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How to Enable and Disable Cookies on Every Web Browser [Guide]

Cookies are a hot topic these days. Opinions are split on whether these small text files are helpful or harmful. But one thing is certain – cookies are everywhere on the web.

According to Statista, over 87% of all websites use cookies in some form. And a typical internet user has around 70 cookies installed just from the top 100 sites.

I‘m Dan, an online privacy researcher with over a decade of experience in cybersecurity. I‘ve tested hundreds of tools and techniques for managing cookies safely.

In this guide, I‘ll teach you everything you need to know to take full control of your browser cookie settings. We‘ll cover:

  • What cookies do and key facts about how they work
  • The pros and cons of using cookies
  • Exact steps to enable or disable cookies in all major browsers
  • Additional tools to bolster your privacy beyond browser settings
  • Answers to frequently asked cookie questions

By the end, you‘ll understand cookies on a deeper level and have the skills to adjust your privacy settings with confidence. Let‘s dive in!

What Are Cookies Exactly?

Cookies are text files that store small pieces of data from websites you visit. They reside on your computer or mobile device.

When you first visit a site, it sends cookie data to your web browser. Your browser then saves this cookie file locally on your hard drive or phone storage.

Here‘s an example of how the cookie process works:

  1. You visit ExampleWebsite.com for the first time.

  2. ExampleWebsite‘s server sends your browser a cookie containing a unique ID code, your username, login status, color theme, etc.

  3. Your browser stores this cookie file on your device.

  4. When you return to ExampleWebsite later, your browser sends the locally stored cookie data back to ExampleWebsite‘s server.

  5. The site recognizes you based on the cookie and logs you in automatically, loads your color theme, etc.

This allows sites to remember users between visits without needing to log in repeatedly.

Cookie Types and Purposes

There are a few different kinds of cookies:

  • First-party cookies – Set by the site domain you‘re currently visiting. Allow sites to recognize your device and remember logins, settings, etc.

  • Third-party cookies – Set by other sites from the one you‘re on. Used to track you across multiple websites for targeted advertising. Pose privacy risks.

  • Session cookies – Temporary cookies erased after you close your browser session. Don‘t collect long-term data.

  • Persistent cookies – Remain saved on your device for a specified timeframe or until you manually delete them. Allow long-term collection of data.

  • Secure cookies – Encrypted for transmission over HTTPS. Provide more protection than non-secure cookies sent over HTTP.

  • SameSite cookies – Only transmitted to sites originating on the same domain. Added security against cross-site attacks.

Cookies serve a variety of purposes:

  • Remembering logins and settings
  • Keeping items in shopping carts
  • Gathering analytics on site usage
  • Targeting and optimizing ads
  • Allowing social media integration
  • Enhancing site functionality
  • Tracking users across multiple websites

Next we‘ll explore the pros and cons of using cookies.

The Case For and Against Using Cookies

Cookies provide helpful features but also pose privacy and security risks. Understanding the tradeoffs allows you to make informed choices about managing them.

Potential Benefits of Cookies

Convenience – Cookies remember usernames, passwords, site preferences, and shopping cart items so you don‘t have to re-enter them each visit. This saves time and effort.

Personalization – Sites can customize content like themes, layouts, and recommendations to fit your interests based on cookie data.

Analytics – First-party cookies help sites understand user behavior and improve their services.

Ad Relevance – Cookies allow ads to be targeted based on your browsing history and interests. More relevant ads are less annoying.

Site Functionality – Many sites require cookies to properly load pages, forms, videos, etc. Disabling cookies may break certain site features.

Potential Downsides of Cookie Use

Privacy Invasion – Third-party cookies especially can track you across multiple websites to gather data for targeted ads without your consent.

Security Threats – Hackers can steal cookie data and hijack user sessions for identity theft and installing malware.

Browser Slowdown – Too many accumulated cookies and cache files drag down computer performance over time.

Data Leaks – Websites may sell or expose cookie data to third parties, or cookies may be intercepted during transmission.

Lack of Transparency – Many sites provide little information about the cookies they use, hindering user awareness.

Ad Overload – Excessive targeted ads based on browsing history are annoying and intrusive for many users.

Now that you know the cookie tradeoffs, let‘s go through exactly how to enable or disable them in your browsers.

Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Cookies in All Browsers

While the settings may vary slightly, all major browsers give you control over cookies. I‘ll outline the specific steps for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera, and more.

Google Chrome Desktop

With over 65% market share globally, Chrome is the most widely used browser. Fortunately, Google makes it easy to find and change Chrome cookie settings.

  1. Click the 3-dot menu in the top right and select Settings.

  2. Choose Privacy and Security from the left menu.

  3. Select Cookies and other site data under the Privacy section.

  4. Here you‘ll find various cookie controls:

    • Allow all cookies – Enables all first and third-party cookies by default
    • Block third-party cookies in Incognito – Allows all cookies normally but blocks third-parties in Incognito mode
    • Block third-party cookies – Blocks only third-party tracking cookies
    • Block all cookies – Disables all browser cookies entirely
  5. Choose your preferred setting based on your privacy needs.

To delete Chrome cookies:

  1. Under Cookies and other site data, click See all cookies and site data.

  2. Search for a site and click the trash icon to remove cookies.

  3. Alternatively, click Clear all to delete all stored cookies.

Google Chrome Mobile

The process is similar on mobile devices, with a couple caveats:

On Android:

  1. Tap the 3-dot menu and select Settings.

  2. Choose Site Settings > Cookies.

  3. Toggle cookies on or off here.

On iPhone and iPad:

  • Chrome doesn‘t allow modifying cookies on iOS.

  • You can clear cookies by going to Settings > Privacy > Clear Browsing Data.

