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Why Are There Websites in My Browser History I’ve Never Been To?

I periodically clean my browser history, but after a while website entries begin to appear in it that I’ve never actually been to. Some of these sites look quite disturbing, and are not sites that I would ever go to. Why would these entries appear? Do I have spyware or a virus?

It’s usually nothing to worry about.

Certainly, malware is a possibility. I’ll also call out “foistware” or Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) — software that appears on your system unexpectedly after installing something else.

However, there are many more benign scenarios. It’s possible your browser may simply be doing a good job protecting you.

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Malware often works by forcing your browser to go places you would never go. PUPs, in particular, can add toolbars and other software to your system that intercepts what you’re doing and just rudely takes over, sending you to bogus search sites or worse.

These days, my first recommendation when you run into unexpected history entries is to make sure your machine has no malware. In particular, I suggest you run the tools outlined in How Do I Remove PUPs, Foistware, Drive-bys, Toolbars, and Other Annoying Things I Never Wanted?

Traditional pop-ups and pop-unders

Many websites employ pop-ups: additional browser windows that open when you visit the site. These typically contain ads for which the site owner gets paid. Pop-unders are similar; they are additional browser windows created when you visit a site, but placed behind your current browser window, so they’ll be visible when you exit the browser.

Browser History Pop-up blockers — now built into most browsers — keep pop-up and pop-under windows from displaying. The blockers intercept the requests to create new browser windows and prevent them.

My theory is that the URLs behind blocked pop-ups sometimes still appear in your history, having been added to the list before the pop-up is blocked. You’ve never seen the site, but it’s there in the list.

One page, many sources

Some webpages that look like a single page are actually a composite of more than one page or page fragments. What you see as a single URL may have fetched content from several different sites.1

Depending on how your browser handles these requests, it’s possible that these page elements could appear as individual entries in your history. You wouldn’t recognize them, because they’re not pages you explicitly visited, but they’re present because they were part of some page you did.

Browser pre-fetch

Many web browsers now include a feature where they begin fetching the pages linked to in the page you’re currently viewing.

The idea is that when you click a link on the page, if all or even some of it has already been downloaded, it’ll come up much more quickly. That there’s downloading going on you didn’t explicitly ask for is typically not an issue, because you’re busy reading the page you originally requested.

Once again, whether these pages appear in the browser history or not depends on the browser. In theory, I’d only expect them to appear for the links you’ve actually clicked, or pages you’ve actually viewed, but browser designers could decide otherwise.

Most of the time, this pre-load feature is something you can turn off in the options for the specific browser you use.

Mostly harmless

Ultimately, unless someone else is using your computer when you’re not looking — which is also something worth checking for — I believe this issue is typically benign.

However, that shouldn’t stop you from taking the appropriate precautions to keep your computer safe.

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Footnotes & References

1: I do a variation of this myself. Many of the images I display come from a completely different domain or “site”, for example.

41 comments on “Why Are There Websites in My Browser History I’ve Never Been To?”

  1. There’s one major possibility you didn’t address, Leo: just because he doesn’t go to “those” kinds of sites doesn’t mean other’s don’t, if others use his computer. Indeed, does he have teens in the house? They could be doing things and going places on his computer that he wouldn’t approve of….

  2. After searching for an hour online I finally found this clear explanation of why stuff is appearing in my history when I have never been to these sites. Most of them are porn! I’m glad my pop up blocker is working and I’m not going crazy! Every site online is telling me I’m looking at this stuff when I’m not!

  3. thank you i think its the poker pop ups that are doing this because i click on allmost everything that comes up

  4. @Martin: It’s very dangerous to click on links to websites you’re not sure of.

  5. A similar thing has happend to me..I found a bunch of stuff in my web history that I didn’t go to. They were all from the same site and in 2 different web history that I have. Porn of this still possible that it is spyware?

  6. So my husband goes on websites like flikr and too shocking and I have found some stuff in the History – but it’s hard for me to get mad when i’m unsure if he’s actually going on these sites.
    How can i tell? is there a tool for this?

    • You should stop going to that website …..I would simply block it. I have helped several friends clean their machine after visiting that particular site.

  7. This happens quite often to my families cpu also. The culprit in our case is angieslist and craigslist!!!ugh

  8. I’ve observed the converse, i.e. that some sites that I’ve been to don’t get added to the history. The includes some Ebay pages but the really obvious one is Google. At one time the pages associated with all my Google searches were added to the history. This doesn’t happen any more. Is there an option that I don’t know about that has been switched?

  9. so in my partners phone browser history was a mobidateing…..more than once apparantly browser history rekons the site was visited there was no difference between that link and the other sites he visited ie, colour and of course he denies this and im currently pregnant and find this very upsetting can anyone help and shed some light on this please!!

