Zombie cookies – and how to delete them

by

Cookies in general are not necessarily a bad thing (just ask Cookie Monster!). Many times, when you visit a website, the site will place a cookie – a small bit of data – on your computer so that it remembers you when you come back. That’s why every time I go back to Amazon.com, the screen says, “Welcome back, Scott!”. I don’t have to type in all my information every time I make a purchase there, which makes it convenient.

zombie cookies

The problem arises when you decide to delete a cookie, and later you discover that it has come back from the “dead” and is still tracking you.  That’s why some are called “Zombie Cookies” – they just won’t die.  At least not through the normal means of killing them.  At the very least, that is annoying.  At worst, it could be an illegal invasion of privacy (and a class action lawsuit in California is in the process of testing that right now).

In the meantime, we need to get rid of them.  You almost certainly have some on your computer already and don’t even know it – because your web browser only handles “normal” cookies.  Zombie cookies (that is the actual technical name, by the way) are stored in the Adobe Flash Player – an area that cannot be accessed by your browser.

You could go to the Adobe website and after some trial and error access their Global Privacy Settings and find the “bad” cookies and delete them.  However, I have a couple of methods that are much easier than that (I’ll bet something easier is what you were hoping for!).

Method #1 – CCleaner

CCleaner (free) is a program that I have used and recommended for a long time.  You can get it at www.ccleaner.com.  They won’t charge you to download it, but it is nice to make a donation if you find it helpful. For this purpose, it is very helpful.

When you run CCleaner, you will see 4 buttons on the left side (Cleaner, Registry, Tools and Options):

CCleaner

Several of the Windows and Application components will already be checked by default.  Go down the list (in both tabs) and UNcheck all of them except two:  Leave “cookies” checked under “Internet Explorer” on the Windows tab, and leave “cookies” checked under “Firefox” in the “Applications” tab (you might not see the Firefox section if you don’t have it installed).

Now, click on the “Options” button on the left, then click on “Cookies”:

cookies

You will see a screen separated into left and right halves.  On the left side are all of the cookies on your computer (regular and Zombie).  You can go down that list and choose the ones you want to keep.  Maybe you want to keep the cookie that remembers your Gmail information, or your online bank account, etc.  For those that you want to keep, just click the arrow to move them over to the right side of the screen.

Now go back to the “Cleaner” section (the top button of the 4) and click Analyze at the bottom of the screen.  It will quickly give you a report of how many cookies will be deleted.  Click “Run Cleaner” and they will be gone.  You can do this as often as you wish.

Method #2 – BetterPrivacy add-on for Firefox

If you use Firefox, there is a free add-on called BetterPrivacy that can be found here.

BetterPrivacy

When you go there with Firefox, click on the “Add to Firefox” button and it will be installed.  It will track the Zombie Cookies for you and makes them much easier to delete.  And provides another reason to use Firefox.

What do you think about Zombie cookies?  Let your voice be heard in the comments below.

Share this post

2 comments Add your comment »

Get updates when new comments are added. Subscribe to the comments RSS Feed

Ken Leatherman
April 16th, 2011

Thanks for putting this out for us. Although I started using a computer very late in life (think senior) I have a blast with it. However, I have a real tendency to forget about things that make my computer safe and what will make it run better.

Your signature caught my attention about a free guide on computer security and the first thing I see is “Zombie Cookies” and of course it reminded me I hadn’t cleaned up the cookies in a long time. Then low and behold as I read the article I see you talking about CCleaner and guess who forgot he had it.

Thanks for the tips for using it to quickly help me “Kill The Zombies”. And thanks for the free guide and the opportunity to sign up for your list.

Ken

BayAreaTech
May 3rd, 2011

CCleaner is a wonderful application that many computer techs use on a daily basis. With privacy being a big concern for many (and little concern for advertisers), average computer users must take their privacy and online security in their own hands. CCleaner is one of those must-have applications that should be installed (and used) on every computer….regularly.

Great blog BTW, and good advice.