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Where do my Internet and PC activities leave traces and how to remove them?

Your daily Internet and PC activities leave sensitive traces behind in various areas of your hard drive. This article lists the most important areas and explains how to remove the traces accumulated there. There are two ways to delete your activity traces:

Manual removal: Clearing your activity traces manually may come in handy in certain scenarios, for instance, when you need to quickly remove your browsing history, or sensitive emails from prying eyes. However, manual deletion is not secure because the default Windows deletion leaves your tracks recoverable by special tools and because there are many hidden folders that keep copies of your tracks even after you deleted them from their designated folders. Please also keep in mind that it takes time and advanced skills to be able to locate and manually remove the hundreds of traces you leave behind with your daily activities.

Software-based removal (secure removal): Secure deletion is based on overwriting the original data (tracks) with random characters using a privacy software to make sure that their recovery is impossible. The overwriting process employs complex algorithms approved by governments and computer scientists and clearing your traces with a specific application, like east-tec Eraser, saves you from the challenges manual deletion poses.

This article offers you useful info on both manual and software-based clearing of each sensitive area. In general, manual deletion is a quick, temporary solution whereas software-based clearing - while takes longer time - provides secure, permanent removal of your activity traces.

1. Browsers

Browsers record various sensitive traces about your activities, such as, Web addresses you've visited, pictures you've viewed, snapshots of your most frequently visited pages and so forth.

Manual: Modern browsers offer you the possibility of clearing your activity traces manually either selectively, or in their entirety. You can delete your browsing, download, and search history, cookies, cache, session-stores, logs, saved passwords and so on. Please follow the links below to learn more about what tracks you can remove from major browsers and what privacy threat each item poses. Some examples:

With east-tec Eraser: By default, the program is configured to securely delete your browsing history, cookies and cache from the browsers installed on your computer. If you would like to add further items to the erasure list, or remove any, you can do so in Privacy Guard>>Advanced>>Browsers>>Properties

2. Applications

We all use dozens of third party apps on a daily basis in various categories, such as, chat, emailing, document editing and so on. Even though they log all kinds of confidential tracks about our activities and identity, unlike browsers do, many third party apps don't offer a built-in option for clearing such traces. Therefore, in this case, manual removal of your activity traces would require considerable time as well as advanced skills. Some examples of the confidential data third party apps record about your activities:

  • Skype: The app saves copies of your chat conversations to your hard drive. Hackers can access them directly without having to crack your account password first.
  • Dropbox Cache: The service keeps safety copies of your deleted files on the hard drive for 72 hours in a hidden folder
  • OpenOffice: The app stores backup copies of your documents on your hard drive
  • Mozilla Thunderbird: The app saves copies of your emails to your hard drive and the copies remain there even after you delete the original messages.

To get rid of them for good, east-tec Eraser auto-detects all the third party apps installed on your computer and clears the sensitive traces they log about you, supporting 300+ apps, such as, Skype, Dropbox, Microsoft Office, Picasa, Bing Finance, SkyDrive, Yahoo Messenger, etc. If you would like to configure the Applications settings, go to Privacy Guard>>Advanced>>Applications>>Properties

3. Windows

The OS logs tons of sensitive traces about your activities and stores them in folders at various locations on your hard drive. Some examples:

Temporary Internet Files: Despite its name, this folder stores sensitive traces about your Internet activities till you don't clear them. Unauthorized parties can find site URLs, cookies, email addresses, pictures, personal details entered in forms and other sensitive data in that folder. You can clear them manually by removing your browser cache following the instructions given in the links in the Browsers section of the article.

Note: Manual clearing does not securely remove your Temporary Internet Files, only deletes their direct references.

Recycle Bin: Unless regularly emptied (and wiped), the bin keeps your deleted files on your hard drive in case you change your mind and want to restore them. Even though emptying the bin won't destroy the deleted files it contains, it will, at least, move them to a less accessible area of your hard drive so they won't be so visible for unauthorized parties accessing your PC. This is how to delete files from the Recycle Bin:

  • Delete a file by pressing SHIFT+DEL at the same time
  • Locate the file in the Recycle Bin.
  • Right click it and when asked "Do you want to permanently remove this file?" click "Yes".

Note: Manual clearing does not securely remove deleted files from your Recycle Bin for good; the files remain recoverable with specific tools.

With east-tec Eraser: The app is pre-configured to securely remove your Windows tracks, including the Temporary Internet Files and deleted data stored in the Recycle Bin. If you would like to configure the Windows settings, please go to Privacy Guard>>Advanced>> Windows. Examples of further Windows tracks destroyed by the app: Swap/paging files, Windows Recent, Recently used docs, Windows Firewall log, etc.

As a general rule, use manual clearing for immediate data removal, but make sure that you also wipe your sensitive tracks for secure deletion and increased privacy.