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  • Date :
  • 1/9/2007

Microsoft and Invasion of Privacy

Windows and some

In the Microsoft Windows operating system, index.dat is a file used by the Internet Explorer web browser. The index.dat file functions as an active database, which runs as long as Windows is active. It functions as a repository of redundant information, such as web URLs, search queries, and recently opened files. Its role is similar to that of an index file in the field of databases, where a technique called "indexing" stores the contents of a database in a different order to help speed up query responses. Similarly, when the Auto-complete function is enabled in Internet Explorer, every web address visited is sorted in the index.dat file, allowing the Internet Explorer to attempt to find an appropriate match when a user types in an edit field. Separate index.dat files exist for the Internet Explorer history, cache, and cookies.

Note:.dat is a commonly used filename extension for a number of different types of data files (a file that is not human-readable or that does not hold a document-based binary file). Thus one might well encounter a file named index.dat that is not a part of the Windows operating system or of Internet Explorer.


Internet privacy groups contend that the use ofindex.dat files in the Windows operating system is an invasion of privacy. One of their main complaints is that theindex.dat files cannot be deleted or erased easily, because they are always open when Windows (usually the explorer.exe process) is running. Open or "locked" files cannot be deleted in any way when the process using them is running. Also, when this file grows larger than80MB in size degraded web performance will occur.

Another contention is that the operating system givesafalse sense of security. Even after the user has cleared the internet cache folder, temporary internet files folder, and history folder, the index.dat files on Windows continue to store all visited web addresses and cookies and some temporary files. Some people state that this will eventually cause the index.dat files to grow very large, while the average user remains unaware of what is going on.

However, Microsoft representatives have pointed out that the index.dat files can optionally be deleted byadvanced users, when Windows is rebooted in safe mode.Because Windows does not lock the file in safe mode, the standard "del" command on the index.dat file or the "deltree" command on the directory containing it will delete the file.

Where Does INDEX.DAT live?

INDEX.DAT can be pretty hard to find as its both a system file and hidden. Even when you ask these files to be made visible some index.dat files are still hidden away from view in Windows Explorer and DOS - unless you know the exact path. On Windows 2000 and Windows XP you can find it in these places:

/Documents and Settings/<Username>/Cookies/index.dat

/Documents and Settings/<Username>/Local Settings/History/History.IE5/index.dat

/Documents and Settings/<Username>/Local Settings/History/


/Documents and Settings/<Username>/Local Settings/History/


/Documents and Settings/<Username>/Local

Internet Files/Content.IE5/index.dat

On Windows 9x typical places will be



/WINDOWS/Temporary Internet Files/index.dat



/WINDOWS/Temporary Internet Files/index.dat

If you have a network, you will also have;

[Drive]/Documents and Settings/Network/Cookies/index.dat

[Drive]/Documents and Settings/Network/Local Settings/History/History.IE5/index.dat

[Drive]/Documents and Settings/Network/Local Settings/Temporary Internet Files/Content.IE5/index.dat

At The End

Unfortunately however, attempts to complain about, or confirm this, will normally go completely ignored, both by Microsoft.



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