Index.dat Suite

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 19, 2008
Updated • Dec 9, 2012
Software, Windows software

No one can find out on which websites you have been once you delete the Temporary Internet Files, cookies and history in Internet Explorer, right ? That's unfortunately wrong and should cause some concern by some users. The Internet Explorer is using so called index.dat files to store information even though the information contained in those files are hardly needed. The auto complete feature is using the index.dat file of visited websites.

The major problem that I have with index.dat files is that they raise privacy concerns. They cannot be opened in a text editor but are easily viewable with the right viewer. One of these tools that you can use is the Index.dat Suite which is probably the most advanced software that is freely available.

Before I start I would like to mention that Internet Explorer uses three different index.dat files which contain the history, cookies and cache. Other applications make use of index.dat files as well, Microsoft Office for instance uses it to save the recent documents.

When you first start the Index.dat Suite you are asked to perform a scan of your system for index.dat files. You can speed up the process if you filter the scan by drive. All my applications that produce index.dat files are located on drive C which meant that I only scanned that drive.

The list will be huge. Each user account has index.dat files in the home directory. Most of those are default files if the account is not in use actively with a size of 16,32 or 128 Kilobyte. The interesting files are those of active accounts because they contain data that is viewable, if Internet Explorer is used that is.

I discovered a 4 Megabyte index.dat file on my system dating back to Internet Explorer 5 that contained many urls that I visited at that time.

Once the scan finished you can right-click any index.dat file in the list and use the internal viewer to see its contents. The contents depend on the type of index.dat file that you open, you either see a history file, Temporary Internet Cache or cookies.

The suite does not only provide ways to view the contents of the files. It is furthermore possible to clean them effectively. They are however created anew when Internet Explorer is started again.


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  1. Ronin Vladiamhe said on May 16, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Though INDEX.DAT gives the user the option of getting rid of these internet files, WINSPY appears to be a lot more thorough. Use IE PRIVACY KEEPER to delete these files.

  2. Transcontinental said on March 19, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    How true, Martin. As for myself, I’ve located ‘Temporary Internet Files’ and ‘History’ System folders on a RAM disk. Not only are the index.dat files completely removed at shutdown/reboot, but RAM disk also speeds up access to files it contains. As for the cookie folder, I need it for the few IE cookies it handles, but when I notice that its size gets too big (like 200kb for 3 cookies!) I get it removed – erased – with a utility like ‘GiPo Move On Boot’ …
    Ever since IE 3.x those index.dat has been hammering everyone of those aware of what this crappy data handling means !

  3. Dante said on March 19, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Just tried it. It works. Would have been more interesting if I wasn’t such a paranoid and have wiped everything already. And being a paranoid, I had scanned it and found no malware. But Zonealarm does indicate that this software wants to go out onto the Internet.

  4. Martin said on March 19, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Scott since I’m normally using Opera and Firefox I do not have such big concerns about the index.dat files on my system. I was not able to find them for the latest version of Internet Explorer 8 after running CCleaner so I guess they do a good job. However I was able to find the index.dat file for Internet Explorer 5 on my system even after running CCleaner. Not sure what I can make of this.

  5. Scott said on March 19, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    In your experience, Martin, have you found that CCleaner does a thorough job of deleting the index.dat files?

    For me, I’m not as concerned with seeing what the files contain as much as I’m concerned about being able to delete them completely, regularly…

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