5 Traces of Our Activity We Leave Behind On Windows Unknowingly

Privacy is an issue that is never taken seriously enough. Today, using the right tools, anyone can get into your computer, know what you been doing in the last hours and use that information against you. Running a cleaner to clear the browser cache is useful, but there are places where even the cleaners doesn’t reach.

Traces are sometimes hidden under the operating system. Here are some of those with explanation and procedure to clean them out.

I have already told you about Ways To Track Windows Hidden activities which are recorded automatically. Those were some basic and visual traces but in this post, we will go in depth to see what all activities are traced.

1. DNS Cache

Every time you load a webpage in your browser, Windows passes the request to a DNS server to translate the domain name to an IP address. To save time, the system saves a lot of these equivalences in a separate cache. Needless to say, this information can be easily removed.

DNS DataView

If someone opens the DNS cache, for example, using DNSDataView, you know what pages you visit most often. To delete, you can use the same utility or type ipconfig /flushdns in the command line. CCleaner can also do it from the System section, but the box is unchecked by default.

2. Storage Disks and USB Devices Connection Identifier

You might not know that every time you connect a disk to a Windows computer, its identifier is stored in the Windows registry. You can get information as valuable as the serial number, make, model and when the device was modified last time.

To delete these traces, you can use USBOblivion, a portable utility that scans the registry for IDs removable storage devices and removes them.

USB Connections Identifier

3. Flash and Java cache

The web browsers cache is limited to web pages and images. Many web applications programmed with Flash and Java are not affected by the classical cache cleanup, since files are stored in the plugins cache. CCleaner can delete both but if you prefer to have more control over what you have to resort to erase panels for each add. For Flash, go to Control Panel and check out the content.

As regards to Java, follow these simple steps in Oracle manual. If you want to prevent Java temporary content stored on your computer, uncheck the first box on the Temporary Files Settings.

4. Paging file (Pagefile.sys)

The paging file, also known as swap space or swap, is used as virtual memory in PC where we do not have enough RAM for some tasks. As a result, confidential data gets swapped. In this article, Microsoft explains, how to clean the Pagefile.sys file every time you turn it off. You must open the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and change the value of this key ClearPageFileAtShutdown:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management

Clear PageFileSys Registry Settings

Value of REG_DWORD should be 1. Note that, enabling this clean shutdown takes longer, but you can be sure that there are no passwords or other data in the swap.

5. Metadata

Metadata is the identity card of a file. They may contain information about the author, the time the document was created or where it took place editing. Useful to some while dangerous for others to know.

Image EXIF Meta Data

So, Tools like Metastripper are effective to delete Meta Data from system. The best measure, however, is to set up programs in advance to avoid metadata recorded.

Clear EXIF Meta Data From Images

Following are two Bonus tips which are also essential so that no stone is left unturned.

Deleted files

When you delete a file from the trash you’re not eliminating completely.

To delete files with a full guarantee of irreversibility, they have to deleted beyond recovery. Proper use of such tools like Undelete360 and the like are effective.

File dates

When you create or modify a file, the system takes note of when you took out those operations. Thus, creation date, modification and last access can say a lot about the life of the document. Changing the file modification date is made possible using Timestomp or Follow this tutorial.

Did you know about these Hidden Traces? If yes, How did you deal with it? Also, let us know your views about article in comments.

Image: nhardin

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 6 comments
Sumit - April 5, 2012

aha!! this is very informative, THanks bro.
i never check these.. was knowing abt it, bt dnt knw from where and what to delete.. by the way cookie cleaner is also a good software for clearing traces.. rite?

    Rohit Langde - April 5, 2012

    As I already said in article, that would clean up browser cookies and Flash Cache at most.

Aman Kumar - April 6, 2012

Hey Rohit!
it’s awesome and thannks for providing such a help. But I have one another problem. My autoplay is not working properly. I have tried editing its policy. But at the end I could only enable it to use for looking general items. “setup.exe” is not displayed. Can you help me??

Mahable tricks - April 6, 2012

Can u post about google super cache which can’t be remove from system.

    Rohit Langde - April 10, 2012

    Cache is Cache then let it be from Google.com or from anywhere. It can be cleared when you clean up Browser cache.
    If you are referring to your browsing habit and Search History then, it is tracked by Google and you can opt out by disabling it from options in Google account.

shubham mehta - June 2, 2012

Hello Rohit !

very informative, THanks for this post i am searching for this for a long time and finally i got it…


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