The Advantages & Disadvantages of Deleting Internet Cookies

By Kevin Lee

Even the White House's website uses cookies to make the site easier to navigate.
i Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Cookies sometimes get bad reputations when people discuss Internet privacy issues. This may happen because cookies have the ability to track your browsing activities. Websites, for instance, add cookies constantly to your hard drive as you surf the Web. While there are concerns associated with cookie use, you may discover that the advantages of keeping them outweigh the advantages of deleting them.


Do not confuse cookies with spyware or viruses. Those types of malware are programs that run on computers. A cookie is nothing more than a string of text that contains information. It cannot harm your computer because it does not have executable code. Regular cookies also don’t clutter your hard drive by taking up excessive disk space. When you visit a website that needs to remember your visit, that site stores a cookie on your computer and reads it when you return to the site.


Numerous websites use cookies to tailor your browsing experience. Facebook, for instance, uses cookies and other technologies to protect members and make pages easier to use. Cookies can help Facebook determine if someone violates its terms of service or attempts to access your account. When a site enables you to log in without typing a username and password, it probably stores that information in a cookie that remains on your hard drive. Sites can also use cookies to save personal preferences and remember your name if you ever type it in. Website owners also benefit from cookies by having the ability to count the number of visits that people make to their sites.


If a site relies too heavily on cookies, problems can occur. For example, if a website expects your computer to contain a cookie that has login information, you may not be able to log in to the site if you delete your cookies and the site's developer provides no alternate method of logging you in. Cookies are also tied to specific computers. If a site stores cookies on your home computer, that site won't remember you if you visit it using your work computer. When you share your browser account with other people, they can get an idea about the sites you visit by checking the browser's cookies unless you delete them.

Privacy Concerns

Some people may not mind websites remembering their visits while others might not want anyone tracking them. If you are concerned about privacy, you have the option to review your browser's Help documentation that explains how to disable and delete cookies. You might also consider disabling third-party cookies instead of disabling them all. A third-party cookie is one that an advertiser might place on a site you visit. It may also remember information about your browsing activity and store it on your hard drive. Your browser's help documentation can show you how to disable these types of cookies.