Your Mac has a record of everything you’ve ever downloaded – find out how to clear it!

Did you know that your Mac keeps a record of everything you’ve ever download?

Even if you deleted a file years ago, it will still show up in this log, so by default your Mac has a complete list of everything you’ve ever downloaded, from the moment you first switched it on.

If your Mac is a communal laptop, or you’re planning to let a friend, colleague or family member borrow it, then you may want to clear this download log, to help preserve your privacy.

In this article, I’ll show you how to use the Terminal to check your Mac’s entire download history, and then how to permanently delete this history.

See the complete list of everything you’ve ever downloaded

You can check your Mac’s download history, using a simple Terminal command:

  • Navigate to ‘Applications > Utilities.’
  • Double-click to launch the Terminal application.
  • Copy/paste the following into the Terminal window:

sqlite3 ~/Library/Preferences/* ‘select LSQuarantineDataURLString from LSQuarantineEvent’

  • Press the ‘Enter’ key on your keyboard.

The Terminal will now display a complete record of your download history.

If you’re curious and want to know the date and time of your earliest recorded download, then run the following Terminal command:

sqlite3 ~/Library/Preferences/* ‘select LSQuarantineTimeStamp, LSQuarantineDataURLString from LSQuarantineEvent’ | php -r ‘date_default_timezone_set(“America/Montreal”); foreach (explode(“\n”, file_get_contents(“php://stdin”)) as $l) { preg_match(“/([0-9\\.]+)\\|(.*)\$/”, $l, $re); echo date(“Y-m-d H:i:s”,strtotime(“2000-01-01 19:00″)+$re[1]).”\t$re[2]\n”; }’

Clear your download history

If your download history is far more revealing than you’d like, then you can wipe the slate clean, using the following Terminal command:

sqlite3 ~/Library/Preferences/* ‘delete from LSQuarantineEvent’

Now, re-run the following command and your download history should come up empty:

sqlite3 ~/Library/Preferences/* ‘select LSQuarantineDataURLString from LSQuarantineEvent’

If you encounter a ‘permission denied’ error message while trying to clear your download history, then try the following command instead:

sudo sqlite3 ~/Library/Preferences/* ‘delete from LSQuarantineEvent’

Enter your admin password when prompted, and the Terminal should respond by clearing your download history.

Just be aware that this is a running log, so the next time you download a file, it’ll be added to the log. To keep your download history safe from prying eyes, try to get into the habit of running this command at regular intervals.

Still worried about your download history?

If you’re concerned about people spying on your download history, then there’s some additional steps you can take, in order to ensure your downloads remain private. This involves regularly clearing the contents of your Mac’s ‘Downloads’ folder, and deleting your user-visible download history. You can perform both of these tasks, using CleanMyMac 3.

To quickly clean out your ‘Downloads’ folder:

  • Select ‘Large & Old Files’ from CleanMyMac’s left-hand menu.
  • Select ‘Add Folder…’
  • Choose ‘Downloads.’
  • Scan the folder and select the files that you want to remove.
  • Click ‘Clean.’

To clear your user-visible downloads history:

  • Select ‘Privacy’ from CleanMyMac’s left-hand menu.
  • Choose your web browser.
  • Select the ‘Downloads History’ checkbox.
  • Click ‘Remove.’

Before you go

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About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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