How to Check a Hard Drive for Viewed Websites (6 Steps)
By Maya Austen
Every website you visit leaves footprints on your computer’s hard drive. These “footprints” can be in the form of files or entries in the system’s registry. If you want to review the history of the websites that were visited by the computer’s Web browser, there are several places on your computer you can check. In some cases, you will need to install special software on your computer in order to read the browser history log recorded in a file.
View the browser’s "History" log. With Internet Explorer and Firefox Web browsers, this task is accomplished by launching the Web browser and typing “Ctrl” plus “H.” A list of the URLs visited by a user is displayed. A user can easily delete a Web browser’s history log, however. Therefore, only a list of the sites visited since the log was last cleared is displayed.
Open the Start menu. Type “regedit” in the “Search” box and press “Enter” to open the Registry Editor. Browse to the “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\TypedURLs” registry key. A list of all the URLs typed in the Internet Explorer address bar are stored here. This list is deleted when the browser’s history log is purged.
Conduct a search of the cookie files stored on your computer. Cookies are text files stored on a computer by the websites users have visited. Cookie files contain a record of a user’s activity on a website. Websites use them to provide customized information to the user the next time they visit the site. Cookie files are always named using the following format: cookie:USER_NAME@WEBSITE. For example, cookie:firstname.lastname@example.org. Examine the URL portion of the cookie file names. This will give you some idea of the websites visited by a user. In Windows 7, cookie files are generally located at C:\Users\USER_NAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files. Like the Web browser history log, cookie files can also be deleted by the user.
Download and install Index.dat viewer software on your computer. Use the software to view the contents of the index.dat file stored on the computer’s hard drive. A record of all the websites visited by a user using the Internet Explorer Web browser is stored in the computer’s index.dat file. Even if the browser’s history is deleted, the record of visited URLs is preserved in the index.dat file. Because the index.dat file is a hidden, encoded file, Index.dat viewer software is required to read the file.
Download and install History.dat viewer software on your computer. Use the software to view the contents of the history.dat file stored on the computer’s hard drive. A record of all the websites visited by a user using the Firefox Web browser is stored in the computer’s history.dat file. In Windows 7, the history.dat file is located at C:\Users\USER_NAME\AppData\Local\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\RANDOM_NUMBERS folder.
Check the user’s “Favorites” folder. The “Favorites” folder contains a list of the frequently visited websites saved by the user. In Windows 7, the “Favorites” folder is located at C:\Users\USER_NAME\Favorites.
Maya Austen began freelance writing in 2009. She has written for many online publications on a wide variety of topics ranging from physical fitness to amateur astronomy. She's also an author and e-book publisher. Austen has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the New England Institute of Art and currently lives in Boston, Mass.