The browser you are using to access the Internet keeps a lot of information about you and your online activity. Most browsers store cookies which track your browsing habits and often provide this information to third parties. Browsers also keep detailed lists of websites you visit, your search records, downloads, and other information.
While most of this data is used to improve your browsing experience and ensure that the ads you see are relevant to you, you never know exactly how companies that collect this information use it. If you do not want your browser to retain your cookies, browsing history, search records, and downloads, you could use it in an incognito or private mode. Available on all popular browsers, this feature also prevents others who use the same computer from being able to see the list of websites you visited and files you downloaded. So, always use incognito mode on public or shared computers to enhance your privacy.
Remember that incognito mode only prevents the browser from collecting and storing your browsing information. It does not make you anonymous online or prevent your employer, internet cafe, or internet service provider from seeing your traffic or, in some cases, recording your keystrokes.
Turning incognito mode on
For Google Chrome (Desktop)
- Click the Chrome menu button (three vertical dots in the top right corner)
- Select New incognito window. A new Chrome window will open with the Incognito logo in the upper-left corner.
- You can also use the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-N on Windows machines and Command-Shift-N on MacOS machines
For Google Chrome (Mobile)
- Tap the Chrome menu button (three vertical dots to the right of the address bar on Android; three horizontal dots in bottom right corner on an Apple device).
- Tap New Incognito Tab. A new tab will open and the Incognito logo will appear.
For Microsoft Edge (Desktop)
You can open an InPrivate window (a Microsoft version of an incognito window) in different ways:
- Right-click the Microsoft Edge logo in the taskbar and select New InPrivate window
- In Microsoft Edge, right-click a link and select Open link in InPrivate window
- In Microsoft Edge, click Settings and more and select New InPrivate window
For Mozilla Firefox (Desktop)
There are two ways to start a private browsing session (the Firefox version of incognito mode) on a desktop computer:
- Tap the Firefox menu button (three horizontal lines in the top right corner) and select New Private Window
- Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-P on Windows machines and Command-Shift-P on MacOS machines
For Mozilla Firefox (Mobile)
- To open a Private Tab in Firefox on your mobile device, tap the tab icon (a square with a number inside) at the bottom of the screen. The tab can be found next to the address bar on an Android device and at the bottom of the screen on an Apple device.
- Tap the mask button to switch to Private Browsing;
- Tap the +PRIVATE button on Android devices or the + icon on an Apple device to open a new Private Tab
Mozilla now also offers Firefox Focus, a special version of the Firefox browser that automatically makes all browsing sessions incognito.
For Safari (Desktop)
There are two ways to start a private browsing session in Safari on your desktop:
- With Safari opened, click the “File” menu and select New Private Window
- Use the keyboard shortcut Command-Shift-N
For Safari (Mobile)
- Open Safari on your iPhone or iPod
- Tap the Tabs icon (two squares in the bottom right of the screen)
- Tap the Tabs button (a number followed by the word “Tab” or “Tabs”) at the bottom of the screen
Tap Private, then tap Done.