As we've explained, cookies can be a nuisance for your computer. Not only do they take up memory space (which can slow down your computer), but they also may be used by websites and other unscrupulous individuals to track where you've been and what you've done on the Internet. So, then, why shouldn't we just shut cookies off completely and never even use them in the first place?
The answer is that not all cookies are bad. There are some that are quite useful, or even necessary, in order for websites to function properly. Consider these two points:
Cookies are used to keep track of whether you're logged into a website or not, and whether it's you who's logged in or someone else. Without these cookies keeping things in order, you could accidentally log into someone else's account with your own credentials, or stay logged in even though you told the website to log you out (or vice-versa).
Some cookies save copies of information that you enter into a website, so that you can quickly use them again later. For example, they may save your user name and password (so that you can quickly log in again), terms that you've searched for (so that you can quickly find something that you've looked for again), or identity and/or billing information (so that you don't have to fill out forms that require this information by completely re-typing them).
In short, whether you want cookies enabled or disabled depends on what websites you're using and what kind of balance you want between privacy and convenience.
The following are short-form directions for enabling or disabling cookies in each of the three major browsers. If you'd like to see the process in full, complete with screenshots, we've included links to the expanded tutorials in our "Extra Resources" section.
Click the menu icon in the top-right corner (it looks like a set of three bars), and click Settings.
Scroll to the bottom of the "Settings" page until you see Show Advanced Settings. Click this option.
You will see a button called Content Settings under the "Privacy" heading. Click it.
Under the "Cookies" heading, click the button beside "Allow Local Data to be Set" to enable all cookies, or click the button beside "Block All Sites from Setting Any Data" to disable all cookies.
Click Done at the bottom of the screen.
We'll show you some more options that you can play around with in our How to Enable Cookies in Chrome tutorial.
Click the menu icon in the top-right corner (it looks like three bars stacked on top of each other), and click the Options button.
Once the "Options" menu appears, click the Privacy category in the left-hand column.
Under the "History" heading, click the drop-down menu beside "Firefox Will:" and click Use Custom Settings for History. New options will appear below the drop-down menu.
Click the check box beside "Accept Cookies from Sites" (if it isn't checked) to mark it and enable cookies in Firefox. If this box is already checked, click it to unmark it and disable cookies.
We'll teach you about some more custom settings for cookies in Firefox in our How to Enable Cookies in Firefox tutorial.
Click the "Tools" icon in the top-right corner (it looks like a little gear), and then click Internet Options.
When the "Internet Options" window opens, click on the Privacy tab along the top.
You will notice a slider near the top of the window that will let you set a level of security for your cookies on Internet Explorer. Click on a level for the slider to select how low or high you want your privacy regarding cookies to be (which will be explained to you in the area to the right of the slider).
For quick reference: the bottom level enables all cookies, and the top level disables all cookies.
If you'd like to customize your settings for cookies in Internet Explorer, see our How to Enable Cookies in Internet Explorer tutorial.
And that concludes our lessons on cookies, caches, and browsing histories!
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