  • To block third-party cookies, enable Limit Ad Tracking in iOS settings.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox holds around 4% of the browser market. It prioritizes user privacy by default. Here‘s how to update cookie settings:

  1. Click the menu button > Settings.

  2. Choose Privacy & Security from the left sidebar.

  3. Scroll down to the Cookies and Site Data section.

  4. Click Manage Permissions to change cookie settings:

    • Toggle Allow cookies by default on or off
    • Choose to Allow third-party cookies or not
  5. Click Manage Data to delete specific cookies.

Firefox also offers Enhanced Tracking Protection to block hidden third-party trackers even outside cookie settings.

Microsoft Edge

Edge replaced Internet Explorer as Microsoft‘s default browser. Its cookie controls include:

  1. Open the 3-dot menu > Settings > Cookies and site permissions.

  2. Toggle Allow sites to save and read cookie data to enable or disable cookies.

  3. Click See all cookies and site data to view or delete individual cookies.

  4. Edge also lets you limit third-party cookies in InPrivate windows while allowing first-party cookies.

Apple Safari

Safari handles cookies differently across devices:

On Mac:

  1. Go to the Safari menu > Preferences > Privacy tab.

  2. Check Prevent cross-site tracking to block third-party cookies.

  3. Enable Block all cookies to disable cookies completely.

On iPhone and iPad:

  1. Open Settings > Safari.

  2. Scroll down to Privacy & Security.

  3. Toggle the cookie settings here.

On all devices, go to Develop > Show Cookies to manage individual cookies.

Opera

Opera has some unique cookie capabilities:

  1. Click the Easy Setup menu (3 bars) > Settings

  2. Select Privacy & Security > Cookies and site data

  3. Choose your cookie setting:

    • Allow all cookies
    • Block third-party cookies in private mode – Allows all cookies normally, blocks third-parties in private browsing
    • Block third-party cookies
    • Block all cookies
  4. Opera automatically deletes all cookies after closing private windows.

Other Browsers

Most alternative browsers like Vivaldi, Brave, and Tor also let you block third-party cookies by default for better privacy. Check their settings menus for cookie options.

Now that you can control browser cookies, let‘s talk about additional privacy tools at your disposal.

Beyond Browser Settings: More Ways to Block Cookies

Managing your browser privacy settings is a good first step. But for stronger protection, you can also utilize these cookie blocking tools:

Use a VPN

A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and masks your IP address. Many leading VPNs like NordVPN and Surfshark include ad and tracker blocking features.

For example, NordVPN‘s CyberSec feature blocks ads, malware, andAnnoying cookie consent popups. And Surfshark‘s CleanWeb blocks ads, trackers, and malware.

Ad and Tracker Blocking Browser Extensions

Extensions like uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, and Ghostery can all help block cookies and hidden web trackers that browser settings miss.

Use Secure Privacy-Focused Browsers

Browsers like Tor and Brave have built-in cookie protections and come configured for privacy by default.

Use Cookie Auto-Delete Extensions

Extensions like Cookie AutoDelete clear cookies automatically after each browsing session or based on your whitelist. This prevents tracking while keeping cookies from sites you trust.

Monitor Cookie Usage

Browser extensions like Cookie Inspector let you visualize and review exactly which sites are setting cookies to better understand their purpose. This knowledge allows more informed cookie management.

Cookie Management FAQs

Let‘s review answers to some frequently asked questions about enabling and disabling cookies:

Should I disable all cookies for maximum privacy?

Blocking all cookies does increase privacy. But it also breaks many site features. A better approach is to disable third-party cookies while allowing first-party ones from sites you trust. Site functionality remains intact but you reduce tracking.

How do I stop getting annoying cookie banners?

The easiest way is using a privacy-focused browser or plugin that blocks most trackers by default. This prevents sites from detecting you have cookies disabled in the first place.

Can cookies give my computer viruses?

Not directly. Cookies are just text files rather than executable programs. However, hackers can use stolen cookies to access user accounts and spread malware that way.

Is InPrivate or Incognito browsing better for managing cookies?

Private modes are useful but have limitations. They allow sites to download cookies during a session, and some can still be retained after closing all windows. Adjusting actual cookie settings gives you more control.

What‘s the best way to delete cookies?

It‘s best to delete cookies directly through your browser settings instead of third-party apps. Browsers give you more options to selectively remove cookies from certain sites.

Should I enable cookies for better ad targeting?

Enabling third-party tracking cookies does allow ads to be more relevant to your interests. However, many users prefer not to trade their browsing data for slightly better ads. It comes down to personal preference.

Can I reset all cookie permissions?

Most browsers have an option to clear permission settings and reset cookies to default. This wipes the slate clean if your cookie settings have become disorganized.

Key Cookie Management Takeaways

To wrap up, here are the core concepts to remember about managing cookies:

  • Cookies provide helpful functions but also pose privacy risks depending on their type. Audit your cookie settings periodically.

  • Always block third-party tracking cookies for better privacy and security. Limit use of persistent cookies.

  • All browsers provide controls to enable, disable, or delete cookies – but options vary slightly between them.

  • Additional tools like VPNs, privacy-focused browsers, and tracker blockers bolster protection.

  • Adjust cookie settings cautiously and test sites to find the right balance for your needs.

  • Keeping cookies to a minimum improves privacy while still allowing sites you trust to function properly.

  • Cookie management takes some trial and error. Don‘t be afraid to tweak your approach over time for better results.

I hope this guide has equipped you to take charge of cookies from every angle. Browser settings are your first line of defense, but expanded privacy tools provide powerful reinforcement.

Now you have in-depth knowledge to configure cookie permissions informed by your personal privacy priorities. So you can browse the modern web wisely and with greater confidence.

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Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.