Best Privacy Software: Clear Windows, File and Browser History
We spent two weeks testing privacy software by installing and trying out each program, and we learned CyberScrub Privacy Suite is the best. It is the most effective at scrubbing computer and online histories, including email, web searches, instant messenger programs and desktop applications like Microsoft Word, and leaving no trace of your activity. It includes the best protection available to ensure all your information is kept both private and secure while being permanently deleted, using additional security measures beyond the minimum required by the government for privacy software.
CyberScrub Privacy Suite
CyberScrub Privacy Suite uses scrubbing methods that exceed the standards for the industry set by the U.S. Department of Defense to ensure your entire system is scrubbed clean. This includes Windows fragments and internet browser histories.
Privacy Eraser Pro
Though it’s the cheapest program we tested, Privacy Eraser Pro is still effective at cleaning your computer and internet history. It’s also good at scrubbing portable drives and is an easy program to install and use.
We found east-tec to be a very good tool for erasing online histories, including downloads, cookies, browser searches and temporary files. All cleaned data, including those scrubbed from your desktop, is shredded so fine that it isn’t recoverable.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Ease of Use||Cleaning Capabilities||Technical Support||Whitelisting||Cleanup Scheduling||Usability||Firefox||Chrome||Internet Explorer||Opera||Safari||Dropbox||File Shredding||Recent Files List||Run History||Maximum Number of Passes||Free Space Wiping||Clipboard||Windows Cleaning Effectiveness||Removable Media Wiper||Recycle Bin||SWAP File||Temp Files||Find Files/Computer's History||User Guide||Telephone||Index.dat||Cookies||Temporary Internet Files (Cache)||Downloads||Email Cleaning Options||Instant Messenger Cleaning Options||History (Visited Sites)||Favorites List||Address Bar History||Autocomplete/Form Data||Browser Cleaning Effectiveness||Windows 10||Windows Vista||Windows 7||Windows 8|
|CyberScrub Privacy Suite 6||View Deal||5/5||10||9.9||10||✓||✓||100%||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||35||✓||✓||100%||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||AOL, Yahoo, MSN||✓||✓||✓||✓||100%||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|east-tec Eraser||View Deal||5/5||9.7||10||10||✓||✓||95%||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||35||✓||✓||100%||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||AOL, Yahoo, Google Talk, Skype||✓||-||✓||✓||100%||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Privacy Eraser Pro||View Deal||4.5/5||10||9.3||6.7||✓||✓||100%||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||35||✓||✓||100%||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||None||✓||-||✓||✓||90%||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Tracks Eraser Pro 9||View Deal||4.5/5||8.9||10||6.7||✓||✓||80%||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||Custom||✓||✓||95%||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Yahoo, Skype, MSN, AOL||✓||✓||✓||✓||100%||-||✓||✓||✓|
|WinSweeper||View Deal||4.5/5||9.7||7.9||10||✓||✓||95%||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||7||✓||✓||85%||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||AOL, Camfrog, Google, ICQ, Miranda ICQ, NetMeeting, Pidgin, Yahoo, Skype||✓||-||✓||✓||75%||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|BCWipe 6||View Deal||4.5/5||7.2||9.8||10||-||✓||80%||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||-||✓||✓||✓||Custom||✓||-||100%||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||None||✓||✓||✓||✓||95%||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|ParetoLogic Privacy Controls 3||View Deal||4.5/5||9.7||7.4||6.7||✓||✓||95%||✓||-||✓||✓||-||-||✓||✓||✓||7||-||-||90%||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||AOL, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, Google, Skype, Windows Live||✓||-||✓||✓||90%||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Smart Privacy Cleaner||View Deal||4/5||9.2||7.4||6.7||✓||✓||85%||✓||✓||✓||-||-||-||✓||✓||-||35||-||-||85%||-||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||-||✓||✓||✓||-||AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Skype||✓||-||-||-||85%||-||✓||✓||✓|
|HistoryKill 11||View Deal||4/5||8.6||8.4||3.3||✓||✓||75%||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||Custom||-||-||90%||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||AOL, Yahoo, MSN||✓||-||✓||✓||95%||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Winsettings Pro 10.8||View Deal||3.5/5||8.6||5.9||6.7||✓||✓||75%||✓||✓||✓||-||-||-||✓||-||✓||3||-||-||85%||-||✓||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||-||✓||✓||-||-||None||✓||-||✓||✓||75%||-||✓||✓||✓|
In our in-house tests, CyberScrub Privacy Suite earned perfect scores for cleaning both internet browsers and Windows. It scrubbed data so well, there weren’t any data tracks left to find, even when we used recovery software.
CyberScrub is easy to set up, cleans large chunks of files, wipes custom file batches and schedules automatic scrubbing.
