If you're a user of the Internet, you've probably heard of the term cookie
in relationship to information that can be placed on your computer. New users
to the web hear all kinds of horror stories about how these cookies can take
all kinds of information from your computer. Many folks believe you shouldn't
allow cookies to be added to your computer, so they turn the option off under
their Internet browsers optional security dialog.
In Internet Explorer, you can set your cookie defaults by clicking Tools/Internet
However, cookies aren't really such a bad thing and you should understand them
so you can make an educated choice about whether you should allow them on your
computer. And in this article, I'll also show you a cool free tool you
can obtain to allow you to keep watch over the cookies that are on your computer.
Sure, you can set the options to prompt you whenever a cookie tries to download
to your computer, but that means you'll be clicking a lot of prompts. It'll
be easier to use IE Cookies
View to handle them all at once.
How Cookies Can Help You
If you shop on line or do your banking online, as I do, you'll want to have
cookies installed on your computer, because they'll save you a lot of time.
And if you've ever had to register at a site to get some information you need,
you'll want the cookie to be added to your cookie folder so you won't have to
retype all that information the next time you need to go to that site.
When you sign up at a site, like a shopping or banking site, or any site that
first requires you to fill in details to gain access, you'll appreciate what
a cookie does. After you fill out the required information and send it to the
site's database for their records, the site will pass a small text file that
will be placed into your computer's cookie folder. You'll usually find it under
Windows or under your Documents and Settings folder. As you can
see in the image below that shows some of the cookies on my computer, many of
them are pretty easy to decipher. However, some use cryptic numbers and some
just say Advertising.
I wouldn't want to accidentally delete one that belongs to Citibank, because
then I might not be able to access my banking or credit card records over the
web. And being able to control my financial records over the web is a big time
saver for me. So I want to keep that ability and I don't want to always have
to reenter all my information into their registration site. It's much easier
to just access their site and enter my user name and password. Then their site
will check for the cookie on my computer to make sure the correct information
The cookie contains a few bits of cryptic information that their web site is
programmed to recognize, because it is limited to how large the file can be.
It can only be a tiny file. If you open a cookie, you can see that it doesn't
make much sense to humans. But computers know how to read this information to
personalize a particular web site for you.
In the image below, you can see a cookie on my system from accuweather.com.
It mentions Hayward. Since Greg and I like to fly the plane up to Hayward, Wisconsin
(where I spent my childhood summers at gramma's house), we often have to check
the weather before we head up there for a weekend. I had to customize this page
to get the information for the area I wanted. If I deleted this cookie, I'd
have to waste time customizing the page every time I wanted this information.
But by allowing the cookie file to sit on my computer, I can hit that site
and it'll know who I am and provide me the information I want without wasting
time. I like that. So this is a very useful cookie to me and I'd want to keep
How Cookies Can Harm You
However, not all cookies are useful. Some do spy on you! They can't get your
personal records from your computer, only a virus can hack it's way into your
system like that. So be sure you have a good anti virus program on your system
and keep it regularly updated to fight that battle.
But cookies can track what you do. They can't track you personally, but some
of the more obnoxious ones can track you by your email. If they're an obnoxious
site and you enter your email, they can match that to the cookie. Then they
can track the sites you click during that session. If they're one of the more
marketing trend cookies, they will check for their cookie when you hit other
sites because they're partnered with that site. Then they'll register the sites
In some ways this can be helpful, because they can learn what types of sites
you visit and send you marketing information, like sales offers, for the types
of things you're interested in. However, I don't need more junk mail
advertising in my in basket, so I prefer sales and marketing companies not
know what I do. I kill those cookies!
You can set your Internet options to notify you and then just accept the cookies
you want. But you'll be amazed at just how many cookies attempt to load on some
sites. So another way to squash them is with IE Cookie View. It's a free
application that the people at NirSoft
provide. Go there and download the latest copy!
How IE Cookie View Works
After you install IECookieand I do suggest you accept the option
to put the cookie icon on your browser toolbar, as it's very convenientyou
can easily check to see what cookies are on your system. Be warned, however,
the first time you check your system, it'll probably take you quite some time
to get through the thousands of cookies that will most likely be on your system!
And you may also be shocked to find out just what sites the users of your computer
have been visiting!
I've already gone through the first torture of cleaning up the mess I had on
my system, so now I just access the cookie file by easily clicking the cookie
icon on my browser and sort the files by date to see what new cookies have been
inserted since the last time I checked, which would usually be just a couple
days ago, as I check them regularly.
In my current list, I can see that I have my Eclectic Academy cookies, which
are important to me because I teach advanced
online Word classes there, so I want to keep that information active. But
there's also a lot of marketing garbage from hitbox.com and doubleclick.net,
which are obnoxious marketing sites. So I'll click on those and trash them!
You can click on one, then hold Shift down and click on the last one
in a group to select all the ones between to do a mass deletion. Or you can
use the Ctrl key to selectively add which ones to highlight and then
delete a group at once.
And as you can see in the image below, Hitbox has two cookies on my
system and although it was only added a couple days ago, it's already tracked
me on 19 and 21 Hitbox affiliate sites collecting information about which sites
I go to. Well, not any more they're not tracking me because they're getting
deleted! It's a constant battle, but one I prefer to fight! I highlight the
ones I don't want and click delete.
If you're not sure what the cookies is for and need more information, you can
click on it and you'll see more details in the lower window. This one for drsfostersmith.com
has a lot of tracking on me. But I have dogs, cats, fish and parrots, so I hit
their site all the time to purchase pet food and treats, as well as get helpful
information on their pet education site. I don't mind them tracking me, because
they see I shop there often and regularly send me special Valued Customer discounts!
And I like the ease of quickly shopping there without having to reenter all
my personal information. So this is an important cookie to me.
If you still don't recognize the cookie, first you'll know that it's probably
from some obnoxious site that's trying to hide it's identity! But you can then
double click on the key in the lower window and see if the domain name shows
up. Although I no longer have any that are trying to hide on me, if I click
one and check the key, I can see where they're from.
The one above is from the Soda
Pop Stop (and was not trying to hide on me!), it's a great place
where you can buy those sodas from your childhood that you thought could
no longer be purchased. During my initial cookie search, there were many mystery
cookies. But I was able to see where they were from by checking the properties
and noting the web site domain listed.
This is a great little tool! Go download
yourself a copy and get busy cleaning the mess off your computer! Just be careful
you don't delete ones you'll want or you'll be spending the rest of the day
trying to reenter passwords you may have forgotten! Then keep an eye on the
latest ones that are inserted and keep your system cleaned up to help keep the
marketing companies off your back!