Modern web browsers feature a private mode that allows you to navigate the Internet without worrying about leaving traces behind, which could let other people know what websites you have visited or what email accounts you have accessed.

There are a lot of benefits to private mode, which is known under various names, depending on which web browser you’re using. In this guide, we’re looking into Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge to explore this safer browsing mode and find out how it’s different from the typical one.


No logs of visited websites or downloads

Private browsing means that the websites you visit will not be recorded to history. It’s ideal for scenarios when you don’t have to worry about clearing browsing history to hide personal matters from other people with access to your computer. Cached content (temporary Internet files that browsers save for offline browsing) aren’t saved either.

However, your Internet service provider, employer as well as website administrator will still be able to view your activity, so private mode doesn’t mean staying off the grid. Your IP address doesn’t become hidden or spoofed, and snapshots of visited pages will not appear on the New Tab page. On top of that, you aren’t protected from keyloggers or any spyware installed on your PC, so you will still need to get an anti-malware application for that.

Your regular browser extensions will still be loaded in private mode, and any files you’ve downloaded or bookmarks you’ve made will be preserved on the computer even after exiting private mode. But download history will be cleared.

Go private in multiple tabs or windows

Enabling private mode means launching a new browser instance (without closing any other open windows). It’s possible to not only open multiple tabs within the same window for secret web surfing but also to open multiple instances in the same way.

If you log in with an account, you will remain logged in even after closing the tab, and information is retained within the same private session. For example, if you log in with a Google account on Gmail.com, it will be remembered by the browser when you open a new page with YouTube, so you are automatically logged into YouTube as well. Even if you allow the web browser to remember your login credentials and autofill the next time you use authentication, this data will be erased after exiting incognito mode.

To exit private mode, make sure to close all windows started like this, not just the one you’re currently navigating. However, it’s not necessary to close the normal windows too.

No saved cookies or activity tracking

Another benefit of private browsing is that cookies are not saved. Plus, data isn’t sent to websites for marketing purposes, so you don’t have to worry about enabling the Do Not Track option. Let’s say you go to a booking website to plan a vacation. Even if you just browse and don’t actually pay for anything, you will later get interrupted by personalized advertisements on your favorite websites, which are based on that one-time visit.

Or if you share the PC with a friend and visit an online store to purchase a surprise gift, your friend will not be able to tell this from the customized ads. If cookies were saved (as in normal browsing sessions), the booking website remembers what you last visited and creates a personalized offer the next time you drop by.

If you borrow a friend’s computer to check your email or Facebook account, you can use private browsing mode to avoid logging out of your friend’s accounts. Similarly, if you have multiple accounts on the same website, such as Facebook, which doesn’t offer support for adding multiple accounts, you can switch to incognito browsing mode to log in with a different account without having to log out of the previous one.

How to access Chrome’s Incognito mode

In Chrome, you can access Incognito mode by clicking the burger button on the upper-right corner of the window and selecting New incognito window, or by pressing Ctrl+Shift+N. Right-click a link and select Open link in incognito window, so it’s not necessary to separately launch incognito mode to copy and paste that link.

You can tell apart incognito windows from regular ones by the icon with the spy man, placed on the upper-left corner of Chrome, before the first open tab. Because history isn’t recorded, Chrome cannot restore the last closed tab in incognito mode, which can be done in normal sessions by pressing Ctrl+Shift+T or by right-clicking on the upper bar to select Reopen closed tab (the option is greyed out in incognito mode).

How to access Firefox’s Private mode

In Firefox, click the burger button on the upper-right corner and then New Private Window, or press Ctrl+Shift+P. Otherwise, you can right-click a link and select Open Link in New Private Windows. Compared to the normal windows, the private ones have a purple masquerade button displayed on the upper-right corner, just before the minimize button (it’s not available if you previously disabled history saving in regular Firefox sessions).

Firefox Hello isn’t available in private browsing mode, which means that it’s not possible to have secret video and voice conversations online. Unlike Chrome, Firefox gives you the possibility of opening the last closed tab, whether you’re in normal or private mode (right-click on the upper bar to pick Undo Close Tab or press Ctrl+Shift+T).

How to access Edge’s InPrivate mode

In Edge, click on the button on the upper-right corner of the window to open a menu and select New InPrivate window. Otherwise, you can press Ctrl+Shift+P or Ctrl+Shift+N. These windows are labeled with a blue InPrivate button shown on the upper-left corner, just before the first tab. Similar to Chrome, it’s not possible to open the last closed tab (Ctrl+Shift+T), although you can do this in normal browsing mode.

Check out our video guide below to find out how to access Incognito, Private and InPrivate modes. You can also download Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Private Browsing Explained: How Staying Incognito Protects Your Privacy

Private browsing means disabled history of visited websites and downloads, as well as deactivatedcookies or activity tracking, among other benefits. Check out our video to find out how to access Google Chrome’s Incognito, Mozilla Firefox’s Private and Microsoft Edge’s InPrivate modes on Windows. Read our article to find out more about private browsing: http://www.softpedia.com/blog/private-browsing-explained-how-staying-incognito-protects-your-privacy-504364.shtml

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