Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Sites download information onto your hard drive to create a smooth user experience. There is a simple action that will solve the whole problem.

My question is this: what's the deal with these miserable outfits asking permission to store some crap on my hard drive? They've come up within the last 6 months or so and some like a specific a domain name are darn near impossible to cancel. Click on "deny" half a dozen times and they may let you watch part of a clip but then they reappear to screw up your viewing. is there any way to stop this intrusion?

In this excerpt from Answercast #100 I look at why some websites need to store a small bit of information on your hard drive... and what you can do about it.

Sites downloading information

May I?
I Can Haz Permission?

Well, yes... Click "accept."

So here's the deal. A lot of the technology that we are using these days actually does require that they store a little bit of information on your hard drive. Usually it's information such as:

  • Have you viewed this video before?

  • Where were you in this video the last time you used it?

  • Do you have the right software to view this video?

  • Can you download that software if you don't have the right software?

  • And so forth.

In other words, there's a lot of very, valid information that these sites need to store on your machine in order for their things to work properly - or for your ongoing experience with them to operate as smoothly as possible.

By ongoing experience, I mean the next video or the next time you come back to that site, and so forth.

Permission to download

Now a lot of sites don't bother to ask your permission. Whatever site this is, and whatever specific software it is that's asking your permission, is actually being fairly polite.

Like I said, a lot of sites just store things without asking. You never notice it; it's not a problem but this site is being polite; it's asking.

Security settings

Now it's also possible that your security software is asking on its behalf. In other words the security software is noticing that this site needs to store a little bit of information on your hard drive, and it's asking you. If this is a site you regularly visit, and a site that has (in your case apparently) videos that you want to see, there's nothing at all wrong with simply saying "yes". The amount they're trying to store is typically tiny.

And it really only has to do with you and your experience with that site. It's not like they're trying to store gigabytes of data on your hard drive for some reason. No. It's just a little bit of information that's used to make your experience with the video better.

Your choices

So my recommendation: there are two ways to deal with this problem:

  1. Don't visit sites that do that - if you really object to even this little bit of information being stored;

  2. Or click "Accept."

Like I said at the beginning... let the software do what it's trying to do and in general you'll have a much better experience.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6369 - March 28, 2013 « »

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.

Not what you needed?

Billy Bob
March 30, 2013 4:01 PM

Ok, what's with the cat picture? I know ask-leo is the internet, but sheesh!

April 2, 2013 8:36 AM

Yeah, I didn't get that "cat business" either...???

Just me experimenting. It's a kitten asking for permission to illustrate (poorly it appears) the asking for permission mentioned in the article. Besides, the internet doesn't have enough cats, right. Smile
Ken's blog is

April 2, 2013 8:39 AM

There are cat pix and then there are cat pix; that is one amazing little creature - what is it, Leo?

April 2, 2013 9:51 AM

The cat picture fits the space and it's cute. I appreciate the effort to "enhance our experience".

Tom R.
April 2, 2013 9:58 AM

Hover your mouse pointer over the kitten and the words "May I?" appear. The kitty's asking permission, thus illustrating Leo's article.

April 2, 2013 10:21 AM

anyone know the kitten's breed?

April 2, 2013 5:47 PM

The cat looks like a Russian Blue longhair but I could be wrong.
It is possible to erase what a site stores on you computer, isn't it? Will CCleaner do this?

CCleaner will certainly clean a lot of different applications stored data. Will it clean them all? Hard to say. I know CCleaner adds new applications from time to time, but I also know new applications and new storage mechanisms come along as well.

April 3, 2013 8:44 AM

Wouldn't clearing "cookies" take care of that? I keep shortcuts to "My recent documents" and "prefetch" on my desktop so that I can clean them easier.

Apps often use use techniques other then cookies for storing data (so-called "Flash cookies" would be one example, there are others). I'm not sure how "My recent documents" and "prefetch" would help in any way.

Mark J
April 3, 2013 11:15 AM

My Recent Documents and Prefetch don't have the ability to clear cookies. Cookie can be cleared though their respective browsers or by using a utility like CCleaner. On the other hand, it's not harmful to leave the cookies on your machine.

And BTW, as for the breed of cat, it's Lolcat.

And Leo, the caption should read "I Can haz permission to store something? "

Much better caption. Done. Smile

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