Have you ever wondered what Google’s Chrome browser stores in its history? Depending on your services and settings it could be more than you think. In this tutorial, I’ll explain how to see your browsing history and make adjustments.
What Goes Into Browser 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 page contents, it captures the URL, favicon, page title, and timestamp of pages you’ve viewed.
Google presents the saved data in a number of ways. Based on your Chrome version and options you’ll have:
- A chronological list from your synced devices.
- A tab showing history from other devices.
- A Journeys view that groups together similar content. This optional feature is being rolled out.
Chrome History Tab – The Chronological List
Address Bar: chrome://history/
This is the view most people know. Google organizes your data by access time and includes any synced devices and search queries. Everyone will have different items. This view also depends on your Google Activity Control settings.
And depending on your account settings, you might see activity from other devices such as cell phones, tablets, and authorized apps. This feature does require you to turn sync on in Chrome.
This view also allows you to act on specific line items by using the More options menu (3 vertical dots) or the checkbox before each item. However, you can’t tell which device was used. This is an aggregated view. This can be handy if you start a search on one device such as a cell phone and then continue on a desktop.
For example, in the screen capture below, you can’t tell that the Ace Hardware reference at 12:48 PM was done on a cell phone.
Tabs from other devices
Address bar: chrome://history/syncedTabs
This view shows your browser history from other devices. For example, in the screen snap below, you can see activity from a cell phone, another PC, and Chromebook.
In the other devices view, you can’t delete individual pages from your browsing history. The More options menu allows two options. You can open all the items in a new browser instance or hide the group section. Alternatively, you can collapse the group which just leaves the device name and time reference.
Chrome Journeys Tab View
Address bar: chrome://history/journeys.
This is a recent addition Google started rolling out in February of 2022 for the Chrome desktop version. The view further organizes your browsing history. Instead of seeing each page on a dedicated line, Google organizes the data in a topical fashion. This becomes quite powerful if you need to resume a search or don’t recall all the details.
Presently, this data view doesn’t have a menu item on the left side unless you wish to turn the Journeys feature off. Instead, you can access it by going to the Chrome history tab and then selecting Journeys from the top.
In the screenshot below, you can see Google has organized my browsing history in a view that starts with my search query. One query [A] was to see if the NY Times Wirecutter had done any ceiling fan reviews. Based on that starting point, I jumped off to a number of vendor pages. Google has also added some pill search boxes for Related searches.
A similar grouping occurred for a previous search [B] where I was trying to describe the ceiling fan I wanted to research.
In addition, you can use the text box at the top to filter your history results. In the example below, I applied the search term “analytics”. You’ll also see that I can take additional actions on a Journey’s group.
Supposedly with Journeys, I should see a “Resume your research” if I do a similar search. However, I’m not seeing that yet. The only way I can see that data is by clicking Journeys once I’m in the search history.
Browser History: Good, Bad & Ugly
My guess is that people who didn’t realize web browsers capture this info might be alarmed. I’ll admit it was a bit unsettling when someone showed me my browsing history the first time. The flip side is that the new Chrome Journeys should make resuming searches easier so you don’t need to repeat steps. And Google also uses some of your activities to personalize items in your Discovery feed.
One important note is that Google Chrome is one of many browsers 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.
Google Search History Flow
Even though your history contains more than your Google searches, I wanted to point out how data search queries can flow between browsers. It doesn’t matter if you’re on Chrome, Firefox, or which one is your default browser.
For example, the Google search I did for graduation gifts was done using Google Chrome while I was logged in. If I go to Mozilla Firefox, log in to Google, and then click in the search textbox, I can see my previous search queries. They are conveniently carried over.
If you don’t want Google to save these search queries, use Chrome’s Incognito mode or your browser’s private viewing. And if your browser is managed by your company or school they may have additional tools that monitor activities.
If you’re not sure if your Chrome browser is managed, you can type chrome://management/ in the address bar.
How to View Chrome History
There are multiple ways to see your web history based on device type or shortcut keys.
For Desktop Keystrokes
- Open Google Chrome on your desktop.
- Press Ctrl + h. You will be at chrome://history.
For mobile devices and tablets
- Open the Chrome app.
- From the top right, select the More options menu. From the dropdown menu, select History.
Chrome Address Bar Options
The following works on most devices although I was unable to get this to work on Chrome on my iPad.
In your Chrome address bar, type chrome://history/
Google also built a Chrome action. These are key phrases you can type in the Chrome address bar instead of navigating through various menu settings. All you need to do is type view your Chrome history in the address bar.
You should then see a pill button labeled “View your Chrome history”.
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 when maybe you don’t want tracks left at online retailers or search engines. But, of course, you can also delete all the history.
Removing Some Items
It could be that you’re just worried about some entries. In that case, you might want to use the search box 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 menu items:
- 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. Again, you’ll have to check the box for each item to delete. The option Remove from history works well on single items.
How to Delete a Group of Items
If your Chrome browser has the Journeys feature, it provides another way to delete a group of items. If you click the More Options 3 dot menu, you’ll see a menu item to Remove all from history.
Also, note that this Journey has more pages that don’t show as indicated by the Show more button. If I click the Remove all from history option, it will also delete those Journey pages I can’t see. Google does not provide a count of how many pages will be removed.
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 your 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 browser tab and 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.
[D] – Infobox that links out to other Google help pages.
[E] – Clear data button.
[F] – Syncing reminder and the Google account used.
- Keep the Time range: All time.
- Tick each checkbox for Browsing history, Cookies, and Cached images and files.
- Click the blue Clear Data button.
Your data should be gone and you’ll be on chrome://settings/.
Finding More Details on a Google Search Query
Although the History tab view is great, it doesn’t include all data. For example, this view doesn’t capture the location of the search query or device. There may be situations where you want to know these details before deleting an item.
In the screen snap below, you can see the additional location and device fields. If I were to click the View general area link, I would get a Google map with my approximate location. And, I’ve only seen the device info shown from my Android phone and Chromebook. It shows Unknown Device when I use my Windows desktop or iPad.
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.
Deleting from a Phone
I realize that some people may not have a computer, but just a cell phone. You can still delete your browsing data. The method below will take you to the Advanced method which provides more options including cached images and files.
- Open up the Chrome app on your phone.
- From the top right corner, click the 3 dot menu.
- From the drop-down menu, select Settings toward the bottom.
- On the Settings panel, click Privacy and security.
- From the Privacy and security panel, click Clear browsing data.
- On the Clear browsing data panel, click Advanced.
- Set your Time range for deletion. By default, it will show All time but you can adjust.
- Tick the checkbox for each group you’d like to delete.
- Click the blue Clear data button.
Deleting from an iPad
When it comes to the iPad, Apple does think differently although the process is pretty straightforward.
- Open the Chrome app on your iPad.
- Click the 3 horizontal dots in the upper right corner.
- From the drop-down menu, click History.
- On the History pop-up, click the red Clear Browsing Data… link at the bottom.
- Set your Time Range at the top of the screen. By default, it will show as All Time with all groups enabled.
- Click on a group to disable.
- Click the red Clear Browsing Data link at the bottom.
- Click again to confirm the deletion.
- Click Done in the top right.
In this tutorial, I’ve outlined multiple ways you can view or delete your browsing history. Whether you are looking to see exactly what web pages you’ve been visiting, or wanting to resume a previous search query, we hope this helped you.