By Josh Vinney
There are folders on your computer that Microsoft has tried hard to keep
secret. Within these folders you will find two major things: Microsoft
Internet Explorer has been logging all of the sites you have ever visited —
even after you’ve cleared your history, and Microsoft’s Outlook Express has
been logging all of your e-mail correspondence — even after you’ve erased
them from your Deleted Items bin. (This also includes all incoming and
outgoing file attachments.) And believe me, that’s not even the half of it.
When I say these files are hidden well, I really mean it. If you don’t have
any knowledge of DOS then don’t plan on finding these files on your own. I
say this because these files/folders won’t be displayed in Windows Explorer at
all — only DOS. (Even after you have enabled Windows Explorer to “view all
files.”) And to top it off, the only way to find them in DOS is if you knew
the exact location of them. Basically, what I’m saying is if you didn’t know
the files existed then the chances of you running across them is slim to
It’s interesting to note that Microsoft does not explain this behavior
adequately at all. Just try searching on microsoft.com.I know there are some
people out there that are already aware of some of the
things I mention. I also know that most people are not. The purpose of this
tutorial is teach people what is really going on with Microsoft’s products and
how to take control of their privacy again. This tutorial was written by me,
so if you see a mistake somewhere then it is my mistake, and I apologize.
Thanks for reading.
1) DEFINITIONS AND ACRONYMS
2) WHY YOU SHOULD ERASE THESE FILES
3) HOW TO ERASE THE FILES ASAP
3.1) If You Own Microsoft Internet Explorer
3.2) Clearing Your Registry
3.3) If You Own Outlook Express
3.4) Slack files
3.5) Keeping Microsoft’s Products
4) STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE THROUGH YOUR HIDDEN FILES (For the savvy.)
1. DEFINITIONS AND ACRONYMS
Well, the best definition I have been able to come up with is the following:
I) A “really hidden” file/folder is one that cannot be seen in Windows
Explorer after enabling it to “view all files,” and cannot be seen in MS-DOS
after receiving a proper directory listing from root.
a) There is at least one loophole to enabling Windows Explorer to see them.
b) There is at least one loophole to enabling MS-DOS to see them.
(Interesting to note that the “Find: Files or Folders” utility cannot even
search through one of these folders. It doesn’t even exist on the Browse
II) Distinguishes “really hidden” file/folders from just plain +hidden ones,
such as your “MSDOS.SYS” or “Sysbckup” folder.
III) Distinguishes from certain “other” intended hidden files, such as a file
with a name with high ascii characters (eg, “ei”).
DOS = Disk Operating System
MSIE = Microsoft Internet Explorer
TIF = Temporary Internet Files (folder)
HD = Hard Drive
OS = Operating System
2. WHY SHOULD I ERASE THESE FILES?
Just from one of these files I would be able to tell you which web sites you
previously visited, what types of things you search for in search engines, and
probably gather your ethnicity, religion, and sexual preference. Needless to
say, one can build quite a profile on you from these files. It has the
potential to expose and humiliate — putting your marriage, friendship, and
corporation at risk. Here’s one good example of the forensic capabilities…
“I’ve been reading your article as I have a problem with an employee of mine.
He has been using the works pc for the internet and using it to chat and look
at porn sites. He was then deleting the cookies and history in order to cover
his tracks. A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this site and
your article. I have found it to be incredibly useful,…”
–Concerned Boss, 8/24/01
3. HOW TO ERASE THE FILES ASAP
Step by step information on how to erase these files as soon as possible.
This section is recommended for the non-savvy. Further explanation can be
found in Section 4.0. Please note that following these next steps will erase
all your cache files and cookies files. If you use the offline content
feature with MSIE, it will remove this as well. It will not erase your
3.1. IF YOU OWN A COPY OF MICROSOFT INTERNET EXPLORER
1) Shut your computer down, and turn it back on.
2) While your computer is booting keep pressing the F8 key until you are
given an option screen.
3) Choose “Command Prompt Only” This will take you to real DOS mode. ME
users must use a bootdisk to get into real DOS mode.
4) When your computer is done booting, you will have a C:> followed by a
blinking cursor. Type in this hitting enter after each line (sans
C:WINDOWSSMARTDRV (Loads smartdrive to speed things up.)
DELTREE/Y TEMP (this line removes temporary files.)
DELTREE/Y COOKIES (This line removes cookies.)
DELTREE/Y TEMP (This removes temporary files.)
DELTREE/Y HISTORY (This line removes your browsing history.)
(If this last line doesn’t work then type this:)
(If this doesn’t work then type this:)
(If this still does not work, and you are sure you are using MSIE5.x, then
please e-mail me. Finding the location of these may be difficult and I’d
certainly like to know where else MSIE likes to hide its cache. I believe
older versions of MSIE keep them under “windowscontent”.)
This last one will take a ridiculous amount of time to process. The reason it
takes so incredibly long is because there is a ton of semi-useless cache
stored on your HD.
3.2. CLEARING YOUR REGISTRY
It was once believed that the registry is the central database of Windows that
stores and maintains the OS configuration information. Well, this is wrong.
Apparently it also maintains a bunch of other doo-dah that has absolutely
nothing to do with the configuration. I won’t get into the other stuff, but
for one, your Typed URLs are stored in the registry.
These “Typed URLs” come from MSIE’s autocomplete feature. It records all URLs
that you’ve typed in manually in order to save you some time filling out the
address field. By typing “ama” the autocomplete feature might bring up
“amazon.com” for you. Although, I find it annoying, some people prefer this
feature. One thing is for sure, however — it’s an obvious privacy risk. You
wouldn’t want a guest to type “ama” and have it autocomplete
“amaturemudwrestlers.com” now would you?
