How to Reset Safari to Default Settings

Restoring default settings is a multi-step process

The Mac's native web browser Safari used to have a "Reset Safari" 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 subsequent to Safari 8 is now a multi-step process that includes removing history, clearing the cache, disabling extensions and plugins, and more.

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 (so you'll need to reenter login information).
  • The list of downloads (but not the downloaded files themselves).
  • Recent searches.
  • Sites that were added to Quick Website Search.

Here's How

Select Clear History and Website Data. from the History menu. This provides an option to then clear all history (by selecting the Clear History button in the popup), or to clear the history for a particular time period by selecting a value from the Clear dropdown box.

Clear History... menu item in Safari's History menu

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

Clear History... menu item in the Safari menu

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.

Clearing Your Browser Cache

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

With Safari 8 and subsequent versions, Apple moved the Empty Cache option to the Advanced preferences. To access it, choose Safari > Preferences, and then 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

Return to your browser window, select the Develop menu, and choose Empty Caches.

Empty Caches menu button in Safari's Develop menu

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 the Uninstall button for each extension.

Disallowing and Deleting Plugins

The easiest way to remove plugins is to just disable them. 

Choose Safari > Preferences, then click Websites. Deselect all the Plugins near the bottom of the panel. Note that this will interfere with the functionality of websites that require a particular plugin. In this case, Safari will show a placeholder or ask you if you wish to install the plugin.

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

If you do wish to completely remove your plugins from your Mac, quit Safari and then navigate to the location where the plugin is installed. This is usually /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/ or ~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/. 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, use the general Settings button:

  1. Choose Settings (the gear icon)

  2. Scroll down and select Safari.

  3. Under the Privacy & Security section, choose 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