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Do websites and cookies stay on your hard drive

by bigcrazy379 / February 29, 2008 10:42 PM PST

I have always wondered if you delete your cookies, temporary files, and internet history do they still stay on your hard drive?

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Sort of
by Jimmy Greystone / February 29, 2008 10:47 PM PST

They sort of do. When you delete a file, the operating system doesn't actually delete the file, it just marks that part of the disk as free. The files still exist until they are overwritten by something else.

As far as the browser is concerned, they're gone.

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Still after restoration
by bigcrazy379 / February 29, 2008 10:50 PM PST
In reply to: Sort of

What if after doing a restore disk? I am giving my computer away soon.

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How do you tell if they are still on there?
by bigcrazy379 / February 29, 2008 10:52 PM PST

How would I search or find the files? Is it through DOS or something like that?

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In that case
by Jimmy Greystone / February 29, 2008 10:56 PM PST

In that case, I would recommend simply removing the hard drive before giving the computer away. Or at least using a program like D-BAN to give the drive a very thorough formatting.

Let the recipient of your computer buy a new hard drive to put in it and/or run the restore discs. Otherwise, your browsing history might be the least of your worries about what they may find if so inclined.

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Yes, they do ...
by Edward ODaniel / February 29, 2008 10:55 PM PST

and that is regardless of the OS you might be using because file systems are based on some form of table-of-contents (like a file allocation table) or journal system, which is nothing more than a master index for telling the computer where to find a file. Instead of actually removing the data itself that is on the disk, the file system instead deletes just the references in the index and marks that area of the disk as free (so that more can be written to it). That means, however, that the data isn't really gone, and anyone with a little experience can retrieve it (and more advanced techniques can retrieve data after formatting by analyzing the residual magnetic fields).

That, by the way, also includes what is in the Virtual RAM which many people forget about even when they encrypt files and use "secure" deletion utilities.

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