Private browsing is a useful tool that every decent web browser offers. This feature has a different name, depending on the browser that you are using. Google Chrome calls it Incognito, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge name it InPrivate, while Firefox and Opera title it Private browsing. In this article, we show you how to enable private browsing in all the major web browsers and how to check whether you're browsing privately using incognito windows or tabs:
InPrivate, Incognito, Private Browsing - What does it mean?
This feature mostly does the same thing: allows users to browse the web without saving data like cache, history, passwords, or cookies. However, this is done locally, meaning that you hide what websites you have visited only from the people using your computer. The websites themselves, your ISP (Internet Service Provider), and, in fact, every server your requests pass through, all still know what you visited.
However, some browsers offer more features for their private browsing mode. For example, Opera allows you to enable VPN when browsing, so that your ISP cannot track the websites that you visit. Another positive example is Firefox, which blocks trackers from collecting information about your browsing behavior.
Another effect of going incognito/private when browsing the web is that your previous authentications on websites, like your email, are not available in this mode. If you need this authentication for your incognito/private session, you need to log in again.
If you need a shortcut for opening your favorite web browser in private browsing, read: Make InPrivate or Incognito shortcuts for Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera, or Internet Explorer. Also, if you want the list of incognito browser keyboard shortcuts, check: Keyboard shortcuts for Incognito private browsing (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge & Opera).
How to start Google Chrome Incognito (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + N)
Google calls private browsing Incognito. To open a new Incognito window, click or tap the "Customize and control Google Chrome" button at the top-right corner of the browser window. It looks like three vertical dots. Then, choose the "New incognito window" option.
A new window is opened, explaining what incognito browsing means: Google Chrome does not save your browsing history, cookies and site data, and the information entered in forms (like addresses or passwords, for example). Any files you download or bookmarks you create are kept. Lastly, Incognito windows block third-party cookies that can track you across the web, but you can manually enable them if you want.
TIP: For fans of keyboard shortcuts, you should know that the shortcut for browsing Incognito in Google Chrome is Ctrl + Shift + N.
In Google Chrome, you can recognize an Incognito window by its logo from the top-right corner: an image of a person in disguise (hat and dark glasses), followed by the word Incognito.
How to start Mozilla Firefox in Private Browsing (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + P)
To enable Private Browsing in Mozilla Firefox, click or tap the "Open menu" hamburger button at the top-right side of the browser window. Its shape looks like three horizontal lines. Then, choose "New Private Window."
A new private window is opened with content blocking. Firefox explains that when browsing in private mode, it clears your search and browsing history as soon as you quit the app or close all incognito windows. In other words, Firefox doesn't keep your browsing history, search history, download history, web form history, cookies, or temporary internet files. However, the files that you download and the bookmarks you make are saved.
One important difference between Firefox and other browsers is that it explicitly warns you that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or employer can still track the pages that you visit.
TIP: If you like using keyboard shortcuts, a fast way to go private in Firefox is to simultaneously press the Ctrl + Shift + P keys.
To check if the current Mozilla Firefox window has Private Browsing enabled, look for the purple mask icon on the top-right corner of the browser window. If it's there, you are browsing privately.
How to go incognito in Microsoft Edge by using its InPrivate browsing feature (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + P)
Microsoft Edge shares the same name for its private browsing mode as the old Internet Explorer: InPrivate browsing. To start an Edge private browsing session, click or tap the "Settings and more" button from its top-right corner. It looks like three dots. On the menu, select the "New InPrivate window" option.
Just like Chrome, when you open an Edge incognito window, the browser tells you that InPrivate Browsing deletes your browsing info when you close all the private windows, but saves your favorites and downloads. It also lets you know explicitly that InPrivate Browsing can't hide the websites you visit from your school, employer, or Internet Service Provider (ISP).
TIP: Wondering how to go private in Microsoft Edge faster? Use the Edge incognito keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + P.
Note that you can always tell whether you're using the Edge private browsing mode by looking at the top-right corner of the browser window. There, you should see the InPrivate label inside a blue square.
How to start Opera in Private Browsing (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + N)
To open a private browsing window in Opera, click or tap on the "Customize and control Opera" button found on the top-left corner of the browser window. Then, click or tap "New private window."
A new Private Browsing window opens, giving you brief information about this browsing mode. Although your browsing history, cookies and site data, and information entered in forms are deleted, your incognito browsing activity might still be visible to the sites you visit, your Internet Service Provider, and your employer or school.
At the bottom of the Opera Private browsing tab, you are also informed that you can turn on the built-in VPN for more privacy.
TIP: The keyboard shortcut to open a Private Browsing window in Opera is Ctrl + Shift + N.
To check if you are Private Browsing in Opera, watch for the sunglasses logo on the left side of the tab you are on.
How to start Internet Explorer in InPrivate browsing (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + P)
Microsoft uses the term InPrivate for private browsing in Internet Explorer. To go private with Internet Explorer's incognito mode, open the Tools menu by clicking the small gear icon from its top-right corner. Then, click on or hover over Safety to open the corresponding submenu. Finally, select InPrivate Browsing.
Internet Explorer opens a new private browser window, where the following notification is displayed: "InPrivate is turned on. InPrivate Browsing helps prevent Internet Explorer from storing data about your browsing session." The browser does not store cookies, temporary internet files, browsing history, and other data. By default, it also disables extra toolbars and extensions you have installed in Internet Explorer.
TIP: A faster way to use Internet Explorer's incognito features is to use your keyboard: simultaneously press the Ctrl + Shift + P keys, and Internet Explorer instantly launches an InPrivate window.
You can check if you are using InPrivate browsing by looking at the left side of the address bar. If you see the logo highlighted below, InPrivate browsing is turned on in Internet Explorer.
Which private browsing mode do you like best?
Private browsing is especially useful when you are on a public computer, and you do not want your browsing history to be accessible to the next person using that Windows computer. However, you may also have other reasons to use it when working on your computers and devices. Try this browsing mode in all your favorite web browsers and then share with us which private browsing mode you prefer and in what browser. Do you think that Mozilla Firefox offers the best privacy? Is it Opera? What about Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge? Either way, now you know how to go private in all the major web browsers today.