Incognito mode Q&A

What your browser’s private browsing mode does — and doesn’t — protect you from.

As you move around the Internet, it is almost impossible not to leave any digital footprints. And generally speaking, being followed on the Internet is not okay with most people. But whereas a degree of privacy is important anywhere you go online, you really need the ability to cover your tracks on public computers and shared computers.

What is incognito mode?

Incognito mode — also known as private mode — is a browser mode that gives a user a measure of privacy among other users of the same device or account. In incognito mode, a browser doesn’t store your Web surfing history, cookies, download history, or login credentials.

What does “doesn’t store” mean?

Well, as you know, browsers normally remember everything you do online: what you searched for, what pages you visited, what videos you watched, what you shopped for on Amazon, and so on. But in incognito mode, browsers don’t save any of that information.
You can switch between an incognito window and regular browsing windows, too. You’ll be in incognito mode only when you’re using the incognito window.

When should you use incognito mode?

The simple answer is, you should use incognito mode when you want to keep your Internet activity secret from other people who use the same computer or device. Say, for example, you want to buy a gift for your spouse. You use your home PC to search for the best deals. You close the browser and turn off the PC when you’re done.
When your spouse uses the computer, say to check e-mail or Facebook, they are likely to see what you searched for, even without looking for it — either in browser history or in targeted ads. If you use incognito mode for your shopping, however, the browser will forget that history and not inadvertently spoil the surprise.
Also, in incognito mode you can watch what you like without leaving any tracks. (What? That’s how I listen to pop music, obviously.)

What else does incognito mode conveniently forget?

Login credentials and other form info. In incognito mode, a browser won’t save login name or password. That means you can log in to Facebook on someone else’s computer, and when you close the browser, or even the tab, you’ll be logged out, and the credentials will not autofill when you or someone else returns to the site. So there’s no chance another person will go to and inadvertently (or purposely) post from your account. Also, even if that person’s regular browser is set to save the data entered in forms (such as name, address, phone number), an incognito window won’t save that information.
Download history. If you download something while incognito, it won’t appear in the browser’s download history. However, the downloaded files will be available for everyone who uses the PC, unless you delete them. So, be careful with your My Little Pony films.

Are there other reasons to use incognito mode?

Incognito browsing is mostly about, well, going incognito. That said, here are a few more considerations.
Multiple accounts. You can log in to multiple accounts on a Web service simultaneously by using multiple incognito tabs.
No add-ons. This mode also blocks add-ons by default, which comes in handy in some situations. For example, you want to read the news but the page says “Disable your ad blocker to see this story.” Simply open the link in incognito mode — ta da!
However, if you want to use add-ons in incognito mode as well, click the menu button (three dots) in the upper right corner, choose More Tools → Extensions and check the boxes on Allow in incognito for the add-ons you need.

How do you activate incognito mode?

In Google Chrome: You can use a keyboard shortcut or click. Press Ctrl + Shift + N in Windows or ