How to Start Google Chrome in Incognito Mode by Default

Saikat Basu 09-02-2009

I remember a wall poster that said – “Even for expert users things should be simple.”


The line came to my mind when I came across the nifty “˜Incognito mode’ in Google Chrome. The incognito mode gives us a way to stealthily and sneakily wade through the web. For those who have come in late, this is what Google says about the incognito mode…

Webpage’s that you open and files downloaded while you are incognito won’t be logged in your browsing and download histories; all new cookies are deleted after you close the incognito window. You can browse normally and in incognito mode at the same time by using separate windows.

In spite of its cool quotient, what is missing for a lot of us is a way to launch the browser in incognito mode by default. The solution is not too far to seek as Google provides a command line switch which we can use.

So, how to start Google Chrome in Incognito Mode

  1. Place a Google Chrome shortcut on the desktop (or any other desired location).

    start google chrome in incognito mode

  2. Rename the shortcut to any convenient name like – Private Chrome.
  3. Right click on the shortcut and select “˜Properties’.
    start chrome in privacy mode
  4. On the “˜Target’ field add an –incognito to the end of program path. (Note: Make sure there is a space between the last apostrophe and the dash)

    How to Start Google Chrome in Incognito Mode by Default adding incognito1

  5. Your incognito browser is now ready for launch. If you select “˜New Window’ from settings, you will get a normal non-incognito chrome window.

The incognito mode has its uses in public browsing where we don’t want to leave behind a trace of our activities. Among its other off hand uses is that it allows us to open different account sessions for the same website. For instance I can open two different talk sessions of Gmail Chat, one through the normal browser window and the other through the incognito one. This possibility extends to other web services too where one has two different accounts.

Did you find this simple tip useful? Any special reason you would want to launch Google Chrome in Incognito Mode by defualt? Let us know in the comments.


Related topics: Google Chrome, Online Privacy.

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  1. PizzaCat
    June 8, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    How can you be "incognito" if in some cases like in a chat or other sites, you still have to sign in? When you sign-in, you are not "ingognito" to that site.

    I think many people are confusing completely anonymous web surfing with your web surfing just not being logged in your own browser's web surfing history on your computer.

  2. Jeesus
    March 22, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Use regedit HKLM\software\classes\chromehtml\shell\open\command. Edit string value Default and add --incognito before %1
    "C:\Program Files\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" --incognito -- "%1"

    • Jeesus
      September 19, 2019 at 11:17 am

      Edge Dev:
      @="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft\\Edge Dev\\Application\\msedge.exe\" --inprivate -- \"%1\""

  3. bhushan
    November 3, 2016 at 8:47 am

    well ,this worked and my chrome is starting in incognito mode . now, how to remove this ? like old normal start up in chrome ??

  4. sonny
    February 24, 2016 at 8:50 am

    how about mozilla private window ?

    • Saikat Basu
      February 26, 2016 at 4:54 am

      That came much later than Incognito. I think in 2015.

  5. MoeLesta
    February 22, 2016 at 6:46 am

    Mine doesn't even have .exe.....

  6. TroyK
    February 14, 2016 at 3:14 am

    This was almost helpful. Step 4 has a couple errors, though. It says:

    "On the 'Target’ field add an –incognito to the end of program path. (Note: Make sure there is a space between the last apostrophe and the dash)"

    First of all, what are you talking about, "apostrophe"? There is no apostrophe; you mean "quotation mark." There is no "dash," either. Dash and hyphen are not the same thing.

    Also, it's not "–incognito" as provided in the text. It's one or two hyphens: "-incognito" or "--incognito". Both work. But the dash provided in the text will not work.

    • TroyK
      February 14, 2016 at 3:16 am

      And I see the site has automatically replaced my own text with what it thinks should be there. It changed my own hyphens into a dash. Good stuff. No, really, great software you've got here.

  7. Tony
    January 3, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks a lot

  8. me
    November 27, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Super, many thanks.

  9. Sal
    November 22, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Good information. I am able to start it by default without the tabs I opened.!! Will I be able to open it with all the tabs I left when I closed it?

    • Saikat Basu
      November 25, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Nope. By switching to incognito mode, you're asking your browser to not any keep local data. One workaround could be to use something like the Session Buddy extension and enable it to run in incognito mode. Have to try this and see, of course.

  10. Anonymous
    August 18, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Hi there, noob here so have patience? This used to work for me, but after I updated to Windows 10 (on a Surface Pro 3 if that matters?), it stopped working.

    When I add -incognito or even --incognito after the .exe" (with a space in between, yeah), I get asked to provide administrator permission, and once I click continue on that, it then tells me I'm "Unable to Save Changes to 'Google Chrome.Ink'. Access is denied." (If it matters, I'm the only user, so I definitely have Administrator permissions.)

    Help would be much appreciated.

    • Anonymous
      August 29, 2015 at 6:04 am

      I'm on windows 7, and tried adding --incognito after the .exe". The same notice was shown. So I tried removing the " and just typed in, .exe --incognito. Hit the apply and ok buttons, and now its working fine.

      Hope this helps. :)

      • Mihir Patkar
        August 30, 2015 at 5:57 am

        Perfect reply, thanks L&L!

  11. Anonymous
    August 7, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Useful, but unfortunately it doesn't make the incognito browser actually default. Only the shortcut is default. Meaning if you open links from a PDF or mail program (like Windows Live Mail) the links open a new window, which is not incognito rather than a new tab in your incognito window.

    Do you know how to make incognito the default for these types of links? I've been searching, but alas - no luck!


    • Saikat Basu
      August 9, 2015 at 4:46 am

      True. Haven't found a solution for that yet.

      • Anonymous
        August 9, 2015 at 11:30 am

        Thanks for the reply. If you, or anyone else figures this out - please reply - I'd love to know how! :)

    • Anonymous
      August 29, 2015 at 10:35 am

      howzit aceceo?

      best option i can suggest is to use chromodo which has an option in the settings to default to incognito. An added benefit is that they remove all google's hidden hooks to track you online :-)


    • sahil
      August 3, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      I was able to get incognito chrome to launch from links in other apps by changing the registry entry HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command (Default) to "C:\Users\Todd\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" -incognito -- "%1"

  12. Anonymous
    June 13, 2015 at 7:07 am

    I was not able to set as per the instructions here. I was prompted that the path does not exist. Pls advise.

    • Saikat Basu
      June 19, 2015 at 7:14 am

      Do check your installation location for Chrome. Maybe, the error is in the file path.

  13. Dean
    May 18, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    How do you make google your homepage while in chrome so it doesn't come up with the whole "You've gone incognito" crap on it?

    As in it opens up

    • Anonymous
      June 8, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Just add the desired start adress behind the command ...
      Example . "C:\\xxxx\chrome.exe" -incognito

  14. LadyTW
    May 14, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you so much! I have been attempting to go incognito for some time and could not find an easy way to do it. The previous instructions I found on another site, neglected to say to create an icon and work from that area!! Thank you again.

    • Saikat
      May 15, 2015 at 6:50 am

      Glad you found it helpful :)

  15. mariposa
    May 5, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    It doesn't come up in incognito for me. I think it's because I link my data so I can keep my bookmarks wherever I'm at.

  16. Jackson
    March 12, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Good article. Exactly what I wanted to know. Now I'm incognito all the time and that makes me happy.
    Here's another thing you can do: When I went incognito, I though "shoot, I lost all my extensions." But, the fact is you can re-enable them in SETTING>EXTENSIONS and tick all the boxes that say ALLOW IN INCOGNITO MODE.
    Most extensions will work normally again. Can't imagine browsing without Ad-Blocker!
    Again, thanks much

    • Saikat
      March 13, 2015 at 3:51 am

      True. But I like to enable just the critical ones in my case. Like LastPass. and Pocket. It's a flexibility that's very helpful.

  17. flecca
    March 2, 2015 at 9:50 am

    it works fine, I did a double

  18. Roseanne Corbett
    February 6, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    This also works with only a single dash...

