How to Access & Search Safari History on Mac

Apr 10, 2018 - 7 Comments

You can access and search Safari browser history on Mac

Just about all modern web browsers default to maintaining a history log of your web browsing activity, and Safari for Mac is no different. This article will focus on how to access your Safari history on the Mac, and also how to search Safari browsing history for specific words, terms, and matches.

Accessing and searching through Safari browser history can be helpful for tracking down websites or articles that were previously visited on a particular topic but that you’ve since forgotten, retrieving previously visited websites, looking for a particular match, amongst many other valid uses for individual users, parents, public computers, information security, systems administrators, and much more.


Searching Safari web browsing history on a Mac is easy, here’s how it works:

How to Search Safari History on Mac

  1. Open the Safari web browser on the Mac if you have not done so already
  2. Pull down the “History” menu and choose “Show All History”
  3. Show All Browser History in Safari on Mac

  4. You’ll now be presented with all stored Safari History of web browsing activity, with each browsing history session separated by date
  5. Click into the search box seen in the upper right corner of the History screen
  6. Access Safari History Search on Mac

  7. Type in any word, term, or phrase to search the Safari History for, any matches will be shown on screen
  8. Search Safari History on Mac

In the example here, we searched for the term “Chromebook” and Safari returned all matches for that term.

Safari History Search will find matches as far back as possible, searching through all Safari history for the current Mac user. Anything matching will be returned as a search result.

Searching browser history can be helpful for many reasons, whether you’re trying to recall something you were looking at some time ago, or you want to find a website or article about a particular topic you know you have visited before. Of course searching through web browser history can also be useful for forensic purposes and data auditing too, for those involved in fields where that can be necessary or relevant.

Safari will store browser history for as long as you have been using Safari, unless it has been cleared specifically. There are multiple options for clearing Safari history, and if you want to completely clear all history in Safari on the Mac that is possible. You can also prevent browser history from being stored in the first place by choosing to use Private Browsing mode in Safari for Mac, which doesn’t store local browsing session data or cookies.

Do keep in mind if you (or the target Mac) run multiple different versions of Safari, like Safari alongside Safari Tech Preview, then you’d need to check history in both Safari browsers, and likewise you’d want to clear history in both of them too if you were wanting to clear our history for whatever reason.

The capability to find and look through past browsing data is not unique to the Mac, you can also search Safari browsing history on the iPhone and iPad too, and virtually every other modern web browser also has the same capability, except for most TOR browsers and privacy centric apps like Firefox Focus.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

7 Comments

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  1. dudu bro says:

    You can see things you wish you didn’t see by doing this on someone elses computer!

  2. George says:

    I have asked this before but I’m asking it again. It is possible to make a guide on how to go to root and _delete_ the option “new private window” from the File dropdown menu? How to edit the nib file etc…

    • Goron says:

      You can Enable Parental Controls on Mac and that can be used to disable Safari Private Mode.

      Or this below, which I found on the web and would not recommend to anyone:

      —-

      If logging isn’t practical or you want to be more proactive and prevent Private Browsing from being accessible in the first place, it is possible (though not a short process) to disable Private Browsing if you are willing to mess with Safari’s internal files.

      Note that macOS 10.12+ will not allow you to modify, overwrite, or delete Safari. You can make the following modifications to a copy of Safari and put that version in the Dock, but the original Safari will still need to exist in the Applications folder.

      Install the necessary files

      Install Xcode (available in the App Store)
      Download a zip file of Nib-Decompiler from GitHub (or clone the repository if you know how to do that)
      Open the NibDecompiler.xcodeproj Xcode project in Xcode
      Compile the project. This will produce a file named NibDecompiler.action. You can now close the project.
      Copy NibDecompiler.action into ~/Library/Automator*
      From your download, copy NibDecompiler.workflow into ~/Library/Services*
      Remove the “New Private Window” option from the menu bar

      Note that this involves editing the Safari internal files. You will need to redo these steps every time you update Safari.

      Go to Safari in the Finder and right-click “Show Package Contents”
      This will open the app as if it were a folder. Go to Contents, then Resources, then Base.lproj folder.
      Find MainMenu.nib. Copy it outside of the package somewhere (like the Desktop).
      Right-click on the file and choose “NibDecompiler”. The file will be made editable.
      Open the file in Xcode (should be double-clickable)
      In the window with the Safari menu, choose “Safari” to expand it.
      Click on the “New Private Window” menu item.
      Hit the delete key to see it disappear.
      Save the file.
      Back in the Base.lproj folder of the Safari app, make a copy MainMenu.nib just in case something goes wrong and you need to restore it.
      Copy your edited MainMenu.nib to Base.lproj, overwriting the existing one.
      Open Safari to make sure that it still opens (if it doesn’t, restore your original MainMenu.nib file).
      (Optional) If everything works, you may delete the backup MainMenu.nib if you so choose.
      By removing the “New Private Window” menu item from the menu bar, they will not be able to enter private browsing. Additionally, keyboard shortcuts are tied to menu items, so that’s disabled too.

      * ~ means your user home directory. Library is a hidden folder that isn’t visible when you navigate to the home directory. You can get to this folder in the Finder by going to the “Go” menu and choosing “Connect to Folder…”, then typing in ~/Library. You will then see the folders you need to copy files to.

      Instructions copied from this MacRumors forum thread (https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/how-to-disable-private-browsing-in-safari.175238/page-3#post-23387488)

  3. Nina says:

    I used to use history a lot when I created a search in Safari. After going to a website that lead to further exploration it would sometimes take clicking the back arrow several times to get back to the original search and it was quicker to go to history and just click on the original search. Since one of the recent updates I have been unable to find the original searches any more. I don’t know if I am just not seeing it or if it isn’t there. Anyone else have this problem?

  4. Juliana says:

    My safari on my MacBook Pro is getting buggy and a lot of things aren’t working, like I can’t click on an email address to start an email from the mail program, I click and nothing happens. Now I am trying to find a web page from a few days ago, so I try to go to ‘show all history’ but nothing happens. I can’t get my history to show in the browser!! It does have recent history, it’s just that I can’t access my whole history like I should be able to. What gives?

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