What Are Cookies in a Computer?

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Updated January 5, 2023

Internet users concerned with consumer privacy and cyber safety should understand how computer cookies work. Browser cookies track your online activity and IP address, but they aren’t purely a privacy risk. For example, internet cookies offer a personalized experience by saving site-specific user preferences and login credentials. So, stick around to understand what cookies are on a computer.


  • Internet cookies are small text files that store user data and browsing activity.
  • Normal cookies save information like login information and site-specific user preferences.
  • Generally, cookies are not a massive concern for security, but most experts recommend clearing a browser’s cache every three to six months.

For more information, read about enabling cookies on your computer and finding cookies on your computer. You might also want to learn about registering under the Data Protection Act and the principles of the Data Protection Act, as well.

Insider Tip

You can alter your browser’s cookie management settings to limit potentially dangerous cookies.

What Are Computer Cookies?

Internet cookies are small text files stored in the internet browser’s cache. These small files store login credentials, user preferences, search, and browsing history; they’re meant to identify your computer or network. The main drawback with cookies is online privacy, but they often contribute to a smooth online experience.

There are multiple types of cookies that get stuck into the browser’s cache. Some come from the site you’re visiting, while others originate in the ads or licensed content on a website.

First-Party Cookies

First-party cookies come from the site in your address bar. The most common first-party cookie is a site login or location tracker for relevant nearby content.

Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies originate from on-site content like ads and licensed images or videos. These cookies contribute to cross-site user tracking that identifies an online activity, like a user’s search and purchase history.

What Are Cookies Used For?

Normal cookies store user data like location, IP address, and login details. Whether they’re first or third-party cookies, some stick around, while others disappear after closing the internet browser.

Temporary Cookies

Temporary or session cookies are not stored on the computer’s storage, and they automatically delete once the browser shuts down. These short-term cookies store site-specific information like a shopping cart or search filters. Additionally, temporary cookies help the browsing experience, like using the back button.

Persistent Cookies

Persistent cookies are saved to the computer, even after closing the internet browser. Saved cookies contain login information and long-term user data for frequently-visited websites. For example, a commerce website might track shopping history or repeatedly-viewed products to build a customer profile.


You may disrupt your online experience by clearing cookies and deleting the browser history after every session.

Are Browser Session Cookies a Privacy Concern?

Modern internet browsers provide control over browser cookies and the information they collect. While cookies cannot infect your PC, there are dangerous cookies that stealthily collect your personal data and network information. So the level of security risk that cookies represent is up to personal preference.

STAT: A 2019 Pew Research Center survey showed that 54% of smart speaker owners were concerned about the amount of data they collect. (source)

What are Cookies in a Computer FAQs

Should I clear my internet browser cookies?

Deleting internet cookies is an excellent way to ensure a clean cache store, which can improve system performance. That said, constantly clearing cookies can disrupt your browsing experience. Without regular cookies, sites will forget things like your login details and online shopping cart.

Do cookies capture my email address?

Unless you’ve provided an email for a website’s login details, the cookies cannot capture an email address. Normal cookies take the information that they’re given, so they cannot access your email, location, or browser information unless you grant it to them.

Can I stop cookie popups?

Experts recommend installing a browser extension to auto-fill cookie popups. Blocking all normal cookies leads to an inconvenient user experience online, and customized cookie settings can quell potential security concerns.
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