Cookies can be a contentious part of the web browsing experience for many users. On the one hand, while they make it easier for your web browser to actively learn about where you browse and keep you logged in wherever you go, they can also be a nasty way for advertisers and adware distributors to keep tabs on you while you use certain sites.
If you want to find a better way to manage how your browser collects cookies on you or anyone who uses your computer, read our guide to find out everything you need to know and more! Contents
Note: Tests for Google Chrome, Edge, Opera, and Mozilla Firefox were all run on a Windows 10 desktop PC running the latest updates as of May 23, 2017.
To start your journey toward being free and clear of cookies once and for all (or at least to have a better grip on which ones get through), click the button with three dots in the top-right hand corner of your browser window:
From here a drop-down menu will appear, containing a number of different options to choose from. To get to the cookie management tools you’ll need to use, click on the Settings option, shown below:
This will take you to the following Settings window, which will take up an extra tab on your browsing session. Way at the bottom of this page, you’ll find a link which reads Show advanced settings…, click this to move on:
Once the Advanced Settings options open up, you’ll see a section called Privacy, right under Default browser:
From here, click on the Content settingss button, shown above. That should bring you to the following window, which is where we’ll be handling everything related to Chrome’s cookie settings.
There are a lot of different settings to work with here, but to start it helps to know exactly which sites have been keeping cookies on you, and how many each one has stored. To do this, click on the button that reads All cookies and site data…:
The length of the list that pops up will depend on how long you’ve been using your browser at the default cookie setting of Allow local data to be set.
To clear all your cookies in one swift go, simply click the Remove all button that appears next to the search bar:
However, if you only want to remove cookies from certain websites, you can enter the name of that website into the search bar and only results from that specific domain will appear:
There’s also an option to remove all the cookies associated with the searched domain at once, by clicking the Remove all shown button seen above.
An alternate (and faster) method of clearing your cookies can be found back at the original Advanced Settings menu. Under the Privacy section there is a button labeled Clear browsing data…, seen below: Once you click this you’ll be taken to a window where all the individual pieces of your browsing history are laid out in a checklist:
To clear your cookies from here, only tick the box for Cookies and other site and plugin data, making sure to uncheck any other data that you’re not willing to lose at the end of this process.
Once the cookies box is selected, you can specify how far back the deletion should go by clicking the drop-down menu above. Here you’ll find the choices of anything recorded in the past hour, the past day, the past week, the last 4 weeks, and since the beginning of time, (which is really just since the first time you installed the browser or ran a hard reset on the previous settings).
After you’ve selected the duration of time you want to cover and the data you want to delete, click the button in the bottom-left corner to confirm you want it gone:
And that’s it, you’re done!
Lastly, if you’re tired of constantly having to go back into your settings menu to carefully pick out pesky cookies that have overstayed their welcome, you can set your Chrome up to automatically manage cookies in a way that better suits your preferred privacy level.
To do this, start back at the Privacy section, and click on the button labeled Content settings…:
From here you’ll find yourself back at the original cookies menu, seen below:
At stock builds, Chrome installations will always choose Allow local data to be set (recommended) as the default option for how the browser handles incoming cookie requests. This means that your browser will be a catch-all for any cookie that comes its way, a big problem for people concerned about how to better control their privacy.
From this menu you have several options to choose from when it comes to Chrome’s cookie behavior. The first is to Keep local data only until you quit your browser, which does pretty much exactly what it sounds like. This makes it so each time your browser is closed out, any local data that was stored during that session is automatically deleted, no questions asked.
The next is to Block sites from setting any data, which, just as the name implies, will put a hard block on all cookie requests regardless of the site (this can be mitigated through the exceptions tab however, which we’ll address shortly).
The last option on the list is to only Block third-party cookies and site data. This choice is a bit more complex than the others, and you need to understand the difference between third-party cookies and first-party cookies to get the full picture.
For example, if you visit CNN.com, any cookies you get from CNN would be considered the “first-party” cookie. If that particular page has a Facebook “Share” button on it, however, that cookie will also be stored on your system and is classified as a third-party cookie.
