What Is A Cookie?

A cookie is usually a piece of information sent by a web server to a web browser.

The browser is then expected to save the cookie onto the hard drive of the user's computer and send it back to the server when the site is next visited using the same computer.

Depending on the type of cookie being sent, and the browser's settings, a browser can automatically accept or refuse the cookie or ask the user before taking either action.

If the cookie is accepted, it may be saved for a variable length of time.

Cookies might contain information such as:

  • login information
  • registration information
  • online shopping cart information
  • user preferences

When you return to a web site and request to view a page, the server will also receive the cookie that has been stored on your computer via your browser. Web servers use the information stored in cookies to customise web pages according to the user's preferences or to keep a log of a particular user's requests. Using this methodology, your return visits to some sites can be personalised and you will be spared the tedious job of typing in the same information time after time.

Cookies are usually set to expire after a predetermined amount of time. However, the more you surf around the web, the greater the number of cookies you are likely to acquire. As they are saved onto your hard drive, the amount of combined space that hundreds of cookies consume can become significant if you have a limited amount of space on your computer system. On more modern computers, with large amounts of storage space, the amount of space consumed by even hundreds of cookies is relatively insignificant.

Cookies do not read your hard drive or send your life story to the Government, but they can be used to gather more information about a user than would be possible without them.

How to Enable Cookies

To enable cookies, follow the instructions below for the browser version you are using.

Mozilla Firefox (1.0 final release and earlier)

  • Go to the "Tools" menu.
  • Select "Options".
  • Select the "Privacy" icon in the left panel.
  • Check the box corresponding to "Allow sites to set cookies".
  • Click "OK" to save changes.

Netscape 7.1/Mozilla 5.0

  • Select "Preferences" from the Edit menu.
  • Click on the arrow next to "Privacy & Security" in the scrolling window to expand.
  • Under "Privacy & Security", select "Cookies."
  • Select "Enable all cookies".
  • Click "OK".

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0+

  • Select "Internet Options" from the Tools menu.
  • Click on the "Privacy" tab.
  • Click the "Default" button (or manually slide the bar down to "Medium") under "Settings".
  • Click "OK".

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.x

  • Select "Internet Options" from the Tools menu.
  • Click on the "Security" tab.
  • Click the "Custom Level" button.
  • Scroll down to the "Cookies" section.
  • To enable:
    • Set "Allow cookies that are stored on your computer" to "Enable".
    • Set "Allow per-session cookies" to "Enable".
  • Click "OK".

Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.x

  • Select "Internet Options" from the View menu.
  • Click on the "Advanced" tab.
  • Scroll down to find "Cookies" within the "Security" section.
  • To enable:
    • Select "Always accept cookies".
  • Click "OK".

Netscape Communicator 4.x

  • Select "Preferences" from the Edit menu.
  • Find the "Cookies" section in the "Advanced" category.
  • To enable:
  • Select "Accept all cookies" (or "Enable all cookies").
  • Click "OK".
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