How to Enable and Disable Cookies

How you manage your cookies depends on which web browser you're using, but it's a great way to boost your online privacy.

Different browsers offer differing ways to configure your browser's cookie settings.

Due to the wide range of differences among different websites' privacy policies, many browsers allow for universal privacy settings you can choose from.

What can I do to manage cookies stored on my computer?

You can choose different privacy settings based on your personal privacy concerns. Most commercial and professionally-created websites like Yahoo and Google have privacy policy pages that disclose how the sites handle, gather, and pass on user information to third parties. These are known as “P3P” features (Privacy Preferences Platform).

Some modern browsers have a feature that will analyze website privacy policies and allow a user to control their privacy needs. These are also known as P3P features.

What web browser am I using?

Check out our easy guide and find out what browser you're using.

If the commercial website you're visiting lacks a privacy policy, be very careful with any information you enter into any forms within the site.

You can easily remove any cookies that have been created in the cookie folder of your browser. For example, if you're on Windows machine, here are the steps on how to use Windows Explorer to erase cookie files:

  1. Click on "Windows Explorer"
  2. Select the "Search" button on the toolbar
  3. Enter “cookie” into the search box field for "Folders and Files"
  4. Choose "My Computer" in the "Look In" drop-down menu
  5. Click on "Search Now"
  6. Select and open the folders that are retrieved
  7. Click to highlight any cookie file
  8. Click the "Delete" key to erase the cookie file

If you don't have Windows Explorer, click the Help function on your Start button and enter “cookies” to search for information on how to locate the folder.

There are a number of ways to manage cookies. You can clear cookies, prevent cookies, delete cookies, and enable cookies at your will and for different circumstances. If you use different computers in different locations, you'll need to ensure that each browser is adjusted to suit your cookie preferences.

What cookies do to your PC

Cookies are browser-dependent and are essentially text files that contain information your browser saves in a folder for some of the websites you visit. By themselves, cookies pose no risk since they don't contain viruses in any form nor do they spy on your PC content to compromise security.

Cookies are used to make online surfing faster and easier by making the sites you’ve visited remember who you are. This includes remembering your IP address or passwords, along with your personal preferences, such as when Amazon recommends a book or music CD similar to what you looked for on your last visit.

But this convenience feature of having cookies can be overused when some websites use them to track you across various websites, often for analytical competition purposes, and end up recording your web surfing behavior.

Cookies can get a bit frightening when the companies that track you are those you've never dealt with and to whom you never gave your personal information.

Older browsers like Internet Explorer or Netscape offered a limited choice for managing cookies. They just completely allowed or disallowed cookies, so you'd either benefit from cookies or not. These browsers can also be set to prompt you for a yes or no response in each attempt for a site to send cookies. 

Today, newer browsers like Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Opera offer a better degree of control in selecting which sites can or cannot send cookies.

Managing cookies on the Firefox 8.0 browser

Just as an example of what a modern browser can do, you can specify your cookie options under Firefox 8.0 by selecting the following:

Tools -> Options -> Privacy

In the Privacy box, you can prevent websites from tracking you by checking the “Tell website I do not want to be tracked” under Tracking.

But even if you are tracked, you can click “remove individual cookies,” which opens up a new dialog box containing all the websites you've visited and their respective cookie files that were saved by your browser. You can individually delete the cookies, search for specific cookies, or just delete all of the cookies with one click.

Managing Flash cookies

Browser cookies generally make it faster and easier for you to access sites the next time around, and the same benefit comes with Flash cookies. 

Deleting them may require you to re-enter verification information on sites the next time you visit. But just like any cookie, you can delete Flash cookies for security or technical reasons since flash cookies tend to slow down your browser. 

Here’s how to delete Flash cookies:

  1. Visit the Settings Manager for your Adobe Flash Player. You will be taken to the Adobe website.
  2. The Adobe site lists the websites with the cookies.
  3. Click the delete button that's listed opposite the website where you want the cookies deleted.

Need to clear your cookies? 

Check out our guides on how to remove cookies from your particular browser: