Internet Technology Explained

Guest Mode vs. Incognito Mode in Google Chrome: What’s the Difference?

Ben Stegner Updated 09-07-2020

What you do online is personal, which is why Google Chrome offers a couple of ways to keep your browsing private. The two main options are incognito mode and guest mode, but how are these different?

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Let’s take a quick look at guest mode vs. incognito mode in Chrome, including what they do and when you should use each one.

What Is Incognito Mode in Chrome?

Incognito mode, known as private browsing in some other browsers, has been around for years. While incognito, you can browse the web without Chrome saving any information about the session. When you close an incognito window, all the information on that session disappears.

This means that Chrome won’t save any browsing history, cookies, or form data created in the incognito window. It also blocks the functionality to reopen closed tabs with Ctrl + Shift + T and disables extensions (unless you enable them manually).

Starting an incognito session essentially opens up a new browser window that’s never seen the internet before. Because there are no cookies, you aren’t logged into any sites and none of them are personalized for you.

Chrome Incognito Window

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This mode has lots of uses, such as:

  • Signing into one of your accounts on a friend’s PC without forcing them to sign out
  • Seeing how a webpage looks to the public
  • Testing if one of your installed extensions is breaking a website
  • Bypassing page view limits

While it’s incredibly useful, keep in mind that you aren’t invisible in private browsing 6 Ways You Can Be Tracked in Incognito or Private Browsing Mode Private browsing is private in 99% of cases, but can private browsing be hacked? Can you tell what someone has viewed incognito? Read More . Websites can still identify you, and incognito doesn’t hide your browsing activity from your ISP or network administrator. You’ll need to connect to a VPN for increased privacy in those areas.

To open a new incognito window, open the three-dot menu and choose New incognito window, or press Ctrl + Shift + N.

What Is Chrome’s Guest Mode?

Guest mode is a separate function from the incognito mode. It takes advantage of Chrome’s profile switching feature 6 Custom Google Chrome Profiles You Should Start Using What are Chrome profiles and how do you use them? Here are several useful ideas for Chrome browser profiles you should try. Read More to give you a blank profile for someone who’s temporarily using Chrome.

Like Incognito mode, it doesn’t save any record of the browsing history and disables all extensions. However, in Guest mode, the user also can’t see or change any Chrome settings (aside from the default search engine). A guest user can’t see any of the browsing history, bookmarks, or downloads from the main profiles.

Chrome Guest Mode

Guest mode is most useful when you’re browsing on someone else’s computer, letting someone use yours, or working on a public machine.

To launch a new guest window, click the profile switcher in the top-right of Chrome, which shows your current profile picture. Click Guest under Other People to start a new guest session.

The Differences Between Incognito and Guest Mode

As we’ve seen, the incognito and guest modes in Chrome are pretty similar. But the guest mode isn’t exactly the same as incognito, so when should you use them?

Both are suitable when you want to erase all traces of your browsing as soon as you close the window. However, incognito is primarily intended for you to use on your own computer, while the guest mode is meant for using a computer that’s not yours.

Thus, incognito mode allows the primary Chrome user to browse without recording history, while guest mode lets someone else use the browser without access to the primary user’s information. Both prevent any information about the session from being saved.

If this has you interested in making your browser more private, check out essential Chrome privacy settings you should know 7 Essential Privacy Settings for Chrome OS and Google Chrome Using a Chromebook, but concerned about privacy? Tweak these 7 settings in the Chrome browser on Chrome OS to stay secure online. Read More .

Image Credit: Jane Kelly/Shutterstock

Related topics: Google Chrome, Online Privacy, Private Browsing.

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  1. Perri Poirier
    March 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    All good advise UNLESS YOU LIVE OUTSIDE OF THE USA, as the majority of the world does! All we have in Canada is SCALED DOWN Netflix & Prime. ALL OTHERS are not available in Canada.