I’m not sure how it happened, but over time my web browser has amassed all kinds of bad auto-fill data.
The great promise of auto-fill is that you can fill out online forms with one click, but too often I’ve had to go back and fix mistakes that auto-fill made. Phone numbers would come out wrong because the browser tried to add an unnecessary country code. Company information would be filled out for personal transactions. And I’d always have to choose between several formatting options for my mailing address.
Even worse, auto-fill would sometimes swap in my real email address after I’d already entered a masked email using Abine Blur. So, as a solution, I finally gave up and declared auto-fill bankruptcy. That is, I dug into my browser’s settings, cleared out all the browser’s form fill data, then started over from scratch.
If you’ve ever been vexed by auto-fill annoyances in Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, or other web browsers, I highly recommend doing the same.
Managing your browser auto-fill data
Here’s how to clear out auto-fill data for each major web browser:
Google Chrome: You can clear addresses one at a time under Settings > Auto-fill > Addresses and more. Or, follow the steps below to clear them in bulk:
Head to Settings > Privacy and Security > Clear Browsing Data > Advanced.
Select “All Time”
Uncheck every field except “Autofill form data,” then hit “Clear data.”
Re-enter fresh form info under Settings > Autofill.
Head to Settings > Privacy, search, and service
Select “Choose what to clear” under the “Clear browsing data” heading.
Choose “All time” in the drop-down menu.
Uncheck all options except “Autofill form data” and hit “Clear now.”
Re-enter your data under Settings > Profiles > Personal Info.
Head to Options > Privacy & Security > Forms and Autofill > Saved Addresses
Manually delete each option.
Hit “Add” to re-enter your data.
Safari: For the Mac users out there, Safari’s auto-fill is always associated with your personal information in the Contacts app. To modify this info, head to Safari > Preferences > Autofill, then hit “Edit” under “Using information from my contacts.”
In my case, I left the email field blank while re-entering new form info. That way, I can use Abine Blur to generate a forwarding email address while signing up for new services, keeping my actual email address private.
How to manage auto-filled credit card info
In addition to auto-filling your name, address, and other personal details, most web browsers can also keep credit card information on file for easier checkouts.
But depending on which browser you use, this information may be exposed to anyone else who has access to your computer. I suggest taking a few minutes to make sure this info is up to date and secure.
Google Chrome: Manage your payment methods under Settings > Autofill > Payment methods, but note that anyone else who uses your computer can view any credit card info that isn’t stored with Google Pay. Head to the Google Pay website to set up payments that are stored online instead of locally in the browser.
Microsoft Edge: Head to Settings > Profiles > Payment Info. You’ll have to enter your Windows PIN to view stored cards or make payments.
Firefox: Look under Preferences > Privacy & Security, then select “Saved Credit Cards” under “Forms and Autofill.” To keep this info safe from others who use your computer, check off the “Require Windows/MacOS authentication” box underneath.
Safari: Head to Safari > Preferences > Autofill and hit “Edit” next to “Credit Cards.” You’ll have to enter your Mac password to view or edit this data.
Browser vs. password manager for auto-fill
I began thinking about this whole issue after hearing from a reader who was struggling with the form fill features in Bitwarden, the password manager we recommended if you’re looking for a powerful free password manager. While he was happy with Bitwarden’s core password management features, he had trouble getting Bitwarden to properly fill out other information, such as addresses.
Personally, I’m much happier separating these two functions, with the password manager handling passwords and the browser dealing with other types of information. In most browsers, I can fill out personal details through a pop-up that appears directly above the form. By contrast, Bitwarden requires you to click on the extension button, then click on your identity card, which feels slower and clunkier.
Jared Newman / Foundry
That said, password managers can store other kinds of personal info that your browser can’t, such as social security numbers, drivers license numbers, and secondary phone numbers. If you need to fill out that information on a regular basis, grappling with your password manager’s form-filling features might be worthwhile. For credit card info, password managers can also fill out the verification code on the back of the card, whereas browsers avoid storing this information for security purposes.
Setting up these little shortcuts does require some up-front effort, which is probably why I ignored my own auto-fill issues for so long. But like every other tiny annoyance in life, I eventually got fed up enough to do something about it. Perhaps this story will inspire you to do so as well.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.