How to delete Google search history (ultimate 2021 guide with screenshots)
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Google tracks a lot of your activity on and off the web using a myriad of ways. The advertising giant collects data about users every time one searches the web, when they visit a website, use a mobile device, you name it. Google collects a lot of data about you, which you can say is the price you pay for getting so many of their services without spending money. But there are ways you can limit what Google and other search engines can collect about you.
If you want to manage the amount of personal data you expose to marketers and other third parties, you should make it routine to delete all Google searches. While deleting your Google search history does not erase everything Google has collected about you, it minimizes the amount of data available to third parties. Many corporations, including Facebook, collect data about your online activity and use it to match you with ads, technically selling your data to marketers.
One way to ensure you don’t expose your online activity is to use a VPN to encrypt your connections. Besides hiding your IP address, a VPN makes it difficult to decrypt your data, so corporations cannot track what you’re doing online.
However, if your search history remains on your devices, you’re still exposed to this kind of data mining. So, it’s necessary to know how to delete google search bar history on the different devices you own. Through this article, we share the procedure for how to remove your online research history.
Note: Some ISPs will know when you visit the “delete history” section of your browser because of privacy and safety laws. In some countries, ISPs are obliged to share this information with government authorities. If you want to ensure maximum possible anonymity, you should use a no-log VPN service such as ExpressVPN before visiting the “browsing history” section to delete data.
What Google knows about you
Google earns most of its money through ads. They generate an advertising profile for each user to ensure accurate ad targeting. They collect data about you and hand it to companies, who personalize their advertisements based on this data.
For example, when you search for “basketball courts near me,” Google will figure that you’re a basketball fan, so they’ll update that information on your advertising profile. After a while, you’ll begin seeing ads about basketball on YouTube and websites you visit that use AdWords. That’s why it’s essential to disable ad tracking on your devices.
The good news is that you can see how Google classifies you by going to Ad Settings.
To review this information, click on your Profile, then Manage Your Google Account. On the list of options to your left, click on Data & personalization. Scroll down to Ad personalization as shown in the image below:
Click on Go to ad settings. Scroll down to see how Google has classified you based on the data they collect from your activity online and offline.
Deleting your browser history on desktop
Friendly site notifications asking you to accept cookies should not fool you. Always clear your browsing history to prevent websites from tracking your activity around the web. Most of the history is cached in your device and could slow down your browser. History can also expose you to malicious attacks, especially if you leave active logins.
If you want to protect your data while using the internet, you must empty your cache regularly. Clearing your browser history takes simple steps, and for some web browsers, you can schedule the process, so the browser automatically deletes history immediately when you close it. If you’re looking for how to clear google search history on the computer, below we have shared the simple steps you should follow.
On Mozilla Firefox, you can access your browser history by clicking the icon on the top right corner that looks like a set of books and navigate to the History tab to clear your history.
If you’re using Chrome, the process is simple as you can access settings by pressing Ctrl + H. Alternatively, click on the three dots icon then the History tab. This opens a new page with all your browsing history. Click on Clear browsing data to delete the search history of Google and any other information about the websites and apps you visited.
Google even allows you to specify the time frame for which you want to delete the history. Also, you can specify the kinds of data you want to remove.
If you want to get rid of all data, select the Advanced tab and check all options. Also, set the time frame to All time. This wipes all browsing data from your online activity.
For users of the Microsoft Edge browser, find the shooting star icon, click on it, and then hit the History tab. You’ll see a Clear history option.
Deleting your browsing history on mobile
It’s easy to delete all searches on my phone, either Android or an Apple device. Let’s begin with how to delete google search history on the phone, focusing on Android.
How to delete search history on Android
On your Android phone, open the Google Chrome app. At the right top corner, tap the three dots and click on History. If the address bar is set at the bottom, swipe up to see the History tab. Tap the tab to see the list of all the sites you visited and your searches on Google.
To delete all searches on Google, click the Clear browsing data tab. The next steps are similar to those you follow on a computer. Select the time range and the kind of history you want to delete. If you want to remove everything, set the time range to All time. You can uncheck any data you want to keep. When ready, tap Clear data.
Google also allows you to delete just some parts of the history. You can search for a specific item using the search bar. When the item shows up, select it and tap the x next to it.
How to delete search history on iPhone
The process of deleting google search history on the iPhone is straightforward. On your iPhone or iPad, open the Google Chrome app. At the bottom right, you’ll see the three dots navigation option. Tap and go to History, find the Clear Browsing Data tab, and check Browsing history. Hit Clear Browsing Data, then tap Done.
