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Is it ok to not clear browser history for 5 years?

Will it perhaps fill my whole drive (~220GB) if I never clear it?

How is Edge/Firefox/Chrome handling users who never clear the history?

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    I think you need to clear up whether you mean browser cache or browser history. – Sam Dean Feb 4 at 11:18
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    Or the cookies? – Robin Feb 4 at 13:20
  • I think cache is the only thing really needing space? – somega Feb 4 at 16:53
  • Personal anecdote: I remember IE 6 having an unusually large (but configurable) cache limit for the era, something like 5 GB when 20 GB an 40 GB hard disk were common. A machine shared by multiple users would fill up quickly and only an administrator would have the rights needed to clear everybody's cache. – marcus Feb 4 at 17:50
  • i have not cleared my history and cache in... ever, so like 11 years on a single system under daily use – Richie Frame Feb 4 at 19:01
48

Caches, if behaving properly [which they do almost always], are like soap

…self-cleaning.

The only time you need to clear any cache is if you have clear indication it is in some way misbehaving; otherwise you can just let it do its job.

It will naturally clear old data to make way for new & ought to maintain a relatively stable size over time.

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    Can you tell how the maximum size of the cache is calculated? Maybe in percentage of disk capacity? – somega Feb 4 at 16:45
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    Honestly, I've never even looked. It's never been a bother. See the other answers for info on that. In 30-odd years of computing I've never cleared a browser cache & once by accident I cleared the history… which drove me mad for months until I refilled it. I like that my browser suggests where i go, based on having been there before. – Tetsujin Feb 4 at 16:53
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    @Tetsujin, as a computer tech with +15 years of experience, I can tell you that clearing the browser cache was a very common diagnostic/troubleshooting technique in the late 90's to early 2000's. – computercarguy Feb 5 at 20:31
  • good answers have already been given. Some additional info, remember that a browser will also happily fill your disk with downloads (in your downloads folder) or temporary files (for instance when you select "open" instead of "download", actuall the file/program gets downloaded but goes to userDir/AppData/something temporary instead). And the browser is not monitoring the size here. But these are supposed to be voluntary user actions, it's not cache. – Pacopaco Feb 5 at 21:44
  • @computercarguy - I work tech support for an online game where it's still the "bad advice meme that just will not die!!" Much of our time is spent trying to persuade people that this advice was only good back in the days no-one knew what else to try. We now know what else to try! – Tetsujin Feb 6 at 19:37
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Typically every browser has a maximum cache size that can be configured.

Internet Explorer typically set it to some percentage of the disk space available, either 5% or 10%, other browser may use a percentage or a fixed cache size. Firefox defaults, I believe, to a 1GB cache and I think Chrome is a similar amount.

Upon reaching the limit the programs will purge items from the cache on a least recently used basis.

No browser cache should simply grow to occupy an entire disk. It would be surprising for any items as old as 5 years to still be in the cache and you probably don't need to worry.

Firefox: changing the cache size
Chrome: disk cache size registry settings

If in doubt, search for <browser> cache size in your favourite search engine.

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  • Your answer is about caches, but it looks like the question is about history. Will browsers delete old history entries (i.e. forget that you ever visited www.geocities.com on June 8 1997, not just delete cached files from that version of the site) if the history list becomes very long or very old? – interfect Feb 3 at 23:16
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    @interfect that would appear to be a disagreement between the question body and title. From the title it appears that the caches are of primary importance as that is where the vast quantity of data is going to be taken. I seriously doubt that time and dates of visits are going to be significant for any but the most die hard of fast browsers that are operative 24-7, but I take the point and will have a look into it. – Mokubai Feb 3 at 23:33
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There is no way that a modern browser will allow your drive to fill up with cached files.

Each browser is set to a limit that won't be passed. You can manually change those limits if you so wish:


Firefox

Firefox (latest version) is set to a maximum limit of 1024 MB (at least that's the value for me and I have never changed it) and you can change that by accessing "about:config" in your URL address bar, and modify the value of browser.cache.disk.capacity.


Chrome

Chrome's settings appears to be a little trickier and the default value is a percentage out of your drive free space. You can find how to change that value here What is Chrome default cache size limit?


Edge

Edge is sharing the same settings as the old internet explorer and the default seems to be automatic as well. Go to Control Panel - Internet Options and under the General tab you will find a Settings button for "Browsing history".

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