The index.dat file is used by Microsoft Internet Explorer 4, 5 and 6 to record information about Internet sites that have been visited and details of cookies being stored on your computer.
Whenever you visit a website on the Internet; the address, time of visit, images, scripts, tracking cookies and web page contents are saved to your hard drive. The primary reason Internet Explorer does this is to allow quicker access to the site if you revisit again because the contents can be opened from your computer disk drive rather than downloaded over the Internet a second time. Information about these cache files, cookies and where Internet Explorer can find them on your hard drive is stored in the hidden index.dat file.
Internet Explorer gives you the ability to remove and clear some of the information that is has saved to your computer after visiting sites. But unfortunately it does not clean all of it, including the index.dat file. Therefore it is possible for someone with the right tools to see which sites have been visited and which files have been downloaded simply by viewing the contents of the index.dat file stored on your computer.
With the increasing threat of spyware and malicious web-sites redirecting you to illegal or pornographic material this lack-of privacy means that these sites will be stored and viewable in the index.dat even if they were visited unintentionally.
Unfortunately index.dat is not easily deleted, even once the hidden file is found you can not simple drop it on the Recycle Bin to remove it. Index.dat is what is known as a “locked file” which means it is open all the time and can not be deleted using conventional methods.
It is possible (but complicated) to delete the index.dat by rebooting your computer and using a MS-DOS boot disk, normally you can then access the drive and manually locate the file which is hidden is several locations. This is method is complicated and error-prone as Internet Explorer usually stores more than one copy of index.dat and finding them all when they are located in hidden directories can be difficult. There is one other major problem with this method, due to the ability to undelete the index.dat file (see the sidebar for information on a solution).
The safe and easy solution is to use an automated software program to delete the index.dat along with other nasty tracking files. After a number of our visitors reported privacy breaches and concern with the index.dat file we decided to create our own utility design specifically for protecting your computer privacy. The result; Privacy Guardian.
Privacy Guardian is a safe and easy-to-use privacy protection tool that securely deletes online Internet tracks and program history information that is stored in your browser and other hidden files on your computer.
Not only does Privacy Guardian delete the hidden index.dat file, but it will permanently delete other tracks, privacy related files and registry entries. Did you know that most files deleted on your hard drive can be undeleted? Letters, spreadsheets, email, Internet history can all be recovered but using specialized tools.
Privacy Guardian protects you from this as well, by using a powerful disk bleaching method based on the Department of Defense standard (DoD 5220.22-M) all deleted files on your hard drive will be permanently destroyed. Which means undelete and software recovery can not be used to bring them back.
Privacy Guardian also restores valuable hard drive space and speeds up system performance by cleaning out old and unused temporary records. It allows you to simply and securely erase privacy sensitive files from Windows, Microsoft Office, Netscape, Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer.
For more information visit the Privacy Guardian home page.