Deleting Personal Information from Internet Explorer

by on November 5, 2007

Q: My home zip code often shows up automatically on the web in forms, etc. While I have cleared AutoComplete, there still must be someplace where my zip code is retained and websites can read it and tell me where I am. Can I delete this information? I suppose it is a registry key, but I don’t really know. I am running Windows XP.

A: Thankfully, the behavior you are describing sounds like neither a Windows Registry problem nor a virus. I applaud you for knowing about Internet Explorer’s AutoComplete feature, and wanting to disable it. Deactivating AutoComplete is an excellent method for helping to protect your privacy. Please continue reading to insure that you have completely erased all of your personal data from AutoComplete. In most versions of Internet Explorer (IE), go Tools -> Content -> AutoComplete -> Settings. There you will see two buttons and some checkboxes. Empty all of the boxes by left clicking in each of them once. It sounds like you have already done that.

Next click on each of the buttons, Clear Forms and Clear Passwords. Until you click on those buttons, online forms might still have access to your personal information, like your zip code. You may also want to delete your browsing history, cookies, and cache, just to be sure that you have erased as much information as possible from IE. In IE 6, go Tools -> Internet Options -> click on the General tab. There you will click on Clear History, Delete Cookies, and Delete Files (cache).

I recommend using the delete all offline content option in Delete Files. In IE 7, use Tools -> Delete Browsing History -> Delete all. I suggest that you delete files and settings stored by add-ons within the Delete all option as well. Note, IE 7 will also delete your AutoComplete data when you click Delete all. Restart IE and navigate to some of the forms that have automatically displayed your zip code in the past. Test the forms. Remember that IE periodically asks for your permission to re-enable AutoComplete. If you re-enable it, AutoComplete will once again gather your personal information for use with online forms.

If your zip code is still being added to forms automatically, consider the following:

  1. Do you have any third-party toolbars installed? An example is Google Toolbar, which uses a feature called AutoFill to remember your personal information for later use in online forms. Google Toolbar and similar programs will usually allow you to disable functions such as AutoFill.
  2. IE Add-ons might also be the source of your zip code issue. Tools -> Manage Add-ons in IE should allow you to determine which add-ons are currently installed on your computer.
  3. Look at your system tray (where your clock is located). Could one of the programs running in your system tray be remembering your zip code? Also investigate the applications listed in your Start Menu.
  4. Click on My Computer -> Click on your hard drive -> Disk Cleanup. Note, do not chose the Compress old files option. Repeat for any other hard drives on your system.

I hope that one of the above ideas has helped you to erase your zip code from IE.