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Originally published Friday, November 1, 2013 at 6:50 PM

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Unclutter search history by knowing where to look

Patrick Marshall helps readers looking to manage search histories and deal with plug-in problems and application updates.


Special to The Seattle Times

Open house

Columnist Patrick Marshall has been answering reader questions since 1994. To mark the publication of his 1,000th column, The Seattle Times is holding an open house Wed., Nov. 13 from 2-3:30 p.m., 1000 Denny Way, Seattle. Please join us in honoring Patrick.

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Q: Please tell me if there is a way to clear my Google search history. I like to keep my computer — it has Windows 7 Home Premium — as clean as possible from unneeded stuff. Bing has an easy way to delete history and an option to not record searches, but I can’t find such features in Google.

— H.W. Petersen, Bellevue

A: I’m assuming that you’re talking about searches you conduct after you’ve logged into your Google account. If so, yes. Google allows you to delete individual searches or all searches, and you call also set it not to record your search history.

Just go to google.com/history and you’ll see a list of your searches. You can select the individual search you want to delete and then click on the Remove Items button.

If you want to delete all searches or turn off the logging of your searches altogether, click on the gear icon in the upper-right-hand part of the page and select Settings.

Bear in mind, though, that your browser may be keeping track of searches. All the major browsers offer means for turning this feature off.

Q: First of all, I am a 67-year-old grandma with zero technical knowledge or skills. Should you be gracious enough to answer this email, please know that you must start from absolute ground zero!

I am running Mozilla Firefox on my E-machine PC with Windows 7. The computer freezes and gives me the message “Plug-in container for Firefox has stopped working.” There also may or may not be an Adobe crash as well, depending on what I was clicking on.

Can you give me any clue as to what’s going on? Is my PC too old?

— Marilyn Walker

A: Sounds to me like one of the plug-ins that you have added to Firefox — possibly without even knowing it — is misbehaving. Typical plug-ins, by the way, are things like Adobe Flash, used to view Flash videos within your browser.

So what to do is this:

Call up your Firefox menu and click on the “Add-ons” option. In the window that appears, select Plug-ins in the menu on the left side of the screen. When you do so, you’ll see a list of all of the installed plug-ins. After each item, on the far right, there will be a button that you can toggle between “Always Activate” and “Never Activate.”

But first — there’s an option at the top of the screen to check all plug-ins for updated versions. Before doing anything else, click on that option. You’ll then see a list with plug-ins identified as up-to-date, out-of-date or unknown. Update the out-of-date plug-ins and see if that resolves the problem.

If it doesn’t, return to the Plug-in screen and toggle them all to “Never Activate.” That should remove your problem.

If you do find that you want some of those plug-ins to work, add them back one at a time, checking to see if you get that message. When you do, you’ll know which plug-in is the culprit.

Q: A questioner had a problem with Internet Explorer stopping while opening a page (Personal Technology, Oct. 26), as I also experienced recently. After the latest Microsoft security update a week ago, things got even worse. Outlook Web App crashed when I tried to mouse into a newly created message window. Chrome reported that Silverlight crashed, so I removed Silverlight and installed the version Microsoft is offering currently. All problems with IE and OWA are gone.

— Dan Pope

A: Thanks for passing this along. And you’re doing the right thing.

Whenever there’s a problem, it’s always a good idea to make sure that all applications that could even possibly be related are up to date. Often when a new version of a given application is released — whether it’s the operating system or, say, a Web browser — other applications that work with it may need to also be updated.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/

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