Windows Explored

Everyday Windows Desktop Support, Advanced Troubleshooting & Other OS Tidbits

IE’s index.dat

Posted by William Diaz on February 10, 2011


I find myself working remotely on various issues all the time. Often, it is quite late and there is no line of communication with the affected user (and sometimes the technician that escalated the issue). That was the case recently. I needed to obtain an unpublished secure URL to a login portal to recreate and correct a problem. This information should have been included in the incident but was not. In our IT environment, we enforce “Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed” through group policy; additionally, earlier troubleshooting had resulted in the IE History and Cookies being deleted. As a result, I would not be able to go through any of the files stored in the temporary Internet folder to find the URL I was looking for.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

There is an exception to this rule—an IE file named Index.dat. Within IE’s Index.dat is a history of sites that have been visited. But before we get into that, you need to know how to find it.

There are a series of hidden folders that reside in C:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5. You cannot see these, even if you turn on the option to Show hidden files and folders or uncheck Hide protected operating system files. And (kicking and screaming) it doesn’t matter if you are an admin.

To work around this, however, simply open Windows Explorer and navigate to your system via the UNC and path noted above.
IndexDat1
Within the Content.IE5 folder there is index.dat. Open this with Notepad or any text reader. Enjoy.

In my case, I knew which site hosted the portal but not the login portal itself so I did a search for a word that was in the URL of the hosting site. I was looking for “relativity”:
IndexDat2
Also worth mentioning:

  • If you want to delete this file it cannot be done as the logged on account. You must log (them) off and delete from another account or across the network.
  • When dealing with issues where you cannot load web pages or experience issues loading web pages, deleting index.dat may correct (or so it has been reported).
  • In Windows 7/Vista, this file resides in $\Users\User\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5.
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