You can clear your Typed URLs out of your registry by doing going to Tools >
Internet Options > Content > AutoComplete > and finally Clear Forms under
MSIE. If you do not like the AutoComplete feature then uncheck the
appropriate boxes here.
3.3. IF YOU HAVE OUTLOOK OR OUTLOOK EXPRESS INSTALLED
Microsoft’s e-mail clients DO NOT delete your messages until a) you really
know how, and b) you go through the redundant process. And besides this,
there’s the glaring e-mail virus problems (in which virtually all other e-mail
client’s are immune to.) This, alone, should be enough to want to strangle
Slick Willy — as I like to call him.
1) Install another e-mail program like Eudora or Pegasus Mail. Make sure
everything is setup correctly. (www.eudora.com / www.pmail.com)
2) Backup any e-mail and address books that you wish to save by making use of
the export/import features.
3) Uninstall Outlook.
Warning: Simply uninstalling Outlook does not erase any of your e-mail
correspondence. The database files are still there on your hard drive. To
find them open up a DOS window and type this:
dir *.mbx /s/p
The files you are looking for are:
If these files come up they should be listed in either of these folders:
C:WindowsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook ExpressMail
C:Program Filesinternet mail and news%USER%mail
Now type either of the following (depending on the location of your .mbx
*Remember, this will erase all your e-mail correspondence so backup what you
want to keep. By now you should have already imported your mail into Eudora,
or Pegasus Mail.
(replace “%user%” with the proper name.)
If you have newer versions of Outlook or Outlook Express the databases are
*.dbx, or *.pst files. Five times as creepy as the *.mbx files. I recommend
that you take a look at them yourself.)
3.4. SLACK FILES
As you may already know, deleting files only deletes the references to them.
They are in fact still sitting there on your HD and can still be recovered by
a very motivated person.
u BCWipe is a nice program that will clear these files. (www.bcwipe.com).
u For you DOS buffs, there’s a freeware file wiper on simtel.net that I use.
u If you are using PGP then there is a “Freespace Wipe” option under PGPtools.
u The latest version of Norton Utilities has a nice filewiping utility.
u You might want to check out Evidence Eliminator’s 30 day trial. This is
probably the best program as far as your privacy goes.
3.5. KEEPING MICROSOFT’S PRODUCTS
If you insist on using Microsoft Internet Explorer then I strongly recommend
that you check out at least one of these programs:
u PurgeIE (www.aandrc.com/purgeie)
u Cache and Cookie Cleaner for IE (www.webroot.com/washie.htm)
u Anonymizer Window Washer (www.anonymizer.com/anonwash)
Other programs that claim to clear your history don’t seem to work, although
I haven’t run any tests in a while.
And if you insist on using Outlook or Outlook Express then you should get in
the habit of compacting your mailboxes.
You can do this by going to File > Folder > Compact All if you have Outlook
Tools > Options > Other tab > Auto Archive if you have Outlook. Make sure
to set things up here.
4. STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE THROUGH YOUR HIDDEN FILES
This next section is for those of you who are more interested in learning the
ins and outs of your computer. This section is intended for the savvy user.
The most important files to be paying attention to are your “index.dat” files.
These are database files that reference your history, cache and cookies. The
first thing you should know is that the index.dat files is that they don’t
exist in less you know they do. They second thing you should know about them
is that some will *not* get cleared after deleting your history and cache.
A log of your browsing history hidden away on your computer after you thought
you cleared it.
To view these files, follow these steps:
In MSIE 5.x, you can skip this first step by opening MSIE and going to Tools >
Internet Options > Settings > View Files. Now write down the names of
your alphanumeric folders on a peice of paper. If you can’t see any
alphanumeric folder names then start with step 1 here:
1) First, drop to a DOS box and type this at prompt (in all lower-case) to
bring up Windows Explorer under the correct directory…
You see all those alphanumeric names listed under “content.ie5?” (left-hand
side.) That’s Microsoft’s idea of making this project as hard as possible.
Actually, these are your alphanumeric folders that was created to keep your
cache. Write these names down on a peice of paper. (They should look
something like this: 6YQ2GSWF, QRM7KL3F, U7YHQKI4, 7YMZ516U, etc…) If you
click on any of the alphanumeric folders then nothing will be displayed. Not
because there aren’t any files here, but because Windows Explorer has lied to
you. If you want to view the contents of these alphanumeric folders you will
have to do so in DOS. (Actually, this is not always true. *Sometimes*
Windows Explorer will display the contents of the alphanumeric folders — but
mostly it won’t. I can’t explain this.)
2) Then you must restart in MS-DOS mode. (Start > Shutdown > Restart in
MS-DOS mode. ME users use a bootdisk.)
Note that you must restart to DOS because windows has locked down some of the
files and they can only be accessed in real DOS mode.
3) Type this in at prompt:
(replace the “%alphanumeric%” with the first name that you just wrote down.)
The cache files you are now looking at are directly responsible for the
mysterious erosion of HD space you may have been noticing. One thing
particularly interesting is the ability to view some your old e-mail if you
happen to have a hotmail account. (Oddly, I’ve only been able to retreive
hotmail e-mail, and not e-mail from my other web-based e-mail accounts. Send
me your experiences with this.) To see them for yourself you must first copy
them into another directory and then open them with your browser. Don’t ask
me why this works.
A note about these files: These are your cache files that help speed up
your internet browsing. It is quite normal to use this cache system, as every
major browser does. On the other hand. It isn’t normal for some cache files
to be left behined after you have instructed your browser to erase it.