While that example sounds relatively innocuous on the surface, some third-party advertisers will take advantage of certain platforms in order to get more malicious cookies delivered to your computer. This option helps to mitigate that threat, while still making it easier to manage the rest of your first-party cookies from more reputable online destinations.
Speaking of managing your cookies, there’s one last option that we should mention which can make your whole cookie situation a whole lot easier to handle. At the bottom of the list, you should see a button labeled Manage exceptions…. Click on that to get to the next window:
From here you can individually manage how Chrome reacts to certain sites, and control how the information gathered is handled for each session.
To add a new site and change its exception type, start by entering the name of the portal into the search bar seen here:
Next, a drop-down menu will appear on the right. This menu has three options: Allow, Clear on exit, and Block. Now stick with me here, because this is where it gets a little complicated. If you choose Allow while your other setting is configured to Block all, this will make it so Comparitech (in this example) will still be able to store cookies on your system, while all other sites are blocked.
Conversely, if you have the Allow all setting activated, you can choose to Block cookies from that particular site, and all other sites will be able to get through while that one stays blacklisted. Last is the Clear on exit option, which as we mentioned before, will clear the cookies from that site each time you end your last browser session.
Clearing your cookies in the Firefox browser is a fairly similar process to what you’ll find with Chrome, with a few key differences.
To start, click on the button in the top-right corner with three horizontal lines:
Here you’ll find a menu with a gear icon inside, seen above. Click that gear to get to the Options menu.
Once you’re in the options menu, look to the far-left of the window and scroll down to the Privacy tab:
<In here you’ll find the History section. Under there is a link to remove individual cookies. Click this to get to the next screen.
To simply remove all the cookies that Firefox has stored over the course of all your browsing sessions, just click the button labeled Remove All. Be careful, because there won’t be any confirmation window to ask if you’re sure that’s the move you want to make.
To delete individual cookies, you can either scroll through the entire list, or just use the search bar at the top to find the specific site you’re looking for:
After you’ve found the cookie you want to delete, just click the Remove selected button in the bottom-right corner and you’re done!
If you want to change how Firefox handles cookie requests in the future, this can be done from back at the original Privacy window.
Under the History section you’ll find a drop-down menu. Click on this and choose the option to Use custom settings for history.
From here a new set of options will appear under the History tab, each of which control a different piece of the overall cookie pie. First there’s the option to toggle cookies entirely:
This is done from the box highlighted above. If you click that off, no sites will be able to ever install any cookies on your system while you’re using the browser.
If that’s a little too over-the-top for you, you can also control more specific action, like how third-party cookies are handled:
asBy clicking the menu seen above, you can select Always accepting third-party cookies, which lets everything through without any checks or balances. The next option is From visited, which will only store cookies from third-party providers that you’ve previously trusted with the option to add cookies .
The last option – Never – does exactly what it sounds like, and prevents any third-party cookies from ever being stored on the machine.
There’s also another choice to make here, one which decides how long those specific cookies are kept on your system. The two options here are Keep until they expire, and Keep until I close Firefox:
Keep until they expire is the riskier way to go, because sometimes the license for a cookie can be several years long, meaning they won’t leave your desktop until that time period runs up.
The other choice is Keep until I close Firefox, which is what we recommend for the more privacy-conscious users out there. As it sounds, this will only store third-party cookies until each browser session ends.
If you do choose to Accept cookies from sites, you can do more to control how certain sites or cookie requests are handled on a site-by-site basis. To do this, start by clicking the Exceptions button, shown above.
From there you should see the following window. To add a site to your Exceptions list, start by typing it into the search bar seen above, then select whether you want to Block, Allow for Session, or Allow.
Block will continue to block cookie requests from that site, while Allow and Allow for Session will let the site get through (in case the original Allow all box had been unchecked).
If Allow for session is chosen, that site will only be allowed to store cookies until you close the browser window, at which point the slate will be wiped clean once again.
