In order to serve you targeted ads, online companies, advertisers, and developers like to track your online activities and actions. They do this by looking at the cookies and other information generated during your browsing session. Many people object to this tactic because it violates their online privacy.
The major browsers all have a private browsing option that will erase cookies and other tracking data once the browser window is closed to help you surf more privately. This makes it impossible for companies to track your browsing history.
Incognito mode isn’t perfect because the websites you visit can still track you, and your ISP can keep track of everything you do online. However, surfing the web in this mode is still one of the most straightforward ways to remain anonymous online, especially because it’s simple to use and doesn’t necessitate the use of another program or service, such as a VPN.
Here’s how to use your favorite browser’s private browsing window.
Chrome Incognito Mode
In Chrome, click the three-dot icon in the upper right and select New incognito window, or press Ctrl+Shift+N to open a page in incognito mode. A new window appears with a dark theme and the message “You’ve gone incognito,” which explains the benefits and drawbacks of incognito mode. Third-party cookies (which are used to track you across multiple websites) are disabled by default.
You can now open the website you want to visit privately and use it as you normally would. Any new tabs you open to access additional websites will remain incognito. The address field and title bar continue to have a dark theme, and an incognito icon appears in the upper right corner, indicating that you’re in incognito mode.
If you’re having trouble using a website in incognito mode, try enabling third-party cookies to see if the issue goes away.
In incognito mode, one or more of your extensions might be unavailable. Because some extensions can track your browsing history, they’re turned off by default. If you need to use a specific extension while in incognito mode, open More Tools > Extensions by clicking the three-dot icon. Turn on the Allow in incognito switch after clicking the Details button for the extension.
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When you’re finished with incognito mode, click the incognito button in the upper right corner and choose Close Incognito, or simply close your browser.
Tap the three-dot icon in the top right (Android) or lower right (iOS) corner of Chrome and select New Incognito Tab. The “You’ve gone incognito” page, which has a dark theme, explains how incognito mode works. After that, you can browse the web normally; an incognito icon will remain in the top toolbar throughout your session.
To open new incognito tabs on an iPhone or iPad, tap the plus (+) icon. However, Android users will need to open the three-dot menu and select New incognito tab. To see all of your incognito tabs, go to the Chrome menu and tap the tab icon. iPhone users can either close them one by one or close them all at once. In the pull-down settings menu on Android devices, there is an incognito mode notification. To close all incognito windows, click it.
Firefox Private Window
To open a page privately in Firefox, select New Private Window from the hamburger menu in the top-right corner. A page with a dark theme and the message “You are in a private window” appears. Click the Common Myths About Private Browsing link to learn more about private browsing in Firefox.
In private mode, open the web page you want to use. The next page you open in a new tab will also be in private mode. The phrase (Private Browsing) appears in the page title as a visual clue, and a Private Browsing icon appears in the upper right.
In Firefox’s Private Browsing Mode, extensions are disabled by default. In this mode, click the hamburger icon and go to Add-ons and Themes > Extensions to use a disabled extension. Select Manage from the ellipsis icon for the extension you want to enable. Next to Run in Private Windows, select Allow.
When you’re still in Private Browsing Mode, open the hamburger menu and select New Window or press Ctrl+N to open a regular browsing window. When you’re finished with your private browsing session, simply close the browser window.
To open Private Browsing Mode in mobile Firefox, tap the tab icon, then tap the mask icon. To search in private, tap the plus (+) icon or the Private icon. To open additional pages in this mode, repeat the steps above.
iOS displays the mask symbol near the tab number icon, iPadOS displays the mask symbol in the upper-left corner, and Android displays the address bar in purple to indicate that you’re browsing in private browsing mode.
Edge InPrivate Browsing
In Edge, press Ctrl+Shift+N or click the three-dot icon in the upper right and select New inPrivate Window. An InPrivate browsing page opens with a dark theme and information about what the service does and does not do. In InPrivate mode, you can enable “Strict” tracking protection, which blocks most trackers but may prevent you from fully using some websites.
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Go to the page you want to use privately and open it. Each new tab you open will be in InPrivate mode, with an InPrivate icon in the upper right corner. By clicking the InPrivate icon and selecting Close InPrivate window, you can exit InPrivate mode and close all private windows.
If you need to use an extension while in inPrivate mode, go to Extensions by clicking the three-dot icon. Check the box for Allow in InPrivate under the Details link for the extension you want to enable.
Tap the tab icon in the Edge app and select the InPrivate heading. To open any new pages you want to view in InPrivate mode, tap the plus (+) icon. A blue icon at the left edge of the address bar indicates that a page is being viewed in InPrivate mode.
To exit all InPrivate browsing sessions, go back to the InPrivate tab page and tap Close all.
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Safari Private Browsing
On macOS, select File > New Private Window or press Shift+Command+N to open a page privately. The resulting page informs you that private browsing is enabled and shows a gray background in the address field. If you’re using dark mode, it’ll be difficult to tell the difference between a private browsing window and a regular browsing window.
Go to the page you want to see privately and open it. Each new tab you open will be in private mode as well. Close Safari to exit Private Browsing when you’re done.
On your iPhone or iPad, tap the tab icon, then select Private from the drop-down menu. To open a new private browsing tab, tap the plus (+) icon on the Private Browsing Mode page. You can then tap the tab icon, followed by the plus (+) icon to open any additional pages in private browsing mode. The address bar on each page you open this way has a gray background.
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You can toggle between private and public browsing modes. To change the setting, tap the tab icon and then Private. Unless you manually close them, all tabs will remain open.