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Wed, Jan. 22

'Private browsing' keeps searches secret

Question: I don't want anyone to find out which websites I have gone to.  How do I erase this information?

Answer: Detailed information about your browsing history is usually stored in various forms known as cookies, temporary Internet files or history. There are many ways that someone can track where you have gone on the Internet, and not all of those data repositories are under your control. However, in most situations, simply clearing certain information out of your computer should be sufficient to protect your privacy.

Assuming you're not "a person of interest" to law enforcement, the easiest and most effective way to cover your Internet tracks is to use an Internet browser in what's called a "Private Browsing" mode. In Firefox, simply go to Tools - Start Private Browsing and then surf to your heart's content. When you quit Firefox, it will automatically erase your information.

Internet Explorer 8 has a similar function called "In Private Browsing." You may click either the "Safety" button near the upper-right corner of the browser window or go to Tools and select In Private Browsing.  It too will then erase all information when you exit the program.

Both browsers also have ways to clear already-stored information from their memories. The actual methods of doing this are specific to each browser and its different versions. In Firefox you would go to Tools > Options > Privacy tab. In Internet Explorer 8, go to Tools > Internet Options > General tab. Using the various selections available at those locations, you may then clear the desired information.

Question: I have Windows 7 on my computer, with many applications installed and lots of customization done. A friend has built a new computer for me. Can I move my current hard drive to the new computer?

Answer: Unless the new computer is pretty much identical to your current system (unlikely), that probably won't work. There will be a different chipset on the motherboard, a newer processor and other hardware differences that will prevent the original Windows 7 from booting on the new system. I recently spoke with a friend who tried just that approach, and he was unable to get anything to come up - even Safe Boot.

Unfortunately, the Microsoft Windows Easy Transfer program only works when migrating from XP to Windows 7, not from Windows 7 to a new install of Windows 7.

What you will need to do is to install Windows 7 on the new computer and manually reinstall everything you need from your current computer. I'd suggest that you keep the old one running while you do the cutover. You'll surely find some things you forgot as you begin to use the new system. Some of the things you need to move are e-mail, address book, bookmarks (favorites), documents and other files and photos, along with all your applications. Much can be moved via an external USB drive. By having the old system still available, you'll be able to refer to it for application setup information, among other things. Perhaps the friend who built the new computer can assist you.

The Prescott Computer Society (PCS) is a PC-based users group located in Prescott. We hold several entertaining and educational meetings each month to show you how to get the most out of your computer. For further information, please visit us at E-mail questions for future columns to

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