For us users, it’s difficult to understand which and how many cookies get stored on our devices when we’re surfing and what information the small files send to whom. That’s why many consumer advice bodies recommend taking some preventative steps — and regularly deleting cookies.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about cookies, their upside, and how to delete them from internet browsers like Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Edge, or others.
What are cookies — and why do they exist in the first place?
- Either you accept all cookies,
- You reject them, or
- You customize your consent.
Cookies are small text files that provide information such as about our website visits, how long we stay, and what we enter on them. These small text files are stored in your browser to make surfing the internet more enjoyable and convenient.
So when you’re shown personalized ads across different websites, are greeted personally on a website, or find the correct language is set, cookies have been at work in the background.
What are the different types of cookie?
Broadly speaking, when you visit a website you’re likely to encounter four types of cookie:
- Essential cookies ensure the website displays correctly. They’re used exclusively by the website operator. For these types of cookies, companies do not require your consent and you cannot reject the use of these cookies.
- Performance cookies are used to analyze user behavior, such as the length of visit, the sequence of sub-pages visited, or the search terms used to find the website. With the help of this anonymously collected information, website operators can personalize their content. These cookies require your consent.
- Functional cookies store information such as your username and language selection, and require your consent. Based on the information you enter, this type of cookie offers enhanced personalized features while keeping the stored information anonymous.
- Marketing cookies also require your consent and are often set by advertisers — also known as third-party providers — to be able to display personalized ads tailored to your interests. You can generally activate and deactivate them in your browser’s cookie settings.
Upsides and downsides of cookies
As you already know from what we’ve said, cookies make it more enjoyable and convenient for us to browse the web, and no: Your computer or smartphone cannot be infected with viruses or malware through cookies, so cookies are generally not dangerous. However, cookies can be used to launch a cyberattack that can threaten your privacy, for example by tracking your browser history.
As such, it’s a good idea to regularly delete cookies — and not just after visiting a suspicious website or when you notice a slowdown in your computer or smartphone’s performance.
Why delete cookies?
On the one hand, cookies stored in your browser will also play a role in causing your computer, smartphone, or tablet to slow down.
On the other hand, another argument in favor of you regularly deleting cookies is that you can put a stop to advertisers constantly tracking you and performing various data analyses. Consumer protection bodies even advise to generally reject cookies from third-party providers — in other words, those cookies that have nothing to do with the website you’re visiting.
As a starter, here’s a tip for those who just don’t have the patience to go rejecting cookies: Equip your browser with the powerful, quasi-proactive Avira Browser Safety add-on and it’ll help you block intrusive and harmful ads, prevent companies tracking you, and safeguard you from what is known as browser hijacking — all automatically. Although it’s no replacement for regularly deleting cookies, getting this add-on is a big step in the right direction.
Get deleting those cookies — here’s how in a range of popular browsers
In addition to the option to block third-party cookies, all browsers offer some variation of the feature to clear cookies once you close your browser. That said, we don’t recommend the latter since if you delete cookies this way, you’ll be logged out of any websites and your saved settings may also be deleted.
Want to skip to the instructions for your browser so you can get straight to clearing up your cookies? Simply click your browser’s icon:
Deleting cookies in Internet Explorer
Microsoft recommends switching to Edge the moment you open Internet Explorer. It’s no wonder really, as you can tell from the user experience that Internet Explorer hasn’t really been updated since 2016. Nevertheless, here’s how to delete cookies in this browser:
- Click the Tools icon (looks like a wheel) on the right of the address bar and click Internet options.
- In the window that opens on the left, click Delete to open another window that offers various options for deleting your browsing history.
- Various data categories are already preselected here, including Cookies and website data.
- Click Delete to confirm your selection. Once done, you’ll have deleted your cookies.
Chrome: Clear your browser cookies
Chrome guides you in great detail through the various options for clearing cookies — whether you want to automatically block all third-party cookies, clear cookies when you close all windows, or customize which websites are allowed to store cookies and which are not. Here’s an overview of the steps to remove cookies in Chrome:
- On the top right, click the kebab icon (the one with the three vertical dots) followed by Settings.
