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I'm looking to parse the contents of index.dat in Internet Explorer on Windows 7. I'm having a very hard time locating it and it would appear that I need a special program to view it's contents. Any suggestions would be appreciated. The main reason is to see the contents of browsing history.


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You can view the Dat files using Index Dat Suite, although it has problems deleting the files in Windows Vista and 7

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What's wrong with looking at your history through the browser?

Index.dat is generally found in your user profile directory: \Location Settings\Temporary Internet Files.

So long as you can view hidden and system files, your file search should be able to find it.

Also, there are several index.dat viewers available online. Simply search for "read contents of index.dat":

Like @ultrasawblade says, most cleaner software (CCleaner, Cleanup, etc) remove the index.dat files. However, a good technologist would simply run any of a plethora of file recovery tools and recreate where you've been, if they really wanted to.

So you have to decide who would like to know where you've been browsing and who you need to hide it from:

  • If it's the government: give up. They can recover the information deleted AND overwritten from your drive, even if the drive is damaged severely. And if that's completely inaccessible, they can subpoena logs from the servers they think you might've been on and trace your tracks that way.

  • If it's your parents: buy your own computer, and stay off the smut.

  • If it's Geeksqad: just don't do illegal stuff, they don't really care otherwise, unless they're getting paid to find out by your parents (or your spouse).

  • If it's your spouse: what are you doing that it's so important to hide from them? If it would damage your relationship, why are you doing it? If it's a surprise gift they'll just love, why are they so suspicious that it might be something else.

The point is, if you're really trying to delete your tracks, hiding it from average people, use a cleaner program. It's fast and simple and more thorough than you could do manually yourself. If you're trying to hide it from techies who really want to find out: tough luck. If you just need to clear your basic traces, just empty your temporary internet files.

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Thanks for the info. It's my understanding that even after clearing your browser history, emptying your cache and deleting your cookies from Internet Explorer, there still remains information about where you've been surfing hidden away in these index.dat files. Although I could be wrong about that. – user106329 Nov 21 '11 at 23:32 - CCleaner cleans index.dat files. – LawrenceC Nov 22 '11 at 0:32

"What's wrong with looking at your history through the browser" is that it can be huge and you may not be able to decipher all of the contents.

There may be multiple copies of index.dat on your hard drive and not necessarily within just one profile, so you need to use a tool that can search and find all possible occurrences of index.dat.

After using a deletion utility you should assume that you need to restart Windows to complete the deletion. Also be aware that as soon as you open Internet Explorer it will create a new index.dat.

After deletion I advise using a program like Eraser that will overwrite, literally write over or "wipe" the space that was freed up by the deletion. "Deleting" files NEVER actually deletes the file, it just removes its pointer. The data is still there. Eraser has an option to write over all slack and free space on a drive and it's usually best to do that every now and then, even though it may take quite some time. Tell it to make at least 3 passes, over-write 3 or more times. Eraser gives you choices are 1 pass, 3, 7 and 35 passes, because just 1 pass probably will not totally "reset" every bit on the hard drive.

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