No matter what browser you’re using —Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or any of the others—you can undoubtedly go incognito or private mode.
As the name suggests, Incognito (or private mode) keeps certain aspects of your browsing personal. Still, it’s essential to know what it conceals and erases from your devices and what it doesn’t. Once you understand precisely how these modes operate, you’ll learn how to use them properly.
What Incognito Mode Does
The easiest way to explain how the Incognito mode works is by looking at its non-existent history. As soon as you close an Incognito window, your web browser automatically forgets the session ever happened. Nothing is stored in your browsing history, and any cookies formed are immediately cleared.
Cookies and Memories
Cookies are the little helpers that keep items in your favorite stores’ shopping carts even when you forget about them. They also help websites remember if you’ve visited them before. When you open up a private session on Chrome, they explain how the Incognito mode works.
Opening a new Incognito page is like starting again with a clean slate, for better or worse. Incognito mode can sometimes be a convenient way of accessing articles from a paywalled site. The site won’t immediately recognize you as someone who’s been here before.
Upon closing the Incognito window, your browser won’t remember where you’ve been, what you’ve looked for, or any information you’ve entered while in Incognito mode. It’s as if the browser you’re using has a blindfold on until you close down the Incognito mode again.
You’re probably accustomed to the frequently visited websites appearing as you start typing the letters into the address bar or search box. Anything you’ve searched for or visited while in Incognito mode will not appear in the suggestions.
It goes without saying that Incognito mode has its uses. You can sign into multiple social media accounts simultaneously rather than signing in and out. It’s also convenient when you need to look up sensitive topics—like health problems you don’t want to show up in your search history.
How to Go Incognito on Chrome
The most effortless way to open an Incognito window is with the keyboard shortcut sequence Command-Shift-N (macOS) or Ctrl-Shift-N (Windows). Another easy way is to click the upper right menu (the three vertical dots) and choose New Incognito Window from the list.
Upon opening an Incognito window, the dark backdrop and the little “spy” icon can be recognized right next to the three-dots menu. Chrome also hints users at what Incognito does and doesn’t do each time a new window is presented.
Firefox Private Browsing
After Chrome rolled out its stylized Incognito mode, other browsers quickly rushed to get in the private browsing as well. Mozilla rolled out its version — Private Browsing — about six months following Google’s Incognito mode.
A private browsing session can be opened from the keyboard using Ctrl-Shift-P (Windows) or Command-Shift-P (macOS). Alternatively, a private window can be opened from the menu at the upper right corner (three short horizontal lines) by selecting New Private Window.
Unlike Chrome, a Firefox private session window is identified by the purple “mask” icon at the Firefox frame’s title bar’s right. In Windows, the icon is to the left of the close buttons. On a Mac, the mask sits at the far right of the title bar.
Like Chrome, Firefox reminds users that private browsing is no ultimate shield for privacy. While a private session doesn’t make you anonymous to websites or your internet service provider, it does make it easier to keep things private from anyone else who uses the same device.
A link can be opened into a Private Window by right-clicking the link, then clicking Open Link in New Private Window from the list.
While the Incognito mode is a great way to keep your digital footprint to a minimum when browsing, it’s no cure-all for privacy concerns. The limits of the Incognito mode highlights just how difficult it is to stay undetectable on the web. Nonetheless, Incognito or private sessions have their uses when you know exactly what they do and what they don’t.
Incognito mode doesn’t conceal your browsing history from your service provider, and it doesn’t erase files you’ve downloaded. It merely hides your online activities from the particular browser on the specific device you’re using and other people using that device.
To keep tracking down to a complete minimum, you’ll need to opt for a browser focused on privacy. Use services like the DuckDuckGo search engine that don’t mine data, and use a secure VPN program whenever you connect to a network. Further reading:
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