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Windows deletes partial files from failed downloads, but it may not be entirely erased from your system. If that is a concern, you will need to take an extra step.

I'm on Windows XP: is there a place where failed or canceled internet downloads from Internet Explorer, or information about them, is stored on my PC?

In this excerpt from Answercast #6, I show how to access temporary files in your browser and clear them from history. Then, we take a step deeper and examine how to delete them permanently from your system.

Are deleted files gone?

Yes, and no, and it depends on what it is you're attempting to do, or to protect yourself from.

When a download fails, Internet Explorer deletes the partial files that it was downloading. Now, there may still be a trace of that in its download history; so if you were to, say hit Ctrl-J, or take a look at View Downloads, the file may still be listed - and potentially even be listed as incomplete or canceled. So that may still be there.

You should be able to get rid of that by using Internet Explorer's Clear History option. That should clear out everything, not just your browsing history, but your download history as well.

Secure Delete

Now, on the other hand, if you're worried about somebody still being able to find that information, you need to look at a couple of other things.

Deleted files aren't necessarily deleted. We've had this discussion a few times on the site. The fact that Internet Explorer deleted the partial download doesn't necessarily mean that all traces of that partial download have been removed from your system.

You definitely want to go in and do a secure delete or a secure wipe of the free space on the drive to make sure that any remnants of that file, of that partial download, have been removed or at least obscured.

Same thing with the Download History. If you just clear the Download History, I believe that might be, again, a simple file delete. You're probably going to want to go in and use a secure delete utility to wipe the free space to make sure all traces of information are also removed from your hard drive.

Next - How do I stop false positives in spam and malware reports?

Article C5167 - April 4, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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