Periodically cleaning out your browser's data (such as your history, or your cache and cookies) can help protect your privacy from snoops who want to discover what sites you've visited recently, or what you've searched for. We've looked at clearing your iPhone browsing history elsewhere; in this article we explain how to clear the web browsing history on your Mac, covering the four most popular Mac browsers: Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
If you'd like to prevent your browser collecting history data in the first place, see How to use private web browsing on Mac - this is a useful feature if you'd like to hide your tracks online.
Clear history in Safari
Safari's Clear History tool appears twice in its dropdown menus. You can click Safari > Clear History, or go for History > Clear History instead.
You can choose to clear the last hour, or all of today's accumulated data, or today plus yesterday, or just all the data since… well, forever! Select from the dropdown list and click Clear History.
Although quick to access, the Clear History tool is badly named because it actually takes a scorched Earth approach - in addition to actual browsing history, it deletes cookies and the entire browser cache too.
Happily, Safari does offer more surgical cleaning tools that let you proceed on a site-by-site basis. It just hides these tools away - but we're here to help.
Remove individual sites from Safari history
By clicking History > Show All History you'll see a list of the sites you've visited recently; right-clicking any in the list shows a menu complete with Remove option. Alternatively, select any entry in the list and tap the Backspace or Delete key on your keyboard. Note that the Clear History button at the top right of the list displays the same global clear-up dialog box as mentioned above.
Although you can select several entries in the History list in the usual way by holding down Shift or Cmd, you can only delete them by subsequently tapping the Backspace or Delete key on your keyboard. Right-clicking won't work in this instance.
Clear history in Chrome
View your browsing history in Chrome by selecting History > Show Full History (or using the hotkey combination Cmd + Y, although this doesn't always seem to work).
You can remove specific entries on an individual basis: click the tickbox to the left of it, then Delete in the blue bar at the top, and confirm Remove.
If you'd prefer to delete all your history in one go, click 'Clear browsing data' in the lefthand list of options.
Select a time range from the dropdown menu - you can select the last hour, day, week or four-week period, or all time - and then make sure the 'Browsing history' tickbox is filled.
(You can delete cache and cookies at the same time if you wish, or untick them to ignore. The cache entry will tell you how much space will be saved, as well as warning that sites may load more slowly.)
Hit Clear Data to trigger the deletion.
Clear history in Firefox
Firefox offers straightforward history deletion tools too. Select History > Clear Recent History (or hit Shift + Cmd + forward delete) for the simplest method.
At the top of the dialogue box you'll be able to choose a time range: Last Hour, Last Two Hours, Last Four Hours, Today or Everything. Then, if you click the Details chevron you can choose which forms of browsing data you wish to delete. When you've decided, hit Clear Now.
Delete individual sites from your Firefox history
As with the other browsers, Firefox lets you remove individual entries from your history. Click History > Show All History, and then right-click an entry and select Delete Page.
You can delete multiple entries in this way by clicking one, then holding Shift and selecting another: Firefox will highlight both entries and all the entries between them. Or use Cmd + A to select all.
And remember that you can just look at the history from this month, the last seven days etc by using the options on the left.
Clear history in Opera
Let's do one more browser: the purists' favourite, Opera.
Select History > Show All History from the top bar (or use the hotkey combo Shift + Cmd + H). You'll see the full history divided into days. Hover over an entry and click the X on the right to remove it from your history.
To delete all of your history at once, click Clear Browsing Data at the top right of the history page. You can adjust the timeframe - past hour, day, week, four weeks or all time - and choose whether to clear your cookies, autofill forms and other data at the same time as the history.
Click Clear Browsing Data to wipe the selected data.