The Windows operating system records user activity in log files which are collectively known as "History." In the context of the Internet, these files contain information that tells which websites we may have visited or logged into or what web applications we may have used. Other History files include recently opened documents, file search history, run history, and open/save history. Deleting the History list is a good way of protecting our privacy. Sometimes, however, we may need to recall a particular piece of information. Fortunately in a Windows-based system there is a way to recover previously deleted history.
This is a tool available in Windows XP that takes "snapshots" of critical system files, registry settings and some program files. These snapshots are stored as restore points or particular states of your system to which you can step back to by executing this tool. This is mostly used for troubleshooting system problems but one can also restore previously deleted History files by reverting to point before those files were deleted.
- Log in to your computer as an Administrator. Other account types won't have access to this tool.
- Once logged in, click on the following in sequence: Start - All Programs - Accessories -System Tools - System Restore.
- When the System Restore window opens, choose "Restore my computer to an earlier time" and then click Next.
- The "Select a Restore Point" page will appear. There is a list labeled "On this list, click a restore point." Choose the appropriate date and then click Next.
- The next page to appear is "Confirm Restore Point Selection." Click Next and the program will execute and then restart your computer.
- After the computer has restarted you can view History on Windows Explorer and see if you have recovered the particular file you were searching for.
Using the System Restore tool might be impractical as valuable programs installed after the chosen restore point might not work properly which could impair your PC's overall performance. There are log files that are not associated with the System Registry or individual program logs named "index.dat." You can use the Search tool to find all the index.dat files stored in your computer. To access index.dat files however you will need a separate program. You can search for an "index.dat reader" on the Internet then download and install it.
- Click on Start, then Search. The Search window will appear.
- On the left window frame choose "All files and folders."
- Type "index.dat" on the first input box. In the last input box labeled "Look in:" choose from the drop down list all your hard drives (C:, D:, etc.).
- The program will execute and a list of all the index.dat files found will be displayed on the right main window frame.
History files are a weak point that hackers can use to steal your personal information. Consistently deleting them is actually a good security measure. When it comes to log in IDs, passwords and other sensitive information it is much better to simply memorize them or if there are too many, write them down on a piece of paper. Never leave them lying around in your hard disk or browser history.