    • I just had a horrible experience. My girlfriend went through the browser history on my phone and found an entry for Yahoo login. I don’t have yahoo, and never logged into Yahoo. I honestly have no idea why it’s on my history, and it has ruined my relationship.

  10. Browser history shows the sites visited from other PC & other person. What the reason may be?

    • If you are signed into Chrome on those various computers it will sync the browsing and history. And also a good lesson that if you are asking a question about a computer it’s essential to include some information about the system and programs you are using.

  11. So my husbands computer history keeps showing that he is visiting some girls page on Facebook. He’s not friends with her on his page and says he doesn’t know her. He denys it adamantly and I want be believe him, but something just doesn’t add up. A guy he knows that works on computers said it could be a bot. What do you suggest?

  12. Months ago I confronted my husband about the many dating sites I found he was on and wanted to know if he was only looking or actually having physical affairs. I love him and wanted to save our marriage. He has been dishonest a lot in the past so I have randomly checked to see if he has really stopped the sites. On his Droid Razor Mobile phone’s google chrome history it appears he joined a Matrimonial Dating site for Muslims (he is one) and there are what look like searches of some of the profiles and chats. He said he didn’t. He doesn’t know how I know the info. Could it be via pop-ups? I have little computer knowlege. I do know his phone is highly protected from malware etc. How do I know if these searches mean he is lieing to me again…if so, he is probably taking a secret second wife. I am a Christian, refusing to convert to Islam. He has been angry about this for a long time. My contact with the outside world is very limited. I have children to protect too. How concerned should I be?

    • I, my friend have had very similar experiences with my current husband for the past few years. However, after discovering on that he actually was seeing some one else, I figured out different ways to check up on all the dating, porn and any other questionable sites to find out what he was up to. Unfortunate for me, I was horrified. First off, create an alternate e-mail account separate from your normal one, of course with a fictitious name. Do the same with the site in question (a lot won’t allow searches until you are a member). Of course only do this with those with free sign ups. Search for your husband’s name and see if he comes up. Be prepared though… things can get graphic and quite ugly. To be honest, mortifying. I’ve had to do this for several porn and dating sites, and even twitter, facebook, and more. We are currently in counseling for this as I confronted my husband on all of these matters. Luckily, my husband isn’t the violent type, so use discretion if you are to confront him. I don’t know your situation. Good luck and best wishes. I hope you prove your suspicions wrong.

      • There is also a different way to see if he has accounts. Simply type in forgot password, you enter his email address and it will tell you if he has an account or not. I was unfortunate enough to realize the my boyfriend during a break to better himself was on a ton of them.

  13. I have websites and Google Searches on my internet history that I’ve never visited or searched for. It is on my Samsung Note 2 cell phone but doesn’t show up on my laptop. The sites are POF (a dating site), Putlocker (watch online movies), reddit, Yahoo – login (I don’t have a Yahoo login), Yahoo Mail (I don’t have a yahoo mail account), living social – Google Search, chat line – Google Search, chatroulette – Google Search, hook up – Google Search, Plenty of fish – Google Search, stubhub – Google Search. How can I prove that I did not perform these searches or access the websites? I have visited porn sites on my phone in the past and created a username/password for ashley madison (it’s been deleated/account closed). I also visited craigslist to read the postings from my phone. Any help would be awsome.

  14. i noticed on my boyfriends history that 3 questions had been put into the computer, firstly bed and breakfasts in truro which is in cornwall near where i live then pubs in truro and shops in truro.he said he does not know anything about it and did not enter this into the computer. could it be an accident .how could it just appear .have you any idea please. yours miss a. tyler

  15. I have some lengthy history of porn sites that I have no been on. I went on it a few times, but now it shows some dating site called fuckbook.. I didn’t even know that was there until my husband looked through my phone. I have read a lot about this site spamming you, but wanted to know more about how this can happen and how to make it stop and haven’t been on anymore sites. he looked at a phone I don’t use anymore and it said I went to some pornsite the day he looked at the phone. not like you log in or anything so it is not possible. I am so confused and feel like a bad person for something I didn’t do. I really don’t have the energy to argue over something I didn’t even do nor would I ever go to a dating site and even if I was single woudnt go to one asking for sex. it is sick and I am sick my husband would think so low of me. Any help would be great.

  16. How does xnxx show up in your search history in your browser on your I-phone if you claim to have never typed it in and when he says I don’t know how my browser history got deleted should I believe him? If you go to settings and click on safari and then advanced web history you can see everything. Even if you clear your browser it will still be there. Of course if private browsing this does not work. I am devastated to think that the man that promised me he was different from all the rest feels no guilt for doing this and can look me in the eyes and tell me he doesn’t and accuse me of planting it there so I can accuse him of it. I can’t let it go, it is eating away at me inside. He had me apologizing for doubting him but then it happens again.

