Cookies are text files that help websites keep track of 'memorable' information about the user. A cookie saves the device or PC locally, with the location dependent on the Web browser that loads the site. Although mostly-beneficial, cookies aren't always harmless or even advantageous. Some cookies can create unwanted side effects, such as tracking the user's location or Web searches. Users who experience unusual browser behavior related to saved cookies can purge them, specifically or generally.
Users on Internet Explorer instead of Microsoft's recommended Edge browser may delete cookies from the Windows interface or inside IE. For the former option, type 'Internet Options' in the taskbar's search and click the result. The 'Browsing History' section' includes a cookie deletion button and a Settings button for more options, such as viewing cookies and changing the reserved disk space for them. IE users also can click Internet Explorer's gear icon (Tools) and go to Internet Options from there.
Most other browsers require the user's opening them for deleting cookies. For example, Firefox users should go to the Options menu and the Privacy sub-menu. 'Clear recent history' will remove cookies related to recently-visited websites, and next to it, users also can remove specific cookies. The 'Clear All History' option lets users remove temporary data starting from the point of the browser's installation. However, users can isolate data types, such as cookies, browser history, or the cache. Note that deleting all data types also removes any 'saved' login credentials like passwords and users will have to re-enter them.
Like with Firefox, Chrome users should open their browsers as a first step. Select 'Customize and Control Google Chrome' (the three dots on the top-right), 'More Tools,' and from there, 'Clear browsing data.' There also is a keyboard shortcut for this window – Ctrl+Shift+Del. Like Firefox, Chrome provides filters for removing different temporary data types associated with browsing the Web, such as cookies or browsing history. Since all fields default to checked, users can choose 'Clear data' right away to remove all temporary files. There also is a time range for removing files generated in the last hour, day, etc. Users who are uncomfortable with all of Chrome's data type options may choose the Basic tab for a simplified view that shows cookies and other site data, the cache (website files for fast loading times, such as pictures) and browser history.
Lastly, Edge users can open their browsers and hold Alt+F or click the upper-right three-dot button. From Settings, go to 'Privacy, search and services.' The 'Clear browsing data' option shows another set of data types for deletion under a user-chosen time range: browsing history, download history, cookies and so on.
There usually is no need to delete passwords and similar field-entry data unless the browser 'remembers' an incorrect password, address, or other information. Since modern browsers save these files as distinct from regular cookies, users can remove all cookies without removing their saved login credentials.
Users also have options for controlling when cookies save to their systems, under what conditions this can happen, and whether or not an alert or permission request appears at the time. Responsible management of these features can help Web surfers tailor an optimal cookie experience instead of sweeping unwanted cookies away after the fact.