When I mention Google’s web history to people, they think of items they typed in Google’s search box. Many people are OK with their browsers storing this data. Google and other search engines use that info to refine future search results. This is all part of Google’s effort to deliver personalized searches. But sometimes, you want Google to show me my browsing history so I can decide if I want to delete or keep it.
What’s in Google Chrome Web History?
When you use Google Chrome or other Google products, a log entry is made reflecting your actions. You might think of Google’s web history as an online audit trail of your web activity. Although it doesn’t store the page contents, it does grab the URL, favicon, page title, and timestamp of pages you’ve viewed.
You can see I’ve read an email in the picture below, checked the weather, and visited Amazon. You’ll also see the top entry recorded in a Google search. Everyone will have different items. It also depends on your Google Activity Control settings.
And depending on your account settings, you might see activity from other devices such as phones, computers, and authorized 3rd party apps. For example, in the screen snap below, you can see activity from my cell phone and another computer. I was able to see this activity even though I am logged in on a different PC.
Browser History: Good, Bad & Ugly
My guess is people who didn’t know browsers capture this info might be alarmed. I’ll admit it was a bit creepy to see my search history and other info. The flip side is I’ve also used this web history log to find pages I visited and forgot. This keeps me from repeating Google searches. Some of these settings are also useful with other Google products.
One important note is that Google Chrome isn’t the only browser that records your web history. Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge do as well. The example below is from Microsoft Edge, which logged my voice queries to Cortana and an errant click on my desktop screensaver. In neither case did I have that browser open. Moreover, most websites also record entries in web server logs.
Some items can pass between browsers if you’re logged in. For example, the Google search I did for gifts was done using Google Chrome while I was logged in. However, if I go to Firefox, log in to Gmail, and then do a Google search, my previous queries show.
How to View Chrome History
- Open Google Chrome on your desktop.
- Press Ctrl + H. You will be at chrome://history/
The same keystrokes also work on Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge.
One nice feature is that you can act on your stored data. For example, you can use the search text box to find a site you can’t remember. For example, while searching for a restaurant recently, I reviewed many online menus. Later, I needed to find which of the menus had a salmon entree.
How to Delete Chrome History
Google has provided several options for people to remove data. For example, you can selectively check items and delete them from your web history. This is a useful feature around holidays where maybe you don’t want tracks left at online retailers. But, of course, you can also delete all the history.
Selectively Removing Items
It could be that you’re just worried about some entries. In that case, you might want to use the search bar at the top and isolate your entry. The tool does a good job of looking through the page titles and URLs for your term(s). You can then tick the checkbox to the left of the items and click Delete toward the toolbar’s top right.
Another way to remove items is by using the 3 vertical dots to the right of each entry. When you click the dots, you’ll get 2 additional choices or actions:
- More from this site
- Remove from history
Using More from this site acts as a filter. It will place the domain name in the search bar and show the results. You’ll have to check each item. Remove from history works well on single items.
How to Delete All Chrome History
The steps below are for deleting all your data. However, if you’ve never done this, I’d do this in stages. For example, maybe start with just deleting Browsing history. You may find that if you delete everything, you’ll have to authenticate with your sites again, especially if you use 2-factor authorization.
- Open your Google Chrome browser.
- Sign in to your account.
- Press Ctrl + H
- From the left side, click Clear browsing data.
A new dialog will open with various options. Your browser address will show chrome://settings/clearBrowserData
[a] – There are 2 modes, Basic and Advanced that achieve the same results. The Advanced view is more granular.
[b] – This Time range setting allows you to select a deletion period ranging from Last Hour to All time.
[c] – You can select the type of data to delete.
- Keep the default Basic mode.
- Keep the Time range: All time.
- Tick each checkbox for Browsing history, Cookies, and Cached images and files.
- Click the CLEAR DATA button.
Your data should be gone and you’ll be on chrome://settings/.
Automatic Time Deletions
For people concerned about this data, you probably should routinely delete your data or use private browsing or incognito mode online. However, Google did introduce a setting that allows you to change the deletion time period.
- Go to https://myactivity.google.com/activitycontrols.
- Scroll to the Auto-delete section.
- Click the chevron on the right.
- On the pop-up dialog, toggle the Auto-delete activity older than radio button.
- From the drop-down menu, select your new time preference. (3 months, 18 months, or 36 months)
- Click Next.
- A pop-up appears confirming your preference to auto-delete. In addition, it will preview some of the items to be deleted.
- Click Confirm.
- The Preference saved dialog appears. Click Got it.
Password Protecting Search History
Another privacy feature Google added is a verification step before someone can see your search history. This is different than seeing which web pages I visited. Instead, it’s the query I typed into the Google Search box. This feature will prevent prying eyes from seeing your search activity unless they know your Google password.
The number of details will differ based on your activity settings. In my case, I opted to enable Web & App activity except for audio recordings. I find the data can be useful. However, I turned off Location History and YouTube history.
- Go to https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity.
- Click Manage My Activity verification.
- The Manage My Activity verification dialog appears
- Toggle the Require extra verification radio button.
- Click Save.
- Login using your Google password.
As privacy has become more of an issue, Google has added more options to help you control your Google search history. Not only will Google show me my browsing history, but also lets me turn off sections or password protect them.