In the Microsoft Windows operating system
is a file used by the Internet Explorer web browser
. The index.dat file functions as an active database, which runs as long as Windows is active. It functions as a repository of redundant information, such as web URLs
, search queries and recently opened files. Its role is similar to that of an index file in the field of databases, where a technique called "indexing" stores the contents of a database in a different order to help speed up query responses. Similarly, when the Autocomplete function is enabled in Internet Explorer, every web address visited is sorted in the index.dat file, allowing the Internet Explorer to attempt to find an appropriate match when a user types in an edit field. Separate index.dat files exist for the Internet Explorer history, cache, and cookies.
- Note: .dat is a commonly used filename extension for a number of different types of data files (a file that is not human-readable or that does not hold a document-based binary file). Thus one might well encounter a file named index.dat that is not a part of the Windows operating system or of Internet Explorer.
groups contend that the use of index.dat files in the Windows operating system is an invasion of privacy. One of their main complaints is that the index.dat files cannot be deleted or erased easily, because they are always open when Windows is running. Open or "locked" files cannot be deleted in any way when the process using them is running. Also, when this file grows larger than 120MB in size, degraded web performance will occur.
Another contention is that the operating system gives a false sense of security. Even after the user has cleared the internet cache folder, temporary internet files folder, and history folder, the index.dat files on Windows continue to store all the visited web addresses and cookies and some temporary files. Some people state that this will eventually cause the index.dat files to grow very large, while the average user remains unaware of what is going on.
Some third-party software allows users to view the contents of .dat files and delete them, but no such software is available from Microsoft.
- NOTE: Windows 95/98/ME users can easily delete this file by renaming the temporary internet folder using winfile.exe (in c:windows per default) and then restarting windows.
- DO NOT use Windows Explorer to do this; it will not work.
- By renaming the folder using winfile, windows will create a new temporary internet folder at startup and you can simply delete the renamed old temporary folder. (This works with the History and Cookies folders as well.)