Q. How do I get rid of my browser's history?

A. Your Web browser is designed to make it easy to go to previously visited sites. As a result, your browsing leaves plenty of tracks.

If you want to eliminate those tracks, I would first erase your cookies file. Find the "cookie.txt" file on your computer's hard drive and erase its contents.

Then deal with the browser's history. For those who use Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0, go to the View pull-down menu (or the Tools menu in version 4.5) and go to Internet Options, then General, then Clear History. That will clear your history as well as your drop-down list of Web addresses under the address window. In Netscape Communicator 4.5, go to Edit, then Preferences, then Navigator, then Clear History. To accomplish this for Netscape Navigator, you must edit the Windows registry at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Netscape\Netscape Navigator\URL History. Be careful, and back up the registry ahead of time. If you make a mistake, you could experience serious problems with Windows.

Be aware that Netscape has a tendency to leave the last few site addresses on your location bar and they are not easily removed. To do it, first clear the location bar by going to Edit, Preferences, Navigator, then Clear Location Bar. Next, close Communicator and then, using NotePad, go to the directory c:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\(your name) and open the file "prefs.js". You will see references to the last few Web sites. Carefully edit these out. You are now clear.

By the way, I always recommend you back up important files such as prefs.js before editing them.

We are switching from Xywrite to Microsoft Word, and the automatic features are driving me batty.

This is the typical lament from a writer who has been chained to a keyboard for decades. But you can control the automated features in Word.

Years ago, publishers favored word-processing systems that allowed very precise control of fonts and other typographic elements. Xywrite incorporated many of these controls into its programs running on personal computers.

Microsoft, starting with its Word 97 product, built in a capability called "IntelliSense." It tries to help with your spelling, grammar and formatting. But that can be annoying. For example, you or I might benefit from spell correction, but an editor might find it unnecessary.

So to turn a function off, while in Word go to the pull-down menu and select Tools, then Options, then Spelling & Grammar. If the automated capitalization bugs you, go to Tools, then AutoCorrect. You can also insert specialized words you tend to misspell.

I just bought a new PC. The manual told me to back up everything on the computer. If I do that, I will use 750 floppies.

Here are my suggestions for owners of new computers. Put a diskette in the floppy drive, then on the desktop click on My Computer, select Drive A and select Format from the Edit pull-down menu. After the diskette is formatted, choose Copy System Files Only.

Next, from your computer box, find a diskette that has the driver for the CD-ROM. Put it with your new system-files diskette into an envelope marked "End of the World."

Then buy three things: a parallel-port Zip drive, an anti-virus program and an uninstaller program. Install the uninstaller first, then the anti-virus program.

After you've installed the Zip drive, copy these two files to a blank Zip disk: "system.dat" and "user.dat." These files contain the registry. When you start using an application program, let's say FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Office, make sure you are familiar with what the data files are named.

Now you're set. Just back up the files you've created each day to the Zip drive. Don't worry at all about backing up the operating system or the application program--you have those on CDs.

John Gilroy of Item Inc. is heard on WAMU-FM radio's "The Computer Guys" at 1 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. Send your questions to him in care of The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or via e-mail at jgilroy@iteminc.com.