Browser Private browsing has been around in one form or another since 2005, but it took some time for every browser to get behind it. Now, no matter what browser you use, you can surf the internet without leaving behind a local trail of history, passwords, cookies, and other assorted bits of information.
Private browsing is useful for covering your tracks (or rather, preventing any tracks from being made in the first place), among other things. It isn’t infallible, however, and while it will prevent information from being stored on your computer, it won’t prevent your employer, Internet service provider, websites you visit, or the NSA for that matter, from collecting any information you transmit beyond your computer.
Every browser has its own name for private browsing, and while accessing it is accomplished in practically the same way, there can be subtle differences from product to product.
Google Chrome: Open Incognito Mode
Google Chrome remains the most used browser on the market, and calls its private browsing mode “Incognito Mode”.
On Windows and Mac
You can spawn an incognito window by clicking the special menu in the top-right corner of the browser window. On Windows, it will be three line and on macOS, it will be three dots. Then, choose “New Incognito Window”. (You can also access this option from the File menu on a Mac.)
Alternatively, press the keyboard shortcut Control+Shift+N on Windows or Command+Shift+N on a Mac.
Incognito mode is unmistakable: just look for the man-in-a-hat icon in the upper left-hand corner. On a Mac, this will be in the upper-right corner. (On some systems running the newest version of Chrome, the window will also be dark grey.)
Keep in mind that even while in Incognito mode, you will still be able to bookmark sites and download files. Your extensions, however, will not work unless you’ve marked them “Allowed in Incognito” on Chrome’s extensions settings page.
To exit incognito mode, simply close the window.
On Android and iOS
- If you use Chrome on a mobile device such as an Android phone, iPhone, or iPad, you can tap the three dots in the upper-right corner of the browser window and select “New incognito tab” from the dropdown menu.
- The browser will then tell you that you’ve gone incognito with all the requisite warnings as to what that means.
- To close out of incognito, tap the box with the number in it (indicating how many tabs you have open) and go back to a non-private tab, or simply close the incognito tab(s).
Mozilla Firefox: Open a Private Browsing Window
Firefox simply calls their mode “Private Browsing”. Like Chrome, it can be accessed from the menu in the upper-right corner. Just click “New Private Window”. (You can also access this option from the File menu on a Mac.)
- Alternatively, press the keyboard shortcut Control+Shift+N on Windows or Command+Shift+N on a Mac.
- Your private window will have a purple band across the top of the window and an icon in the upper-right corner.
- From this window, you can also turn tracking protection on or off. Tracking protection is intended to guard you against being tracked across multiple websites. The problem is, any website can
- simply ignore this request and track you anyway–so while tracking protection can’t hurt, it may not help either.