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Computers Leave Clues

If I went on my son's PC, would he be able to see that I had been on there and what I was looking at when he next turns the pc on?Kat Delong

Computers leave clues; so yes, your son may stumble across your tracks (accidentally or otherwise). I will give you some facts about what happens when you browse through a computer.

What can be seen on a computer really depends what has been added to it. There are many third party software choices out there that will track movements on the computer both online and off. There are also ways to check recent activity on the computer that are built-in as defaults.

  • Erase Internet History
  • Delete searches, clear location bar, delete index.dat
  • Completely wipe all traces of Online activity

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Recently Viewed Documents

There is a function of Windows XP called ‘recently viewed' that will show all of the documents that have been opened recently. It is set as the default on the system, but there is a way to erase all of the recently viewed documents. Go to Start and right click on it. Choose Properties and the Start menu tab. Click on Customize. Click on Clear - this will empty the cache of recently viewed items. It will clear the items but not hide the functions. You can see recently viewed documents in the C:\Documents and Settings\<User Name>\Recent folder.

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Even though you have erased the items from the recently viewed folder, most of these items are still kept in the computer's registry. There is no easy way to erase them from the registry, so if your son is technologically savvy, he may still be able to see what has been viewed after it has been erased.

Internet History

It is easy to see the recently viewed websites on the Internet - for example in Internet Explorer, all you have to do is hold down the History button on the tool bar to see recently viewed websites. In addition, typing the first few letters of a URL in the address bar and pausing often reveals a list of websites that have been visited that start with those letters. You can clear this by going to Tools, then Internet Options. Choose Clear History and it will erase all recently viewed websites.

Tracking Software

If there has been tracking software installed on the machine, it will be extremely difficult to cover your tracks. This type of third-party software tracks everything that has been done on the machine both on the PC itself and on the Internet. It is often used by employers and parents to track where computer users have been. It is meant to be hidden and can't be disabled except by the person who installed it.

In short, if you go on your son's computer, you may be able to erase the evidence. Then again, depending on his tech savvy, you may not.

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