How to Recover Deleted Internet History
By David Weedmark
Updated August 24, 2017
If you've deleted your Internet history and now need to find your way back to a website, or if you want to see what a child has been up to on his computer, here are a several ways you may be able to access that data.
Using Search Engine History
Most web browsers keep records of your search history that you can access, provided that you were logged in with your account while searching the web. The process is essentially the same for either service.
- Go to Google History or Bing Profile History.
- Enter your password if prompted.
- Click the "Filter by Date & Product" option in Google, or the Calendar icon in Bing, and select the date to begin your search, or enter a keyword in the Search field.
- Scroll through the results, which are listed in reverse-chronological order.
- Click any search entry to resume that search.
- Click any link below the search to revisit the website you visited.
- Click the Searched for... link to resume that Google search.
- Click the link below the search to return to the website you visited.
- Delete a search entry by clicking the Check Box and then clicking the Delete link at the top of the page.
Bing Profile History
- Hover the cursor over any tile to see your options.
- Click the website link to go to the site you found during the search.
- Click Your Search to resume your Bing search.
- Clicking Clear removes the search and the website from your history.
Using System Restore
On Windows 8 and 10 computers, you can restore your computer to an earlier point, including deleted Internet history files, using System Restore. Mac users have the same option using Time Machine.
- Launch Control Panel, type "recovery " in the Control Panel Search field and click Recovery.
- Select Open System Restore and click Next.
- Make a note of the date for the last Automatic Restore Point. Back up any files you have created or modified since then, as they'll be lost otherwise.
- Return to the System Restore window and follow the onscreen instructions to restore you computer's state to that date.
Sifting Through Cookies
Your browser's cookies can often tell you which websites you've recently visited, provided you didn't delete the cookies when you cleared your browsing history. For this to be successful, certain conditions must have been met:
- Your browser has cookies enabled.
- Your browser has not deleted the cookies since you last visited.
Not all cookies provide useful information. In the example here, LinkedIn.com, Mozilla.org and Netflix.com were all recently visited. However, other cookies are from advertising services, like Interclick, which would have provided ads to one of the websites that was visited.
- Click the Hub button.
- Click the History menu to see your saved browsing history.
Internet Explorer 11
- Click the Tools menu and select Internet Options.
- Click the General tab.
- Click Settings in the Browsing History section and select View Objects or View Files.
Firefox 38.x and Later
- Click the Tools menu and select Options.
- Click Privacy.
- Click Remove Individual Cookies to see all of your saved cookies.
Chrome 43.x and Later
- Click the Menu icon and select Settings.
- Select Advanced Settings
- Click Content Settings in the Privacy section.
- Click All Cookies and Site Data to see the saved cookies.
Safari 5.1 and Later
- Click Preferences from the Safari menu.
- Click Privacy.
- Click Details to view saved cookies.
Mining Through Data Files
If none of the other methods for retrieving your browsing history have been successful, you may want to try digging through your computer's data files. Specifically, the IECacheView file on Windows 8 and 8.1, or the index.dat file on Windows 7 may be able to give you some information about browsing history, at least on Internet Explorer.
In order to view these data files, you need a program like NirSoft's IECacheView or Pointstone Software's Index.dat Viewer.
Note that if you've already deleted your history, these data cache files may not have any information to give you. The same caveat applies to sifting through AppData files, where Firefox stores its cache.
Before buying software to retrieve deleted history, review the developer's website to see if it is relevant to your situation, or contact the company to ask.
Other Methods For Accessing Browsing History
Even if you haven't been able to find your browsing history, that doesn't mean someone else couldn't. Professional data recovery specialists may be able to retrieve your lost history, provided you're willing to pay them to sift through your hard drive.
Additionally, even if your browsing history is removed from your computer, your history may be logged on the Web servers you visited. Internet service providers and law enforcement also have the ability to record your Internet browsing history.
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.