How to View and Delete Your Entire Mac OS X Download History Securely

Your Mac keeps track of everything that has ever been downloaded and every internet URL you have visited even after you clear your browser history. It basically has a database that stores a history of everything you’ve ever downloaded, the good news is that there is an option to clear out this entire download history.

Most of this happens in the background so it doesn’t affect the daily use of your computer, however, if you’d rather your work didn’t see all the movies you download, you should probably care about this one.

Nobody’s judging you for your download history – at least not yet. But if you want to make sure that never happens, here’s how to view and delete your OS X download history. To view your Mac download history requires using the Terminal, so it’s unlikely most users would know how to do this. Here’s how to view and clear it.

As a start, you might as well take a look at your history before deleting it. If you’ve never done it, you might actually find a few things in there that you need.

Open up Terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal) and paste the following command into it, then hit Return:

sqlite3 ~/Library/Preferences/* ‘select LSQuarantineDataURLString from LSQuarantineEvent’

This will return a pretty long list of files, ordered by date. Look through the files and be awestruck with all the files you have downloaded. Fortunately or unfortunately this command doesn’t show every file downloaded to your Mac, only the ones the system downloaded using Safari, FTP, or other system utility.

Now that you’ve seen your list, it’s actually a good idea to save it to a text file in case you need it. Remember, there could actually be an important file or two in there that you might need someday. To save the list, do the following:

  • Click in the Terminal window.
  • Hit Command + A on your keyboard to select everything in the Terminal window.
  • Hit Command + C to copy everything.
  • Open a new text file and hit Command + V to paste in the data.

With that, your entire search history is saved. This step isn’t necessary, but it might be useful later.

Now that your history is saved, it’s time to clear it out. This is just as easy to do as it was to view it. Just copy and paste this command into Terminal and then hit Return:

sqlite3 ~/Library/Preferences/* ‘delete from LSQuarantineEvent’

The list you just viewed is saved to a database called LSQuarantineEvent, and the command above empties it out, deleting its contents. Since you’re issuing a database command, this can take up to five seconds, depending on the size of your download list.