- Click Privacy and security, and then select Cookies and other site data.
- Click See all site data and permissions, then select Clear all data.
- To confirm, click Clear.
Deleting cookies in Firefox
- Click the hamburger icon (the one with three vertical bars) on the address bar, then select Settings.
- Now click Privacy & Security on the left and scroll down a little further where you can find various settings under Cookies and Site Data.
- Click Manage Data and a new window will appear with a list of websites that have stored cookies in your browser, which you can optionally sort by number or storage volume.
- Now select the websites whose cookies you want to delete and click Remove Selected (or Remove All), followed by Save Changes.
- You’ll then be prompted to confirm that you want to remove the cookies for the selected website(s).
Removing cookies in Safari
Safari also offers extensive options to delete and manage cookies. In this browser, click the Safari icon at the top left, select Preferences, and then click Privacy.
- If you click Prevent cross-site tracking, you can prevent tracker cookies from being used. These cookies and website data will be deleted if you avoid those websites that use tracking cookies.
- If you select Block all cookies, websites, third-party providers, and advertising companies will generally not be able to store cookies or other data on your Mac or Windows PC or laptop. However, this setting may prevent websites from working correctly.
- Click Manage Website Data, and you’ll be able to select individual or multiple websites and delete the associated cookies by clicking Remove or Remove All.
Clearing cookies in Opera
- Go to the address bar and click the Opera button. Then select Advanced followed by Privacy & security. Now click Clear browsing data.
- Tick the box next to Cookies and other site data.
- Now choose the time range to clear cookies stored since your chosen time. If you want to clear all your cookies, simply choose All time.
- Now click Clear data to clear all those cookies from Opera.
Deleting cookies from Edge
- Go to the address bar and click the kebab icon (the one with the three vertical dots) on the right. Now click Settings.
- In the window that opens, click Cookies and site permissions.
- Now click Manage and delete cookies and site data.
- If you select See all cookies and site data, you’ll then see a list of all the websites that have stored cookies in your browser.
- You can now either remove all cookies or decide page by page which cookies you want to delete.
Once you’ve deleted your cookies, it’s time to optimize your device
Regardless of the browser you use, it’s worthwhile restarting your computer after deleting cookies. We also recommend tuning up your device’s performance at the same time — something you can do even more thoroughly with plugins. One example is Avira System Speedup, which equips you with a suite of extensive optimization features. Every scan you run removes any remaining harmful cookies, plus many other junk files and other data that sap your device’s memory.
Deleting cookies on your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet
It’s easy to forget that cookies also accumulate on our smartphone or tablet via a browser app — and that you should also check for and remove these cookies regularly.
Removing cookies from the Samsung Internet browser app
If you use the Samsung Galaxy’s built-in Samsung Internet browser, here’s how to delete cookies:
- Open the Samsung Internet browser and tap the Settings
- Under the Advanced section, tap Sites and downloads, then Manage website data for a list of all the websites that have used cookies and stored them on your smartphone.
- You can either remove them individually or together in a new window by selecting the websites and clicking Delete.
Top tip: To round off your clean up, use the free Avira Free Security app to thoroughly tune up your smartphone or tablet’s performance and clean up its memory.
Deleting cookies from the Chrome app on Android or iOS devices
- Open the Chrome app on your smartphone or tablet.
- Tap the kebab icon (the one with the three vertical dots) on the bottom right, followed by Settings.
- Tap Privacy, and then Clear Browsing Data.
- Select your desired time range.
- Tap to tick Cookies, Site Data, and Cached Images and Files, and remove the tick from all other options.
- Now tap Clear Browsing Data followed by Clear Browsing Data once again.
Clearing cookies from the Safari app
To clear your browsing history and cookies from the Safari app, proceed as follows:
- Open the Settings app.
- Swipe up until you see Safari Now simply tap this menu option.
- Swipe up and tap Clear History and Website Data. Note: Clearing history, cookies, and search data from Safari won’t change autofill information.
If you want to delete only the cookies but keep your history, open the Settings app, tap Safari followed by Advanced at the bottom, select Website Data, and then tap Remove All Website Data.