To remove a single item, navigate to the History section of Google Chrome and tap Edit. Check all the data you want to remove and tap Delete. Finish the process by tapping Done at the top right.
Why Google stores users’ browser history
Google knows you better than anyone else. It knows the vehicle you’re thinking about buying, the places you want to visit, your hobbies, your relationship status, and a lot more. All this data is on your Google Activity, and it includes all the things you searched since you began using the service.
Besides your browsing history, there is a lot more information you provide when using the internet. This information is stored locally, so you can delete it and prevent hackers from using it to harm you when they gain access to your devices.
However, there is data Google stores remotely on servers that you cannot wipe out by just clearing your browsing history. While these servers offer protection against hackers, Google still uses your information for commercial purposes.
Basically, you become the product to Google as they earn a lot of their revenue from selling ads. This means Google will create a profile about you and sell it to advertisers, who in turn target you with the right ads to influence your purchasing decisions.
To create a complete profile, Google needs to collect every bit of data you provide, from your social media use to your searches and the websites you bought items from. The company has tried to be more upfront with the kind of data they provide to advertisers, but it’s hard to know how much about you they know.
Leaving so much data about you hanging around can be risky as you don’t know who could get their hands on it. Some malicious users could tap that data and use it for manipulative purposes. Also, you may end in blackmail prosecutions if there’s incriminating information in your browsing history.
So, it’s best to ensure you delete Google search history every time you finish using the internet. Google has acknowledged the need to help users efficiently manage their data, so they offer options to help you separate your private data from their services. But this does not prevent Google from harvesting data about you. It only limits how the company uses your data.
Regardless of the interventions, you may embrace, there will be some level of exposure allowing Google to access your data. To keep your data private, we recommend using a premium VPN like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or SurfShark. These services limit the data Google can store about you as the VPN encrypts all your connections.
How to download your Google archive
Google allows users to download everything they have stored on the company’s servers, including Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and Photos. You can download an archive of this information from Google to create a backup, which could be helpful before you delete your Google account permanently.
You’ll be surprised by how much Google knows, especially if you frequently use services like Google search or Google Maps. It knows your name, birthday, gender, personal contact information, where you work, hobbies you enjoy, and more.
In the copy you’ll download, Google gives you an archive of almost everything it ever stored on its servers, including transactions from Google services, Contacts, locations you stored on Google Maps, and other types of data.
You can download your Google archive in a few steps detailed below:
- Head over at https://takeout.google.com/.
- Select all the products you want to download.
- At the bottom of the page, click Next.
- Select a file format (you can use a .ZIP and specify the maximum size to avoid having the data split into several files. Only choose 2GB if you don’t have a lot of information on Google.
- Choose a delivery method. You can receive a link to your email or get the archive sent to Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive.
- It would help if you had patience as this process takes hours or days, depending on the amount of data you chose to download. For example, it can take up to 20 hours to process 150GB worth of data.
Through the process, Google gathers all the data stored on its products and sends you an email alert notifying you that the data is in one cloud storage ready for download. You can open the file to preview your photos, calendar files, data, and more.
Users can delete most of the data Google stores, but the company admits it might still keep a bit of activity information to improve services. You cannot stop Google from snooping on you. The only way to stay anonymous is to channel all your connections through a VPN.
Why it’s a good idea to download your Google data
Investigating what tech companies know about you is a smart move. Many companies keep a digital trail of your daily activities. If you’re shifting from Google to another platform, it’s easy to export your data and import it to your new platform.
That means you don’t lose anything, and it’s a simple process that involves a few clicks instead of downloading each item separately. Besides, it helps to keep a backup in case you lose access to your Google account.
How to control what activity Google saves
Before leaving Google services and deleting all your accounts, there is an even better solution you could try out. It’s possible to control what activity Google saves in the future. Use Google Activity Controls to choose the kind of activity you want Google to save in your account. These settings will take effect on all devices signed in to your account.
But before that, what activity can be saved on Google? Your activity controls allow you to decide whether you want to save these types of activity:
- Location History – This setting creates a private map of the places you go carrying your signed-in device. It improves your map searches, enhances commute routes, and more.
- Web and App Activity – It allows you to save your searches and any other activity on Google. The setting makes searches faster and delivers a customized search experience. Through this option, you can save your chrome history and activity from apps, sites, and devices connected to Google services. Also, the service keeps audio recordings from interactions with Google Maps, Assistant, and Search.
- YouTube History – The YouTube history setting stores your search history on YouTube to speed up future searches and improve recommendations. Also, the service makes it easier to find videos you watched recently on YouTube. You avoid getting recommendations of content you already watched, enhancing your experience on YouTube.
