Google Chrome has recently become the Web browser of choice for many Mac and PC users. It’s fast, extensible, and relatively secure. But it has a notable flaw: unlike most browsers, Chrome has no user setting to prevent or automatically clear the browser history. Users can always manually clear the history, but doing so takes four clicks through three menus; hardly ideal. Luckily, there’s a trick we can use to prevent browsing history from being recorded in Chrome. Here’s how.
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Chrome stores the browser history in a file on your computer’s drive. If we limit Chrome’s ability to modify that file, it won’t be able to record any web addresses. To start, first go into Chrome and manually clear your history by pressing Command-Y for OS X or Control-H for Windows. Click Clear Browsing Data, make sure the box “Clear Browsing History” is checked, and then select “from the beginning of time” from the drop-down menu. Press the Clear Browsing Data button at the bottom of the window to complete the process. This gives us a blank slate from which to start.
Now we have to restrict access to Chrome’s history file. First, quit Chrome to prevent any conflicts, and then find Chrome’s history file. In OS X, this file is stored at the following location:
In Windows, it’s:
C:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default
Note that you may need to enable Windows Explorer’s “show hidden files” option in order to see the AppData folder.
In either of these locations, you’ll find a file called “History” with no file extension. This is the file we need to lock. In OS X, right click on the file and choose Get Info (or highlight the file and press Command-I). Under “General,” check the box for Locked. This will prevent Chrome from modifying this file and thus stop any future browsing history from being recorded.
For Windows, right click on the History file and choose Properties. In the Properties window, check the box for Read-Only and then press Apply.
Once you’ve locked the History file, open Chrome and start browsing. Then head to your history list and you’ll see that Chrome reports “No history entries found.” That’s it! If you want to start recording your browsing history again, simply repeat the appropriate steps for Mac or Windows above and uncheck the locked or read-only boxes.
At this point, some of you are undoubtedly asking, “why not just use Incognito Mode?” It’s true that Incognito Mode will prevent Chrome from recording browsing history, but it also blocks cookies and interferes with many extensions. If you want the benefit of extensions and cookies, such as having websites remember your account info, but simply don’t want your browsing history recorded, the method described above is a good compromise.