What Is the Function of Computer Cookies?

Cookies store browsing data so frequently visited websites load faster.
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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Computer cookies, also called HTTP cookies, to differentiate them from the food, are a type of file placed on a computer by an Internet website. These files record certain information about the computer and its users in relation to a specific website. This allows websites to save information such as a user's preferences, what type of browser is in use, browsing tendencies, and IP address. The web server can then customize the user's experience by tailoring advertisements and other content.

The information contained in computer cookies is generally not sensitive. It consists of information freely given by the user and information recorded as part of the process of Internet navigation. Cookies often save basic information such as email addresses and the user's name. This usually occurs when a cookie is created which generally happens when a website is first visited. This information allows the website to "remember" a particular user when the the user visits again at a later time.

The use of these files can speed up the process of Internet navigation by storing information on a user's computer rather than on a web server. Without cookies all of this information for every visitor to a website would have to be stored on the web server. Computer cookies can also store log-in data for a particular website so that a user can avoid having to log in every time he visits.


Temporary computer cookies are used mainly to help navigate a particular site. These types of cookies are called session cookies and they only exist for as long as a user is connected to that site. They remember which pages have been visited and what choices may have been selected on those pages. They are deleted by the computer when the connection is closed. Permanent cookies, also called persistent cookies, remain on the computer even after a user leaves a website.

While most computer cookies are intended to enhance the experience of Internet navigation and use, some cookies may be undesirable or harmful. They can store personal information entered while on certain websites which can be then used to send spam or other advertisements while visiting other websites. For this reason, it can be useful to periodically delete all cookies and to only enter personal information when the security and identity of a particular website are certain.


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