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Accessing Browser Cookies using JavaScript: A Comprehensive Guide


Browser cookies play a significant role in web development, enabling websites to store and retrieve information about users and their preferences. Cookies are small pieces of data that are sent from a website and stored on the user's browser. They serve various purposes, such as remembering login credentials, tracking user behavior, and personalizing website content.

JavaScript, being a versatile programming language, provides developers with the ability to access and manipulate browser cookies. With JavaScript, you can read, write, and update cookie values, allowing for dynamic interactions between the user and the website.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to access and manipulate browser cookies using JavaScript. We will cover the basics of cookies, demonstrate how to read and write cookie values, discuss best practices, and explore libraries that can simplify cookie management. By the end of this guide, you will have a solid understanding of how to effectively work with browser cookies in your web development projects.

Understanding Browser Cookies

Browser cookies are small pieces of data that are stored on the user's computer by websites they visit. These cookies are sent back and forth between the browser and the server, allowing websites to remember information about the user's preferences, login status, and other relevant data.

Cookies serve various purposes in web development. They can be used to personalize the user experience by remembering user preferences and settings. For example, a website might use cookies to remember a user's language preference or display a personalized greeting.

Cookies also play a crucial role in session management. Session cookies are temporary cookies that are created when a user visits a website and are deleted when the user closes their browser. These cookies help maintain the user's session state, allowing them to navigate through different pages on the website without having to reauthenticate or lose their progress.

Persistent cookies, on the other hand, are stored on the user's computer for a longer period of time. These cookies can be used to remember user login information, track user behavior for analytics purposes, or display targeted advertisements.

Secure cookies are a type of cookie that is encrypted and can only be transmitted over secure HTTPS connections. These cookies are commonly used to store sensitive information, such as authentication tokens or user identifiers, to ensure that they cannot be intercepted or tampered with.

Understanding the different types of cookies and their purposes is essential for effective cookie management in web development. This knowledge allows developers to leverage cookies to enhance user experiences and ensure the security of sensitive information.

Reading Browser Cookies

To access cookies in JavaScript, we can use the document.cookie property. This property returns a string that contains all the cookies associated with the current document.

The format of the cookie string is key-value pairs, separated by semicolons. Each key-value pair represents a single cookie, with the key and value separated by an equals sign. Here's an example of a cookie string:

cookie1=value1; cookie2=value2; cookie3=value3

To extract individual cookie values from the document.cookie string, we can use various JavaScript methods such as split() and indexOf(). Here's an example of how to parse and extract a specific cookie value:

function getCookieValue(cookieName) {
  // Get the cookie string
  var cookieString = document.cookie;
  // Split the cookie string into individual cookies
  var cookies = cookieString.split(';');
  // Loop through each cookie
  for (var i = 0; i < cookies.length; i++) {
    // Extract the cookie name and value
    var cookie = cookies[i].trim();
    var separatorIndex = cookie.indexOf('=');
    var name = cookie.substring(0, separatorIndex);
    var value = cookie.substring(separatorIndex + 1);
    // Check if the current cookie is the one we're looking for
    if (name === cookieName) {
      return value;
  // Return null if the cookie is not found
  return null;

// Usage example
var myCookieValue = getCookieValue('myCookie');

In the example above, the getCookieValue() function takes a cookie name as a parameter and returns its corresponding value. It splits the cookie string into individual cookies using the split() method, then loops through each cookie to extract the name and value using the indexOf() method and string manipulation functions (substring()). Finally, it checks if the current cookie name matches the one we're looking for and returns its value.

By using the document.cookie property and the appropriate JavaScript methods, we can easily read and extract values from browser cookies.

Writing Browser Cookies

To write or set cookies in the browser using JavaScript, we can utilize the document.cookie property. This property allows us to access and manipulate the cookies associated with the current document.

The syntax for creating a new cookie is as follows:

document.cookie = "cookieName=cookieValue; expires=expirationDate; path=pathValue; domain=domainValue; secure";

Let's break down the different parts of this syntax:

  • cookieName is the name or key of the cookie.
  • cookieValue is the value associated with the cookie.
  • expires specifies the expiration date of the cookie. It is optional, but if not provided, the cookie will be treated as a session cookie and will be deleted when the browser is closed.
  • path specifies the path on the server where the cookie is valid. It is optional and defaults to the current path.
  • domain specifies the domain for which the cookie is valid. It is optional and defaults to the current domain.
  • secure is an optional attribute that, when present, ensures that the cookie is only sent over HTTPS connections.

To set a cookie with an expiration date, you can use the expires attribute. The value of expires should be a UTC string representing the desired expiration date. For example, to set a cookie that expires in 7 days, you can use the following code:

var expirationDate = new Date();
expirationDate.setDate(expirationDate.getDate() + 7);

document.cookie = "cookieName=cookieValue; expires=" + expirationDate.toUTCString();

Additionally, you can set other attributes such as path, domain, and secure by including them in the cookie string. For example:

document.cookie = "cookieName=cookieValue; expires=expirationDate; path=/myapp;; secure";

By setting these attributes, you can control the scope and security of your cookies.

Remember that when setting cookies, the document.cookie property is not additive. It overwrites any existing cookies with the same name/key. If you want to update the value of an existing cookie, simply set it again with the same name/key.

It's important to note that manipulating cookies requires careful consideration to avoid conflicts or errors. Always follow best practices and ensure that you are handling cookies securely and responsibly.

Manipulating Browser Cookies

When working with browser cookies using JavaScript, it is often necessary to manipulate the values of existing cookies or remove them entirely. Here are some techniques for manipulating browser cookies effectively:

Updating cookie values using the same name/key

To update the value of a cookie, you can simply set a new value for the existing cookie with the same name/key. When setting the updated cookie, ensure that you include any necessary attributes, such as the expiration date or the domain, to maintain consistency with the original cookie.

For example, if you have a cookie named "username" with the value "john123" and you want to update it to "john456", you can use the following code:

document.cookie = "username=john456; expires=Fri, 31 Dec 2021 23:59:59 GMT; path=/";

This will update the value of the "username" cookie to "john456" and set an expiration date of December 31, 2021.

Removing cookies by setting expiry date in the past

To remove a cookie, you can set its expiration date to a date in the past. This effectively instructs the browser to delete the cookie. Similar to updating a cookie, make sure to include the necessary attributes when removing a cookie.

For example, to remove the "username" cookie, you can use the following code:

document.cookie = "username=; expires=Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 GMT; path=/";

This sets the expiration date of the "username" cookie to January 1, 1970, effectively removing it from the browser.

Best practices for manipulating cookies

When manipulating cookies, it is important to follow best practices to avoid conflicts or errors. Here are some recommendations:

  • Always specify the path and domain attributes when setting or updating cookies to ensure consistent behavior across different pages and subdomains.
  • Be cautious when updating or removing cookies that are set by third-party scripts or libraries as it may interfere with their functionality.
  • Consider using unique or specific names for your cookies to prevent conflicts with other cookies that may be present.
  • Avoid storing sensitive information in cookies unless absolutely necessary. If sensitive information is required, consider using encryption or other security measures to protect it.

By following these best practices, you can effectively manipulate browser cookies in your JavaScript code without causing conflicts or compromising security.

Handling Cookies with JavaScript Libraries

When it comes to handling browser cookies with JavaScript, there are several popular libraries and frameworks that can simplify the process and provide additional functionality. Some of the most commonly used libraries include jQuery, Angular, and React.


jQuery is a widely-used JavaScript library that provides a simple and intuitive API for manipulating HTML elements, making AJAX requests, and working with browser cookies. It includes a convenient $.cookie() method that allows you to easily read, write, and delete cookies.

