Some reports and documents that you can view on your computer via the Internet contain potentially sensitive information which should not be saved. Such files are downloaded by your web browser prior to viewing, stored in temporary locations, and frequently are not deleted by the browser in a timely manner.
The need to handle sensitive documents with care is particularly true of Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word/Excel files that come from TAMU System applications.
Your Browser and Temporary Files
Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 3.5 are two common web browsers. Both download PDF files into temporary storage prior to displaying them. Documents can remain in temporary storage for weeks, months, or even years if they are not manually deleted.
Ideally web browsers would ensure that temporary files are always deleted. However, this is not the case. Therefore, it is up to computer users to ensure that sensitive documents are deleted from temporary storage.
Where are my Temporary Files Stored?
Typically IE7 will store its temporary documents in a folder like “C:\Documents and Settings\your_login\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\EVBVZMPD”, whereas Firefox will use a general-purpose folder like “C:\Documents and Settings\your_login\Local Settings\Temp” for the same purpose.
One easy way to find out where a temporary PDF file is stored is to issue a File, Save As command in Acrobat. The box that pops up asking you for a filename will show you the name of the folder in which the document is currently saved.
In addition, Firefox users can call up the Downloads window by clicking Tools, Downloads. To determine where a particular file resides, right-click it and choose Open Containing Folder.
However you arrive there, browsing temporary storage folders will reveal interesting results on most computers, including files that haven’t been accessed in months or years. The contents of such folders can almost always be deleted without harming the performance of your computer.
NOTE: If you have questions, contact your local IT administrators for assistance.
All computer users should, simply as a matter of course, monitor their browsers’ temporary storage folders and remove their contents when files are no longer useful.
More sensitive documents should be removed frequently to avoid potential data security problems. This is particularly true for users of laptop and mobile computers.