How to download an archive that shows what Google knows about you

download google search
Credit: Preston Gralla

Want to find out exactly what Google knows about you --- or at least, the most important thing, your entire search history? It's easy to download the whole thing. Here's how to do it.

You've been able to see that search history online for quite a while. But you haven't been able to get a copy on your own PC before.

To do it, head over to your Web & App Activity page. Now click the options icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and select Download. You'll get a warning that what you're going to download contains sensitive information. Click "Create Archive."

You'll then get message in your inbox that the archive is available, along with a link to it, titled "View in Drive." Click the link. You'll be sent to your Google Drive. You can then view it in Google Drive. But if you prefer, you can download it to your PC as a Zip file by clicking the download icon at the top of the screen. You can also open the zip file from Google Drive by clicking the Open icon and selecting a way you want to unzip it.

You'll end up with a listing of your search history, by quarter, in what are called JSON files. If you have problems opening any, you can use any text editor, including Windows Notepad or Wordpad, or Apple TextEdit.

If what you see scares you, and you would prefer that your history be deleted, or if you want to turn your search history off, it's simple to do. Head to this Google support page and just follow the links to what you want to do.

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