This privacy software cleans temp files, browser and computer histories, and clipboard histories. It’s one of the few programs that wipes the free space on your hard drive as well as SWAP files to help your computer run faster. Wiped data is completely destroyed so there is no way for it to be recovered.
In addition to scrubbing browsers and Windows, CyberScrub Privacy cleans email and instant messenger programs to get rid of old messages and images. It is also one of the only programs that clears out your favorite list and Dropbox storage, and it’s compatible with Safari browsers. The program’s only downside is that is doesn’t scrub USB drives when you connect them to your computer. It’s also a bit more expensive than most other privacy software.
Privacy Eraser Pro has all the important tools we looked for as we tested privacy software, including those that scrub USB drives.
In addition, it earned 100-percent efficiency scores for cleaning both Windows and internet browsers. Plus, it costs significantly less than all the other programs we reviewed.
This history scrubbing program wipes data stored in temporary files, cookies, downloads and autocomplete forms. You can set the software to automatically wipe your files during specific times of the day or as your computer boots up or shuts down. In addition, you can create a whitelist of the files or browser cookies you don’t want cleaned, and Privacy Eraser Pro won’t touch them. It cleans email but can’t clear chat messages from instant message programs.
Privacy Eraser Pro is compatible with all Windows operating systems, including Vista, as well as the most popular internet browsers, including Safari. This privacy software’s biggest drawback is it doesn’t clean bookmarks you’ve saved in your browsers.
Best Browser Cleaning
east-tec is a good choice if you need to keep your internet browsers clear. In our tests, it consistently cleaned browser histories, cookies, cache files and autocomplete data without leaving any trace behind—we couldn’t even recover the information using recovery software.
It also wipes email and chat messages in popular instant messenger programs such as Yahoo and Skype.
This privacy software is compatible with every popular internet browser including Opera and Safari. It is also compatible with Dropbox, so it can clean the files you store in the cloud. The only part of the browser east-tec doesn’t touch is your bookmarks, but if you delete them yourself, the program clears out the recycle bin and internet history that shows when you visited the sites.
east-tec is also very good at cleaning Windows files. We found that it did a great job of cleaning temp files, SWAP files, run history and clipboard data. It also checks the free space on your hard drive to ensure the programs you’ve uninstalled haven’t left residue behind, and it scrubs files saved on USB drives that are connected to your computer.
Compatible with Mac
Tracks Eraser Pro privacy software is compatible with Mac computers and laptops.
It works with over 100 plugins, including email applications, chat messengers and media players, to scrub your personal information and history so it can’t be seen or accessed, even when deleted. It has an outdated interface which makes it more difficult to figure out how to permanently erase data from your computer, and it isn’t compatible with Windows 10, but it is compatible with older Windows versions. Once your computer is scrubbed even recovery software can’t pick up any traces of what used to be there. Track Eraser Pro lets you choose to manually wipe your computer or set a time to automatically scrub your system when you shut down, close an application or start up your computer. This feature makes sure you’re on top of cleaning your private information, just in case you forget. As it cleans data files, this privacy software clears disk space so your computer runs faster and has more memory for programs and files that are more important to store.
Maximum Security Level
Smart Privacy Cleaner has three levels of scrubbing, including the highest level with 35 scrub passes – the most for any privacy software.
Smart Privacy also includes a document vault that encrypts and locks sensitive files so they can’t be hacked, and a password manager keeps your login credential secure so they can’t be swiped as you sign in to your online accounts. It also has a file shredder that can be set to automatically shred documents and files the moment they’re deleted so they can’t be restored. This software wipes history data from chat programs, email and recently used files and documents; however, it does lack several internet scrubbing tools, so some of your online history may remain visible. This include temporary internet files, bookmarks, address bar data, index.dat files and downloads.
Why Trust Us?
We have been testing and reviewing computer safety programs, including privacy software, for over 15 years. We subscribe to news outlets, blogs and newsletters about computer privacy and safety to stay on top of new threats and changes in the industry. We also attend trade shows, such as the annual RSA Conference, and connect with other experts in the industry to ensure we know everything we can about keeping you and your family safe on your computer. Most of our testers and reviewers are parents themselves and use these types of programs in their own homes to keep their families safe.
How We Tested
To test privacy software, we browsed the internet and used files and programs on our test computer after installing the programs – our test machines had Windows operating systems installed on them. As we tested, we opened files, visited websites, sent email, and used popular applications like Microsoft Word, Outlook email service and instant chat programs. We performed the same tasks with the same programs and internet browsers each time we tested a new privacy software.
As we tested each program, we used all its available tools and scrubbed both our internet browser and Windows operating system. After each cleaning, we searched for any data tracks left behind, first manually using the computer’s search tools, then with a recovery program to bring back as much data as possible.
