(video courtesy Voice Of America)
Well here's a flash. If you go to tools/internet options and delete your temporary files and think they are gone.. YOU'RE WRONG!
Even though your files have been deleted every one of them have been previously compressed and recorded to a file called "INDEX.DAT". That file is invisible, even if you change settings to make system files visible. That file is system protected, backed up in three locations and cannot be deleted manually.
You can verify this for yourself. If you navigate to your temporary internet file folder and copy it, then paste it into another folder of your choosing you will see all the files you thought were erased.
You can verify this by:
You will be surprised to learn even though you used the browser to delete those files.. NONE OF THEM WERE DELETED!
In addition there is another folder called "Flash Player//#shared objects". In this folder are cookies that your flash player created. You would have to navigate to it's location and have to delete those files by hand to erase those.
As if that weren't enough there is an additional folder called flashplayer/sys. In this folder are *.sol files. These files contain settings and the name of every site you visited that utilized them.
What I did was create folder shortcuts to the latter two so I can manually delete them.
NOTE: This sends them to your "Recycling Bin". Where you have to delete them there as well.
As far are the INDEX.DAT file, you need special software to erase that one. I use a program called CCleaner. Which is a freeware program.
Even that doesn't do it completely on only one run. After doing my own research I've found after you run the CCleaner you need to restart your computer. Then before doing anything else, rerun the CCleaner again.
You may ask who cares?
As the video demonstrates above all these files combined with cleverly designed cookies or a maleware program will harvest a whole host of information about you.
Or if you take your computer in for repairs, sell it, give it away or have it stolen, your information can be harvested quite easily.
This is not just about your internet activities.
In addition, for every site you visit as well as other off-line activities, windows creates "log" files. For example, what videos you've watched, last few programs and files you used, etc.
There is also a TEMP folder stored under your user name. Another one in the Windows folder. Which also stores an additional copy of the INDEX.DAT file! Which at this location you can manually delete.
In short while you can drill down and attempt to hand delete, there is no way to completely ferret out your "cookies" and "history" w/o using some sort of system cleaner like I mentioned above. Neither Windows XP, VISTA nor Windows7 provides the tools to do this.
Some of you folks may think I'm over the top, but there's another advantage.
By doing all this you can eliminate about 10,000+ files. This cuts down on disk storage. It also reduces the number of files the disk must search through on it's master file table (MFT) when you start a program or open a file. It also helps with disk fragmentation.
All of which when combined slows down your computer's performance.