With the increase in awareness around personal data and how companies harvest it to sell, it’s no wonder that people are interested in ways to keep their online habits more private.
One of these ways is using private browser modes while online. Here’s your guide to private browsing and how to enable it in your own browser.
What Is Private Browsing?
Private browsing refers to a browserg session where browsing history, cookies, and web caches are not stored. Other data, such as passwords and auto-fill data, are also not saved during private browsing.
You can enable private browsing using built-in tools in your internet browser, such as Chrome’s Incognito mode. But you can also use a privacy-dedicated browser instead of regular ones to prevent your history from being stored.
It’s important to understand that private browsing is not the same as using a VPN. Private browsing prevents local files from being stored in your browser during a session, such as cookies and your history.
However, private browsing does not disguise your IP address. Nor does it hide your activity from your internet provider or workplace network administrators. It also doesn’t prevent other traces of your internet activity, such as files downloaded to your hard drive, from being stored.
Private browsing is specific to the browser application and cannot control traces of your activity that are stored outside of the application. It’s important to understand this distinction.
How to Enable Private Browser Mode
The major internet browsers all have some form of private browsing tools built into them. However, they are accessed in different ways. There are also some differences between enabling private browsing in the desktop and mobile versions of each program.
Here’s how to turn each of the major internet browsers into a private browser using their built-in tools.
How to Enable Private Browsing in Chrome (Incognito Mode)
Enabling Incognito mode in Chrome couldn’t be easier. On the desktop version of the browser, simply use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + N. You can also use the drop-down menu on the top right of the browser and select New incognito window to start a private browser session in that window.
You can tell whether you are in incognito mode on the desktop version of Chrome by the Incognito icon. Look for this icon, which includes a hat and glasses, to the right of the search bar.
How to Go Incognito in Chrome on Mobile
On Chrome’s mobile version, you can access Incognito mode through the drop-down menu to the right of the URL bar. Here, select New incognito tab and a new tab in the private browsing mode will open.
How to Go to Private Browsing in Safari on Mac
In the Safari desktop app, you can use a shortcut or the top menu to access private browsing. Simply use the shortcut Shift + Cmd + N to open a new private browsing window.
Otherwise, go to the top menu bar in the program and select File > New Private Window to open a new private browsing window.
How to Open Private Browsing in Safari on iPhone and iPad
As with other browsers, accessing private browsing in Safari is different on the mobile app versus the desktop version. On the iOS app, you will need to open Safari and select the tabs icon, which appears as two squares.
You will then need to select the Private menu at the bottom left of the app, where you can open a new tab using the + icon.
How to Turn on Private Browsing in Firefox on PC
Accessing Firefox’s private browsing mode is very simple. In the desktop version of the browser, you can use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + P. You can also access private browsing by clicking on the drop-down menu to the top-right of your browser and selecting New Private Window.
You can tell that you are in a private mode window by checking for the private window icon on the top right of the window, next to the minimize and close icons.
How to Enable Private Browsing in Firefox on Mobile
On the mobile version of Firefox, you can access the private browsing mode through the drop-down menu in the top right corner of the app. Select the menu and then tap on New private tab to open a private browsing window.
How to Open Private Browsing in Microsoft Edge on PC (InPrivate Mode)
Microsoft’s private browsing mode is named InPrivate. You can access the mode easily on the desktop browser with the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + P.
Another way to open an InPrivate window is to go to the top right drop-down menu and select New InPrivate window. This will open a private browsing session in Edge.
Edge has a highlighted area before your tabs to show that you are in a private browsing mode. This highlighted area is blue, with the text “InPrivate”. If you are unsure of whether you have opened a private browsing window, just check for this area.
Enabling Private Browsing in Microsoft Edge on Mobile
The Microsoft Edge mobile app works slightly differently to the desktop version. In fact, there are two ways to access InPrivate mode on the Edge mobile app.
The first way is to select the menu button on the bottom right of the app and select New InPrivate tab. This will open a new private browsing tab in the app.
The other way is to select the tabs icon to access the tabs menu. Here you can select the InPrivate menu at the top of the app to open InPrivate mode. Your various InPrivate tabs will be stored here until you close them.
How to Open a Private Window in Opera on PC
Enabling private browsing in Opera on the desktop version of the browser is the same as it is for Chrome. You simply need to use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + N. This will open a new private browser window.
You can also click on the Opera logo to the top left of the screen to open the drop-down menu and select New private window to enable the private mode in the browser.
How to Enable Private Browsing in Opera on Mobile
On mobile, the process is slightly different. In the Opera mobile browser, you will need to select the tabs icon (a square with a number inside) on the bottom left of the app.
This opens the Speed Dial window where you can see all your tabs. At the top of the app, you can see two categories of tabs: normal and private. Tap Private or swipe to the right window to enter the private browsing mode on the app.
Then select the + icon to open a new private tab. These new tabs will be opened in the private browsing mode. All private tabs can be viewed in this Speed Dial menu.
How to Enable the Private Browser in Vivaldi
You can open a private window in the Vivaldi browser with the same shortcut as Chrome and Opera. To open a new private window, simply use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + N.
You can also open a private window by clicking on the Vivaldi logo on the top left of your browser window to open the drop-down menu. Then simply go to File > New Private Window to open a private browsing window.
How to Turn Off Private Browsing Mode
Since private browsing mode is not the default setting in these browsers, it’s very simple to exit it. Simply close the private browsing window and any new windows you now open will be in the normal mode.
Some mobile apps allow you to close all private browsing tabs in the notification window on your smartphone.
In mobile apps such as Firefox and Opera, simply swipe back to the normal mode in your tabs window to exit private browsing.
Private Browsers for Searching the Internet
Besides using built-in browser tools to enable private browsing, there are also standalone browsers and apps that are private browsers by default.
The DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser mobile app, which is part of the DuckDuckGo suite of privacy apps, is one example. It does not store browsing data or allow the tracking of your browser sessions by advertisers. It even has a “fire” button that will clear all tabs and sessions with one tap.
There is also a range of privacy-centric desktop browsers such as Tor Browser and Epic Browser. However, these browsers go past simple private browsing modes and help you stay completely anonymous. You can find out more about these anonymous internet browsers in our guide to four browsers that are completely private.
Always make sure to check exactly what information these browsers protect and what data they store.
Browse the Internet More Securely
Now that you know how to enable privacy modes in different internet browsers, you may want to take further steps in protecting your privacy online.
From email encryption tools to privacy extensions for your browser, check these essential apps that can protect your privacy online.