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Susan B
02-07-2002, 08:18 PM
FAQ #9b How do I delete my hidden index.dat file?

If you use Internet Explorer as your browser you may or may not be aware that Windows has an "index.dat" file that stores your PC's visited URLs in some hidden files. When you empty your temporary internet files (cache) and history, this information is not deleted.

The significance of this is that:
1. This hidden index.dat file keeps growing indefinitely and thus consumes hard disk space and,
2. Your browsing gets slower and slower over time and,
3. Your privacy is at stake because anyone with computer knowledge can quickly and easily view those URLs using certain easily installed software.

You may not be concerned with your browsing privacy but you are bound to notice an improvement in your browsing speed if you include deleting this file in your computer maintenance program.

Please note that this so-called "bug" was supposedly fixed in Internet Explorer versions later than 5.0 although you will still find index.dat files on later versions.

Also note that after deleting, a new index.dat file is created the next time Windows is run as index.dat is needed for Internet Explorer to run but not its accumulated contents.


1. Deleting index.dat with Spider

Deleting the index.dat file can be done manually but because it is in use when Windows is running it can only be deleted through DOS in Windows 9.x and ME and instructions for this are given below. An easier way is with a program that I use and recommend for this job called Spider V1.16. This program scans these hidden files for URLs and removes the them from within Windows. It can also delete your temporary internet files, history files and cookies as well.

As far as I know Spider is the only way that the average user is able to actually view the urls contained in the index.dat file. This can be quite handy if you need to track the history of your computer's users, or conversely not so handy if you don't wish to be tracked.

Spider was written for IE3/IE4/IE5 on a fixed disk running Win9x or WinNT (administrators only, or given the right to write into the registry HKLM) but users of Win ME should able to run it sucessfully. Users of Win XP on a FAT32 system have also been able to use Spider, but not with NTFS systems.

Download Spider from www.fsm.nl/ward (http://www.fsm.nl/ward).


How to use Spider

Please read through all these instructions before using this program.

After downloading Spider, create a new folder called Spider in your Program Files folder and unzip the program to this folder.

You will then see three files in your Spider folder:
- Spider.exe - the program proper
- Spider.hlp - the help files
- SpiderBite.exe - additional program used by spider.exe

To run Spider you simply double click on the Spider.exe file for it to open. When opened you will see an introduction and a row of icons along the menu bar.

Click on the magnifying glass with a red cross on it and wait while Spider scans your hard drive for files. It may take a while the first time you run it but after a few moments you will be presented with a log of all the files it has found. Have a good look through them and be amazed at how much junk is stored on your hard drive.

Next, click on the ambulance icon to bring up the options dialogue box. If you are happy to have all your temporary internet and history files and cookies deleted, put a tick in all the boxes, otherwise select just those that you require.

Once you have made your selection, click Accept and after deleting the files Spider will ask if you want to reboot your computer, which you will need to agree to.


Possible problems with Spider

Spider isn't entirely fail-proof and some problems do occur:

* If you are unable to run Spider try downloading and running another copy.

* Some people using Spider have found that even though they did not tick the boxes to remove their history files and cookies, Spider seemed to delete them anyway. If those files are important to you I would recommend you don't use Spider but delete index.dat manually as instructed below.

* In my experience it appears that Spider only deletes per session cookies and not the cookies that are stored on your hard drive.

* Sometimes it looks like Spider isn't working when more files appear if Spider is run again immediately after a cleanup has been performed. This is usually because the index.dat file can become very large and Spider needs two or even three or four runs to remove them all. All the more reason to use Spider regularly! If, however, it never seems to clear all the files you may be one of the unlucky users that it does not work for. Deleting the files manually should solve your problem.

* For some people, Spider is not able to find any index.dat or Temp Internet files. This may be because they are not in the default locations or it may be due to another reason.


Creating a shortcut for Spider

As Spider is not actually installed on your hard drive but simply run from the Spider.exe you will find it convenient to place a shortcut in your Start menu or on your desktop.

To put a shortcut in your Start menu right click on the Start button and choose Explore. Navigate to a folder in which you wish to put the shortcut and open it.