Here's an example of how you can use jQuery to read a cookie:

var cookieValue = $.cookie('cookieName');

And here's an example of how to set a cookie with jQuery:

$.cookie('cookieName', 'cookieValue', { expires: 7 });


Angular is a popular JavaScript framework for building dynamic web applications. It includes a built-in module called ngCookies that provides services for working with cookies.

To use the ngCookies module, you first need to include it as a dependency in your Angular application. Once the module is included, you can inject the $cookies service into your controllers or services to access cookie-related functionality.

Here's an example of how you can use Angular to read a cookie:

var cookieValue = $cookies.get('cookieName');

And here's an example of how to set a cookie with Angular:

$cookies.put('cookieName', 'cookieValue', { expires: new Date(new Date().getTime() + 7 * 24 * 60 * 60 * 1000) });


React is a popular JavaScript library for building user interfaces. While React itself does not provide built-in cookie handling functionality, there are several third-party libraries available that can be used for this purpose, such as react-cookie and universal-cookie.

These libraries provide convenient wrappers around the native JavaScript document.cookie API, allowing you to easily read, write, and delete cookies within your React components.

Here's an example of how you can use react-cookie to read a cookie:

import { useCookies } from 'react-cookie';

const [cookies] = useCookies(['cookieName']);
var cookieValue = cookies.cookieName;

And here's an example of how to set a cookie with react-cookie:

import { useCookies } from 'react-cookie';

const [cookies, setCookie] = useCookies(['cookieName']);
setCookie('cookieName', 'cookieValue', { expires: new Date(new Date().getTime() + 7 * 24 * 60 * 60 * 1000) });

These JavaScript libraries and frameworks simplify cookie handling tasks by providing convenient methods and abstractions that abstract away the complexities of directly working with the document.cookie API. Depending on your project requirements and familiarity with these libraries, you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

Security Considerations

When working with browser cookies, it is important to be aware of potential security vulnerabilities that can arise. Cookies can be susceptible to attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF), which can lead to unauthorized access or manipulation of user data.

To mitigate these risks, it is recommended to implement certain security measures when setting cookies. One such measure is to set the "secure" attribute on cookies. This ensures that the cookie is only sent over a secure HTTPS connection, protecting it from being intercepted by attackers over an unsecured HTTP connection.

Another security measure is to set the "HTTP-only" attribute on cookies. This prevents JavaScript from accessing the cookie, reducing the risk of XSS attacks. By restricting access to the cookie to only HTTP requests, it prevents malicious scripts from accessing sensitive information stored in the cookie.

In addition to these measures, it is important to properly validate and sanitize any data that is being stored in cookies. This helps to prevent attacks such as SQL injection or code injection, where attackers can manipulate the cookie data to execute malicious code or gain unauthorized access.

Regularly reviewing and updating cookie expiration dates is also recommended. By setting appropriate expiration dates, you can ensure that cookies are not stored longer than necessary, reducing the risk of unauthorized access if a user's device is compromised.

By implementing these security measures and staying informed about emerging threats and best practices, you can help protect user data and maintain the integrity of your web application.


In conclusion, understanding and utilizing browser cookies is crucial in web development. Cookies play a significant role in maintaining user sessions, personalizing user experiences, and tracking user behavior. By accessing and manipulating browser cookies using JavaScript, developers can enhance the functionality and user experience of their websites.

Throughout this comprehensive guide, we have explored various aspects of accessing browser cookies using JavaScript. We have learned how to read cookie values using the document.cookie property and how to parse and extract individual cookie values. We have also seen how to write cookies using the document.cookie property, including setting expiration dates and other attributes.

Furthermore, we have discussed best practices for manipulating cookies without causing conflicts or errors. We have explored popular JavaScript libraries and frameworks that simplify cookie handling tasks. Additionally, we have addressed security considerations associated with browser cookies and discussed techniques to mitigate potential risks.

To further enhance your cookie management skills, I encourage you to explore additional resources and stay updated with the latest advancements in JavaScript and web development. Understanding browser cookies and how to work with them effectively will allow you to create more personalized and dynamic web experiences for your users.

Happy coding!