Nothing is ever deleted on a computer. Even though delete functions exist the data still remains somewhere in the computer, whether on the hard drive or in obscure files tucked away deep in the operating system. Recovering deleted internet history is quite straightforward if you know what you’re doing. And if you do want to know what you’re doing, read on.
There are many reasons why you would want to recover deleted internet histories. These range from anxious parents worried about whether their children are visiting inappropriate websites or being sucked into some nefarious underworld, to simply wanting to recover the forgotten URL of a website you used which was useful, but you thought you’d never visit again, until you remembered it.
Written by Steve Bell
The good news, or bad news, depending on your point of view is that even though you delete things and think that as a result everything you do on a computer has been erased, it’s simply not true. Somewhere on the computer there will be a record, including the internet history. You’ve probably heard tales about fraudsters and villains throwing computers in swimming pools or trying to set fire to them as the law closes in. These are dumb actions. Unless you take a big fat magnet to the hard drive, everything you do on a computer remains on the computer and rarely will fire and water destroy the hard drive unless it’s an inferno or tsunami of immeasurable magnitude.
Internet history is stored in the Windows Registry. There is also a chance that the history gets stored in Internet cookies. To recover deleted internet history these two resources are targeted. There are several ways to do this, some of them simple, some a bit technical and complex.
Recover deleted internet history through System Restore
The easiest method is to do a system restore. If the internet history was deleted recently system restore will recover it. To get system restore up and running you can go to the ‘start’ menu and do a search for system restore which will take you to the feature. Alternatively, go to ‘Start’ click on ‘Programs’ and then ‘Accessories.’ You’ll see a ‘System Tools’ option and ‘System Restore’ will be in there. Select the date you’d like to restore your computer to and sit back and wait until it does its thing. When finished the computer will reboot and if check your browser the internet history should be in there.
See lost internet history through Desktop search programmes
Sometimes though system restore options are disabled. This can happen, for example, if you have a second hand computer that’s had a previous life in a corporate environment. It’s not common but does happen. In this case you can use desktop search programmes. There are quite a few out there and this link takes you through to a webpage that lists some of the best, though feel free to do your own research. If you can remember a few keywords that you want to search for in the internet history, type them into the search box and they should be recovered.
Cookies show you the way
Internet cookies are also another good method to access internet history. A cookie is a small text file that stored in your internet browser. They store your user information to for the web sites you visit. Some of us thing of them as spying tools but actually in most instances they remember your account and browsing history making it easier for you when you revisit websites. There’s a great wikiHow page here that shows in very simple terms how to access cookies on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers. If you can see the cookies you know what the internet history is.
Access deleted browning history with log files
Another method is to recover the history using log files. This method is suitable for histories that were deleted a long time ago. A word of warning though, while there is a simple step-by-step process to follow using this method some strange things can be thrown up such as warnings that you might lose other data. This isn’t common but it’s a point worth nothing.
All Windows computers have a file extension that stores arbitrary data. It’s called Index.dat and is a file hidden on your computer that contains all of the web sites that you have ever visited. It lists every URL and every web page.
Before you begin navigating these steps you must set Windows to show hidden files and folders. To do this go to ‘Start’ then ‘Settings’ then ‘Control Panel’ and finally ‘Folder Options’. When you’re in ‘Folder Options’ click the ‘View’ tab. Go to ‘Advanced settings’ and click ‘Show hidden files and folders’. Then uncheck ‘Hide Protected Operating System files’ and click OK. Once you are finished searching, don’t forget to go back and undo these changes.
To begin your search go to My Computer and use the search tool to find all instances of index.dat in the C drive. The search should pull up multiple index.dat files. To read an index .dat file you need to know the software that created the file. However you can download index.dat reader software from the internet.This site offers such a reader though there are many more available which you’ll soon discover if you do your own search. You can also use sites like CNETand Softpedia which offer index.dat files readers. You can use the reader to view the index.dat files and all the information that has been accessed, when and for how long will be in there.
Who you gonna call? Databusters
This is a fairly exhaustive list of how to recover deleted internet histories or at the very least see which websites have been visited. However, if you’ve tried all these options and are still struggling there are other options too.
The first is to install professional recovery software. You can typically buy this for somewhere in the region of 100 dollars, pounds sterling or euros, give or take a few cents and pennies each way.
Another option is to call in the professionals, that is, people, who are skilled in recovering lost data. This typically involves prising the hard drive out of your computer and sending it off. However, it’s also worth checking with your local computer shop before you do that, they might just be able to help.
Of course, it always makes sense to get into the habit of backing up your data which just may remove the need to search for internet histories. Online backup doesn’t get much better than BullGuard Backup, which has it all from encrypted backups to external devices such as USB sticks and secure, cloud-based backup.
And worried parents might want to consider BullGuard security software that incorporates parental controls. This protects your children from inappropriate content and dubious sites, limits their time on the internet, monitors online behaviour and help them keep their personal details to themselves. You define where the lines are drawn and to prevent children from editing the parental control settings, these can only be accessed with your account password. And it means that if you’re searching for deleted internet history to keep an eye on the little darlings, you may no longer need to do so.
Steve has a background in IT and business journalism and in the past has written extensively for both the UK national and trade press including The Guardian, Independent-on-Sunday, The Times, The Register, MicroScope and Computer Weekly. He’s also worked for most of the world’s largest IT companies in a copy and content producing capacity. He has a particular focus on IT security and has been involved in writing about the industry at various levels ranging from magazine launches to producing newsletters. He also runs a small copy writing business called Art of Words. When not bashing away at a keyboard he can sometimes be found in a boxing gym making futile efforts to keep fit or marveling at the works of Sufi poets such as Jalaluddin Rumi and Hafiz of Shiraz.