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Sunday 28 May 2006 - IE options + index.dat files... really?
IE options + index.dat files... really?

Browser historyThere is a common mis-conception that using the IE options to "clear the history" and TIF files, negates the need for deleting the actual index.dat files. I'm not sure where this originated, but would like to finally nip this mis-conception in the bud so to speak.

Lets start by looking at the history of my browser for a moment. Now I personally use Avant Browser, which itself, has it's own manner of dealing with the history (NOT the IE history, but site's you view in it). Having this disabled, I can be assured that the only history I need to get rid of occasionally is the main IE history.

Now, what happens if you use the IE options to clear the history? well, if you're anything like me, you get to wait around 60 seconds or so for the supposed clearance to take place.Browser history after being clearedAfter which, IE kindly tells you the history no longer contains any surfing history. But is it telling the truth? ... lets find out.

In order to find out, I'm not going to use anything other than Index.dat Suite and it's index.dat file content viewer. So lets load it up and run a search for the index.dat files.

If you decide to view the file located in the "History.IE5" folder, you are led to believe the history has indeed, been cleaned out by your previous actions. However, if you instead view the contents of the Temporary Internet Files index.dat file, you will see the following;IDS1: Viewing the content of the TIF (Temporary Internet Files) index.dat file in Index.dat Suite

They can't both be telling the truth now can they?. Well, in order to be accurate, lets now also delete the contents of the TIF using the "Delete Files" option that is kindly provided in the Internet Options (and just to be sure, we'll tick the little box to delete the offline content aswell).

Now, if that has indeed done it's job properly, a re-scan of the index.dat file should return no contents?. Lets take a look shall we.

A few minutes into the scan it is pretty clear we've been deceived here as the content, as if my magic, is still there ...
IDS2: Viewing the content of the TIF (Temporary Internet Files) index.dat file in Index.dat Suite - AFTER clearing the history and TIF contents
So what does this mean?. Put simply, it means those that tell you you do not have to delete the index.dat files to clean your history, are quite simply - wrong.

In their infinite wisdom, Microsoft for whatever reason, decided the information that is recorded in these files, does not warrant being removed with everything else. Unfortunately, there are still those that believe simply using the options provided by IE will suffice. Those that believe this however, are living for want of a better phrase, in a dream world. This information, whilst trivial to some, is important to others (i.e. parents that wish to monitor their children, or employers that want to ensure their employee's are not surfing during work hours).

Don't let yourself be amongst the mis-informed.

In an effort to be completely clear, using Index.dat Suite, along with the multi-tude of other applications that delete these files, does not provide a guarantee of secrecy as restoration tools are more than capable of restoring these files. The only way to guarantee that this information cannot be restored once deleted, is to not use a computer in the first place.

Some will tell you to use programs such as Eraser (a wonderful little tool in my opinion) to erase any evidence of it's origin but be assured, even this will not guarantee it as evidence will still be present in the MFT (Master File Table) and unfortunately, I've not found any way to clear this as yet.
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