How to Check the Usage History on a Computer

There are a variety of ways to check computer usage history, depending on what you're trying to see. Most web browsers maintain a usage log, which can be a good tool for seeing what sites someone has been accessing on your computer. Most operating systems also keep other logs of system activities that can be useful to see what's been done on your computer. Programs also often highlight recently used files, showing what's been going on in recent days.

Image Credit: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages

View Computer Activity in Browsers

Every modern web browser maintains a history log that shows what websites have been accessed in the browser.

Generally, you can get to it simply by clicking on a "History" menu while using the browser. Scroll through the log to see any familiar or unfamiliar sites that have been visited using your device and account.

Keep in mind that you usually won't see logs from other users if you don't have access to their accounts, and note that all browsers allow people to delete their browsing histories, so you may not see the logs you're hoping for.

Automatic suggestions in browser forms and the search bar can also be helpful in discovering what fields people have been searching for and typing in a browser.

View a Computer Log

Most operating systems maintain a computer log of what's been done recently on the computer by users and programs running on the system, as well as errors and problems that have popped up.

On Windows, you can access this log using the Windows Event Viewer. Type "Event Viewer" into the search box on the taskbar or in the Start Menu and click the app's icon to launch it. The log is generally divided into categories, including an "Application" log monitoring what programs are doing, a "System" log monitoring events relating to Windows itself and a "Security" log monitoring things like login attempts.

On Linux, logs are traditionally stored as text files. Most of them are in the directory "/var/log." You may need administrator – or root – access or other special privileges to read these files.

On macOS, you can access logs through the system's built-in Console app. Go to the "Applications" menu, click "Utilities" and then click on "Console" to launch the app. Use the search box and the categories on the left to search for the data you're looking for.

Recently Used Files and Programs

Many operating systems and individual applications keep track of recently used programs and files. Keep an eye out when you open a program to see which files it suggests opening or that appear in the "File" menu's list of recently used files.

Check the recently used programs highlighted in the Windows Start Menu to see if anything seems especially noteworthy.

references