The MSN site explains:
"Cookies are pieces of information that a Web site transfers
to your computer's hard disk for record-keeping purposes. Cookies can make the Web more
useful by storing information about your preferences on a particular site. The use of
cookies is an industry standard, and many major Web sites use them to provide useful
features for their customers. Cookies in and of themselves do not personally identify
users, although they do identify a user's computer. Most browsers are initially set up to
be able to take full advantage of a Web site if you do so."
Cookies have been suspect of all sorts of malicious
intent. They are not "executable" program files, they are simple and small .txt
(plain text) files stored in either or both your "Internet Temporary Files"
folder and your "Cookies" folder. Some cookies are associated with
"visitor" counters, some are associated with Java and cgi scripts designed to
detect your browser type and deliver the best version of the page for your browser.
Cookies can also store information about your preferences as noted above and
"remember" who you are when you return to a site. (Your page may open with a
message such as "Welcome Joyce!")
If your browser is configured to notify you that a cookie
is being sent you can decline or accept the cookie. Declining a cookie, usually, will not
have an adverse effect on your viewing pleasure, but in some cases it will. You may be
delivered a message on your browser that requests: "Please turn on your cookies to
accept this page."
I manually accept or decline all cookies because my
browsers are set to detect and notify of all cookies. To set your cookies check your
browser for an OPTIONS or PREFERENCES menu (generally found in the FILE or EDIT menu.)
Also, if you have a cookie on your hard drive that
continues to pre-select a page or options for the browser display, you may need to
manually delete those files. Check both your Internet Temporary Files folder and your
Cookies folder found on the hard drive (usually the C:\)under the "WINDOWS"
directory for Internet Explorer 3.x. Check newer versions of Internet Explorer and
Netscape "help" for cookie information. If you are not comfortable or familiar
with deleting files DON'T TOUCH! Leave those cookies alone and check with a knowledgeable
friend or computer technician if you ABSOLUTELY MUST "hurl your cookies" or you
may accidentally remove vital system/program files!
(Note: After you delete cookies it would be a good
idea to reboot [re-start] your computer.)