Much like the rest of the browsers we’ve mentioned so far, the start of your cookie control adventure starts by clicking the menu option in the top-right corner of your primary Edge window:
From here a menu should drop down, and at the way bottom you’ll find the option to open Settings:
From here the window on the left-hand side of your browser will simply swap over to the Settings tab. Scroll to the bottom, where you’ll see the option to Choose what to clear under the Clear browsing data section:
From here, click the Choose what to clear button, seen above. That will take you to the prompt we have highlighted here:
If you’d like to clear the entirety of all the cookies stored on your system, select the box for Cookies shown above, then click on the button labeled Clear at the bottom of the page.
If you’d like to control what information your browser will delete after you close each session, you can select any of the boxes shown above (Browsing history, Form data, etc), and then switch on the toggle for Always clear this when I close the browser, just below the Clear button.
To manage how Edge handles incoming cookie requests, go back to the original Settings menu and scroll all the way to the bottom, where you’ll see the option to open up Advanced settings by clicking the link shown below:
From here the same style of window should pop up on the side menu. After this happens scroll all the way to the bottom of that menu, to find the following drop-down menu:
From here you’ll have three choices of how cookies are handled. Don’t block cookies (the default option), Block cookies, and Block only third-party cookies:
We’ve already explained in the other browsers how you can expect each of these settings to behave, but unfortunately unlike all the other browsers on this list, Edge doesn’t allow you to make any specific exceptions regarding which sites get through and which don’t.
Every choice is a catch-all for all sites you visit, so make sure you know how you want Edge operate before making any final decisions with it!
To clear your cookies in Safari in OSX, start by opening up the settings menu by clicking Safari in the top menu, and then Preferences from the drop-down shown below:
From here you should get to your main settings window. Once that opens, click on the Privacy tab, the one with an icon containing a gray circle with a hand in the middle:
This is where all your cookie data and preferences can be configured. To clear your cookies completely, first click on the Manage Website Data… button to get to the screen below:
As was the case with other browsers, from here you’ll see a full list of all the cookies that are currently stored as a part of your browsing session.
To delete all cookies kept on the system, click on the button at the bottom of the window labeled Remove All:
To remove individual cookies, you can start by typing the site you’re trying to manage into the search bar, highlighted here:
Once you’ve done that, a list of any cookies associated with the domain you typed in will appear.
Select the one you want to delete, and click the Remove button:
And you’re done!
The system for managing cookies in Safari is slightly different from the others listed here, in that instead of allowing you to add sites by typing a whole list in at once, for each site you want to add to the “allow” pile, you have to choose from one of two methods to set it up.
The first is Allow from websites I visit. As soon as you click this option, any cookies currently stashed in the previous Manage Website Data… menu will be greenlit, while no others will be allowed to make it through as long as the option is selected.
The other option is to Allow from current website only. If at any point you accidentally cleared the entire cache of cookies stored up and you want to keep yourself as safe as possible, simply visit the website you want to allow and then walk through steps 1-3 again to add it to your list of exceptions.
Lastly, there are the two polar options of Always block or Always allow, which by this point are pretty self-explanatory.
Because the Opera browser is based off the same underlying Chromium architecture that the standard Google Chrome browser is, almost everything about how to clear and manage your cookies is just about identical in process and implementation.
There are a few subtle differences though, namely how you actually get to the menu where you can change around your settings. To start, click on the red O (for Opera) in the top-left corner of your browser window:
Now a drop-down menu will appear. From here, scroll down first to More tools and hover over it. Once you do a secondary menu should appear on the right, reading Clear browsing data. Click on this to get to where you need to go:
Once you click this, you’ll be brought to a very familiar looking screen which gives you the option to decide what data should be deleted, and from how far back:
If you need any additional help on how to handle things beyond this point, refer back to the Chrome section to find out everything you need to know.
Finally, managing your cookies in Opera is again, all but identical to the original Chrome instructions at the top of this post. However to get to this section, you’ll need to go back to the original settings menu by clicking the Cancel button, seen on the menu above.
From the screen above, scroll down to the Cookies section. Again we won’t take any extra time to explain these options, as they’re exactly the same as what we saw in Chrome the first time around.