Now navigate to your Program Files folder to the Spider.exe file, right click on it and choose Create Shortcut then drag the resulting shortcut to the Start menu folder that you chose.

To place a shortcut on your desktop right click on Spider.exe, choose SendTo>Desktop (create shortcut).


2. Other cleaning programs

Spider appears to be the easiest program to use to delete your index.dat files but it isn't the only one. If you are experiencing problems with Spider you might like to try another program. I have not tried it myself but a recommended program is CleanUp! available from here (http://software.stevengould.org/). It too will delete all temp files and cookies, if you wish. Please see FAQ #9a for more details on CleanUp!


3. Deleting index.dat manually

These instructions are for deleting the index.dat, temporary internet and history files and cookies in Windows 95/98 and Win ME.

Windows 95/98
For Win 95/98 close all programs and go to Start>Shutdown>Restart in MS-DOS mode.

Windows ME
For Win ME close all programs and shut down the computer. Insert a startup floppy disk in the floppy drive and after 10 seconds switch your computer on again. You should have be given a start up disk with your machine but if not you can make your own as follows:

Get a blank floppy disk ready and go to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs>Start Up Disk>Create disk and follow the instructions.

Windows 95/98 and ME
Once you are in the DOS window type the following commands exactly, pressing Enter after each one:

If your prompt says C:\ then type:
c: (press enter)
cd windows (enter) then continue as below

If your prompt says C:\WINDOWS then type:
smartdrv (enter)

deltree tempor~1 (enter) (press y to confirm)

(NOTE: the character between the tempor and 1 is a "tilde", found to the left of the number 1 key and you hold down Shift when you use it.)

Skip the following section between the ** if you do NOT wish to delete your cookies and history files:

* * * * * * * * * *
deltree cookies (enter) (y)

deltree history (enter) (y)

* * * * * * * * * *
deltree temp (enter) (y)

cd \ (enter)

deltree temp (enter) (y)

exit (enter)

Your computer will now either close down or be rebooted back into Windows with the job now completed.

There are other ways to complete this process but they are not covered in this FAQ. Also not covered are the locations different to the Windows defaults or variations to the above. Experienced users will know how to track those down and deal with them. If you use Win ME and get a "Bad command" after trying the above it is because either the files are not in those locations or it's due to the lack of "true DOS" within Win ME. Advising further under these circumstances is beyond the scope of this FAQ.


4. Further information regarding hidden files

To understand a little more clearly why Spider sometimes has to run two or three times to completely clean the index.dat file, this site (http://www.****microsoft.com/content/ms-hidden-files.shtml) provides a good explanation.
Note: the forum's expletive remover means that you will have to replace the asterisks in your address bar with the letters f-u-c-k. Sorry, but that really is the name of the site.

I strongly recommend everyone who is concerned with maintaining and controlling their privacy while using their computer to read this entire article. It applies to all Windows users who use Internet Explorer, Outlook and Outlook Express, as well as those who have Fast Find enabled on their machine.


5. Other tools for experienced users

Because these index.dat files are very well hidden there are probably more of them than you know about. Some file management programs that other forum members use to track these files down are as follows:

wiz.exe: Contributed by Terry Porritt

Probably THE fastest file finder is Ray Van Tassles' wiz.exe a DOS program. You can get it from: http://www.simtel.net/pub/pd/44019.html as wiz37.zip

Just type wiz index.dat from the dos prompt, and in a twinkling it will search through your hard drive and list all index.dat.

Ztree: Contributed by Billy T

If you really want to find every instance of index.dat you really need to use a third party file manager to locate every file and identify the correct path. I don't trust Windows not to hide a few, even with "show hidden files" enabled!

I recommend Ztree as it is stable reliable and free for a lengthy evaluation period, though you have to put up with beeps at loading once that period has expired. I purchased mine as I consider it one of the most useful tools I have ever had. It is an independently written 32 bit equivalent to Xtree Gold which was the premier 16 bit file manager.

Power Desk 4.0: Contributed by Deebee

Power Desk 4.0, and its file finder found eight copies of index.dat in various folders -- about 7MB.