We used this data to learn which privacy programs are effective at cleaning Windows and internet browsers as well as what information, if any, is left behind. Some programs leave snippets of information behind, but most of these remnants weren’t enough to get a clear picture of the sites we visited or what we did on our computers.
How Much Does Privacy Software Cost?
Most privacy software requires a monthly or yearly subscription. The exact cost depends on how many devices you’ll need to scrub and the number of features you need. A yearly subscription can cost between $20 and $60, and some companies give a discount if you need more than one user license.
How to Choose Privacy Software
When you are ready to purchase privacy software, choose one that is easy to use and effective at scrubbing your local computer files and browser history. Additional features, such as those that scan and clean instant messaging programs, emails and cloud storage applications, are also good to have if you want to help your computer run at its best.
Ease of Use
The more complicated a program is, the more likely you are to make a mistake and compromise your computer privacy. Complex programs may also be frustrating to use, so you might not run them as often as you should. We found that software with automatic features make it easy to protect your information on a regular basis. The best applications allow you to schedule times to scan and shred your personal information each day or let you choose to do so every time you exit a program. While all the products we reviewed have cleanup schedules, some have more extensive and customizable schedules than others.
We found that software with clearly labeled icons for Windows cleaning and internet browsers were the easiest to use. Using these top-rated programs, you simply mark the files you want scanned and shredded under each category. Most applications allow you to customize which parts of your computer or browser to scan, rather than wiping it in its entirety. This feature saves you time, and you can keep information you use on a regular basis. For example, you can save cookies to websites you use daily so you don’t have to manually enter information every time you visit.
History eraser software should keep your information private when you connect to the internet. After you disconnect, the best applications erase all evidence of your activities automatically so other people can’t reconstruct where you went or what you did while online. They also eliminate tracks of data, including usage history, recently opened files, temporary files, clipboard items and SWAP files, which show what you did through your operating system.
With the exception of a few programs, the privacy software we tested did a good job of securing our online privacy. We found minor traces of our internet activity when we used Privacy Eraser Pro and ParetoLogic Privacy Controls. When we tested Winsweeper and Winsettings Pro, we found traces of activity left behind in the address bar and internet browser history that could reveal to others what we had been doing online.
We learned that while each program wipes and shreds files, only the best privacy software completely erase Windows and internet browser data so it is unrecoverable. These programs include CyberScrub Privacy Suite and east-tech.
If you want to protect everything you do on the computer, you want privacy software that cleans all the files on your computer, including instant messages and emails. The top-rated privacy programs also clear files on cloud-based storage services, such as Dropbox, as well as your saved passwords and access histories for them. Temporary internet files that save on your computer should also be cleaned to protect your privacy and to free up valuable computer space so your system runs quickly and efficiently.
Paying for Your Privacy
Privacy software is frequently offered as a subscription-based service (SaaS). However, each program’s features and the techniques it uses are comparable between the software and SaaS versions. Typically, a paid subscription ensures you have the most up-to-date plugins for your computer’s applications. We reviewed software and subscription services that range in price from $20 to $60, with the price of services taken annually.
If you want to further strengthen your computer or internet security, look at our reviews of several other types of software, including computer protection software, encryption software and internet security suites software.
Hiding Your IP Address & Keeping Internet Usage Private
While privacy software scrubs your computer clean of any information saved on your desktop, it doesn’t get rid of the tracks your IP address leaves across the internet.
Your computer interacts with the internet by sending and receiving information packets. This is how you receive emails, post updates or simply surf the web. IP stands for "internet protocol." Your IP address is the identification number associated with your computer or device. It leaves tracks of your internet use so people know it was your computer that accessed specific sites or received certain data. Keep in mind that having an unprotected IP address isn’t always a bad thing, but it can be. According to IP2Location, hackers have used stolen IP addresses to “download illegal content like pirated material, child pornography, or content that threatens national security.” If someone steals your IP address, you could be accused of crimes you're completely unaware of. Further, hackers could even make it impossible for your computer to access the internet.
Most internet-enabled devices have their IP addresses assigned to them, so you cannot change them. Fortunately, you can protect your devices by hiding your IP address. Masking your IP address keeps your searches private. This is a useful way to keep ad services from tracking and targeting you as well as to keep your computer safe (well, safer) from malicious hackers and scams. To further protect yourself from hackers, never accept calls or messages online from people you don’t know.
A great way to protect your computer is to use a virtual private network (VPN). As IP2Location states, these programs make your IP address invisible by routing your online activity through a proxy server. Most VPN services are subscription based. To learn more, read TechRadar’s article on VPN and proxy servers.