Changing what activity Google saves
To get started with changing what activity Google saves, go to Data & personalization and scroll down to Activity controls. Click on Manage your activity controls to find the settings for each type of control.
Pause the kind of activity you want to stop as shown. This means Google will stop saving data about your time interacting with the specified activity.
For more controls, you can navigate to the My activity page from the Data & personalization tab.
From this page, you can find comments and any other actions you took while using Google services. This gives you an option to delete any of that activity.
To switch off personalized ads, click on Ad personalization from the Data & personalization tab.
You can turn off ad personalization to prevent Google from showing you ads based on your activity and preferences. This, however, does not mean you’ll stop seeing ads. Through personalization, Google serves you ads based on your gender, language, age, occupation, marital status, home ownership, business information, and more.
Besides these settings, you can instruct Google to delete your account if you want to migrate to a different service.
Setting up Google history to auto-delete
There’s an option to delete all searches on google automatically. This option is ideal if you don’t like the idea of manually deleting data every time you use Google services. It gives you peace knowing no data is captured and stored by Google. However, you should steer clear of this feature if you want to keep some data.
You can find the settings for this feature on the Google Activity page.
From the Data & personalization page, click on Manage your activity controls. This takes you to the Activity Controls page, where you’ll find the Auto-delete option. Click on it, and a window will pop with options, which allow you to:
- Automatically delete activity older than three months
- Delete automatically any activity older than eighteen months
- Automatically delete activity older than thirty-six months
- And an option to stop auto-delete
After you select your preferred option, click Next to save your changes.
How to maintain a clean archive with a VPN
You cannot trust Google or any technology company to manage your data. Because they collect all manner of information, it can be challenging to keep track of what they know about you. Besides, these companies are not the only thing you should be concerned about when using the internet.
Your data could leak to hackers or people who might want to use it for malicious intent. There are several steps you can embrace to safeguard your online activity. One of those measures is always using a VPN for all your connections to the internet. A VPN encrypts your network traffic, making it difficult for tracking algorithms to decipher your activity.
Like Google, internet service providers watch what you’re doing online and collect a lot of information about you. One way to stop them is to use a VPN, which helps to obfuscate data transferred across your device. With a VPN, you’ll easily throw hackers and advertisers off your trail. The VPN sends requests through its servers, and the information you receive is routed through the same path, excluding other parties in the chain.
When Google reviews this traffic, it appears like it’s coming from the VPN server, so the company cannot tell which device you’re using or your location. Some of the VPN providers we recommend for excellent security and privacy include ExpressVPN, SurfShark, and NordVPN.
ExpressVPN offers high-quality servers located in major cities across the world. Their service includes 3000+ servers, which come with unlimited bandwidth for all your online activity. Because ExpressVPN allows 5 simultaneous connections, you can protect your online activities on multiple devices. It features military-grade encryption, a kill switch to prevent data leaks, and offers excellent support 24/7.
If you’re not satisfied with the service’s features and performance, you can activate a 30-day money-back guarantee with no questions. It’s easy to configure the VPN on different devices, including those running Android, Linux, macOS, and Windows. You can also add a browser extension on Firefox and Chrome to stay protected whenever you browse on your computers.
NordVPN stands out among the most trusted VPNs as it offers excellent server coverage with over 5400 servers. The VPN allows 6 simultaneous connections and is compatible with Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, and Ubuntu systems.
You can also install it on a router or add it to your browser as an extension. Dedicated to privacy, NordVPN keeps online anonymity with DoubleVPN protection, a verified no-logging policy, and Onion over VPN hopping.
Besides, there’s DNS leak protection and a kill switch to ensure no data ever gets exposed. NordVPN customer support is available 24/7 through live chat if you need help.
With 3200+ servers, SurfShark is one of the most reliable VPNs for streaming and general browsing.
It comes with solid defenses against malware, ads, adware, and trackers. You can connect SurfShark on unlimited devices, and it’s compatible with different types of devices and internet browsers.
It’s possible to delete Google search history. However, to ensure better privacy, you should use a VPN to encrypt your connections. Google collects all manner of information about you, so the only way to prevent this is by achieving absolute privacy, which a no logs VPN provides. Also, you can use privacy controls on Google to instruct the company what you would like logged in their databases.
About the author
Nicholas Nabakwe is a digital privacy expert with over 7 years of experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He has written cybersecurity guides and tutorials for many leading publications. Nicholas has also published hundreds of trouble-shooting guides to help optimize operating systems for tech websites, including Auslogics Software Pty. He advocates for internet privacy and freedom of the net.