  19. John Huge COck
    December 28, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    it works brilliantly i did it with 1 hyphon onw indows 7

  20. Sean
    January 12, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    All you people are stupid. This works perfectly. Follow the directions and look at the pictures given.

  21. Matt
    December 31, 2009 at 5:04 am

    I copied the -incognito from your instructions; and it didn't work for me. When I tried to add another "-" I noticed the copied version from the webpage wasn't a "-" it was a 'endash' (not a hyphen).
    Maybe waveydavie did the same as me.
    The upshot is if you type 1 hyphen it works

  22. Ernie
    December 2, 2009 at 5:13 am

    yup this is working for me now, i was expecting to see the message that i was running in conginto mode but didn't realise it was just laoding up my homepage and it puts a pic of a man in a hat in the left hand corner to represent this :)

    cheers guys.

  23. nef
    December 1, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    i did it successfully in windows 7 and i used the double dash after the space.

    \Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --incognito

    • nef
      December 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm

      whoops, the comment joined the two dashes together, it's supposed to be double dashes.

  24. Ernie
    November 20, 2009 at 8:05 am

    hmm i still haven't managed to get this to work with Windows 7, worked with Vista.. neither single or double dash with a space after chrome and in the target field!

  25. la-li-lu-le-lo
    October 27, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    it worked for me and i used a double dash "--"

  26. wakkyg
    October 24, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    it worked for me do not use a double dash "--"

  27. another shortcut
    September 24, 2009 at 4:22 am

    For those who like using keyboard shortcuts, you can use Windows Key + r key to "Run" an application. When the Run window dialog box pops up enter "chrome --incognito" (without quotes).

    This option is stored there as a recent application so it will be available next time. Some of my favorite shortcuts are "cmd" "notepad" and "calc". Enjoy!

  28. gondala flood
    August 20, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    errrm, massive falps!.......Yay :) arf!

  29. Gaga
    August 4, 2009 at 4:24 am

    It worked like magic. without any probs.

  30. Ricardo
    March 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks for all the screen shots. A very useful article indeed.

  31. waveydavie
    February 10, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Tried it again, same result. Here's a screenshot:

    • Saikat
      February 11, 2009 at 9:38 am

      Make sure there is a space between the last apostrophe and the double (--)dash. Even then if there is a mistake with the gap, the browser won't start but an alert box will pop up saying that you have typed an invalid path. I think you are typing a single dash (hyphen) instead of twice (--)

      • waveydavie
        February 11, 2009 at 10:24 am

        Double!? It disnae say double anywhere! :-)
        Well anyway, that fixed it.
        Thanks Saikat

  32. Joel
    February 9, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Cool I have use this feature in Chrome, I prefer surf the web the regular way! Nothing to hide

  33. waveydavie
    February 9, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Doesn't work for me. It comes back "Oops! This link appears broken. DNS error - cannot find server." with "Try searching on Google: incognito p89d" with the URL "http://xn--incognito-p89d/"
    I can't what I did wrong, any ideas?

    • Saikat
      February 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm

      Didn't quite understand your error. Did you get the Incognito mode through the created shortcut? Your error suggests that you probably put the parameter in the address tab rather than the 'Target' field in the properties box.Just a guess though...

      • waveydavie
        February 10, 2009 at 3:52 pm

        Hi Saikat
        No, I got the plain old common or garden variety. It is exactly as you have it above except I renamed it differently and added a comment.

    • Gary Abbott
      May 13, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      It doesn't work for me either, Windows 8. This is what I get: The server at xn--incognito-p89d can't be found, because the DNS lookup failed. DNS is the network service that translates a website's name to its Internet address. This error is most often caused by having no connection to the Internet or a misconfigured network. It can also be caused by an unresponsive DNS server or a firewall preventing Google Chrome from accessing the network.

      Did you ever get it to work?

  34. Saikat
    February 9, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Sorry Hank...that's a typo on my part probably through an auto-correct that I missed.

  35. hank
    February 9, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Surely Google doesn't say "webpage's" when they mean the plural "webpages."