  17. My husband and I have been having problems lately because he tells me he doesn’t use Twitter or ever go on it but I see that Twitter appeared on his website data under advanced data in safari’s settings. I don’t know why this is happening if he says he doesn’t go on?

    • Many sites have links to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook which that people can click to follow that site. Things like that can end up in the browsing history if they download an image from that site to display on the page.

  18. hello all,i found some porn sites on my husbands i-mac , (in web history where you look up from privacy – history ) . He swears he has never been to those sites . He says it can be virus made this .Or the links he looked made that look like he entered to porn sites. He is using internet very much because he is so curious about everything about his job and all staff .. He says because of searching to much it may have happened. Do you think he is telling truth or just lying … im going crazy about this issue .. Pls help me ..

    • Everything he says is possible. Those sites you see could be pop-ups from other sites he visited, he could have accidentally clicked on things while deleting out spam emails, someone else could have used his computer, he could have malware. You really need to use other criteria to decide if there is trust or not. Though I do have to wonder why you are snooping through his computer? Sounds like you should maybe be searching help from different venues.

      • i was looking because we had seen same kind of bad stuff in his iphone too …This is not something ethical in marriage so i have every right to know ..And also he is a jealous man and does that kind of things to me … anyway , he is using imac and ppl say there is no weay apple to get infected by a virüs im so confused..i really need to learn the truth..Trust is everything,once its broken ,it will take years to be like old times ..and if ur pregnant . @connie and from 950 websites he entered there are 30 of them is porn sites…thats why its getting harder for me to believe …i need the truth from an apple user,apple technician..

    • Nur, i am going through the exact same thing right now, and also going crazy. only thing is, i do know my husband has looked at these kinds of things before, which is why i “snoop” (which he knows i do, and i have full access to all the computers he uses). so, i finally found some articles and sites that say this could be spyware, and it all adds up, BUT all the articles i am seeing are from 2011 and earlier. is this spyware and malware and such still a realistic threat? my husband uses the internet for tons of different things, and like i said, he has searched some questionable things before, so i’m half-believing this could be our problem, but also don’t want to be just naive. can anybody on here help me understand this? he is pretty tech-savvy and should be able to understand this stuff; unfortunately, i do not.

  19. I found a website in my husbands history called “instabang” under 0.4 KB he swore over our kids that he did not download this app. I don’t usually catch him watching porn but this wouldn’t be the fist time I saw these kind of sites pop up? Is it just redirecting him to these sites because of something he downloaded? No one to talk to… Don’t want this to be the end of our marriage.

  20. @sasha hi sasha , im pretty sure that he has not entered to instabang bcus i read a girl’s article about same thing , that she hasnt entered the site but saw that in history .. i believe u shouldnt worry … @signout hi , i totally get you .. i cant get over this ideas .. Wanna trust but then i lose my trust again, im so confused and hurt .. i had talked to 2 apple technician , 2 apple sale team guy , 2 time apple support line .. 5 of them told me it is possible to see the sites even if you didnt write them .. 50percent both is possible .. So i am asking myself should i believe him or not …totally sad about this :(

  21. Hey, my friend and I have a similar problem with YouTube. The other day my YouTube history started showing up on his account. We never signed in to each other’s accounts either. I should probably mention this is my YouTube history from August 2014. Please help ASAP! It’s really wired and creepy. Some of his history wasn’t even anything I watched!

  22. I think my computer has a virus. But it’s a weird one. Whenever I go to some sites, in the past I was bored and looked at something called dueling network. It instead made me go to an adult dating site with a nude girl as a front page. I quickly backed out and clicked on it again and this time it made me go to the normal page. But it did this every time I opened a new browser. But then it started doing this with other random sites too. Help?

  23. I have had the weekend from hell gf has been watching my google chrome searches from my work computer pop up on her google chrome app on her android phone, she thinks I am into her phone watching her. Nothing bad on the search history but she might break up with me over it thinking I am spying. I have since cleaned up my machines paid a service to look thru my machines and was told I was infected, I have been on her network with my other chrome sync-ed devices and also logged into the YouTube google account that seemed to be the problem on one of her devices. Ugh what a problem! Not sure I like this new sync idea a cloud stuff seems to open up other problems!!!!

    • It sounds like she is logged into your Chrome account on her phone. Likely all she needs to do is to sign out as you.

  24. Closing comments since most comments (included many pruned) are nothing more than questions answered by the article. PLEASE read the article.

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