How do I retrieve a website after it’s been deleted? For example, if
someone uses your computer and is looking at dirty websites, then deletes them
before you can see them, how can I find out what that person was looking at? In
other words, how can I bring that deleted website back to see what they’re
hiding? Asking the person does no good because they’re hiding it.
In this excerpt from Answercast #75, I look at the possibility of retrieving browsing information from a computer if it has been thoroughly deleted.
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Seeing websites a person has been to
In a lot of ways, it depends on the expertise of the person who’s doing the
surfing. Sometimes, deleting the history isn’t really enough. If you do
something like go “back” in your web browser or start typing the suspected
URLs of some of these sites, that kind of information can still automatically
Now, unfortunately, exactly how to undelete the deleted is really
not that easy.
In a sense, it is a deleted file that should technically be
un-deletable. But it also varies dramatically based on what browser you use
and (of course) how long it’s been since the web surfing took place and the
history was deleted.
My recommendation is that if you are seriously concerned about this kind of
use or abuse of your computer, that you install some keyboard logging or more
correctly, parental-control software. This is a situation that many parents
find themselves in. There are many parental control packages out there that are
available for both monitoring and control.
Parental control software
Parental control packages run the gamut. They actually do either of two
things and usually both.
One is you can set them up to restrict access to certain places or certain
websites. That will prevent someone from being able to access the sites that
you’re concerned about.
The other is it will actually log (sometimes not even on the same computer,
perhaps on another computer on your network) the activity that takes place on
the computer you’re concerned about.
Getting past software controls
Now, I do have to throw all of this out there with a big, fat caveat – and
that’s twofold. One is if the person who is doing this is at all technically
savvy, the short answer is ultimately you can’t get the information you’re
Parental control software can be bypassed; key loggers can be discovered and
uninstalled. And anything that you might do to try and retrieve the information
could be futile if the person has done an appropriate job of cleaning up after
Even if they haven’t, even if they now discover that you are somehow
restricting what they’re looking at or monitoring what they’re looking at,
ultimately, they’re just gonna go do it somewhere else. So, even though the
person is denying or disavowing the fact that they’re doing this kind of stuff,
ultimately in my opinion, it really does boil down to more of a personal
problem – or a personal discussion you need to have with this person, rather
than a technological solution.
That’s the state of the art right now. If someone is sufficiently
technically astute, it is possible to erase the traces completely without
really a lot of work and have the information become completely