website Data, and the Clear History and Data confirmation button

Clearing Your Browser Cache

When you clear the browser cache, Safari forgets any websites it has stored and reloads each page you visit.

  1. With Safari 8 and subsequent versions, Apple moved the Empty Cache option to Safari > Preferences > Advanced. At the bottom of the Advanced dialog, check the option Show Develop menu in menu bar.  

    Show Develop menu in menu bar option in Safari Advanced Preferences
  2. Return to your browser window, select the Develop menu, and choose Empty Caches.

    Empty Caches menu button in Safari's Develop menu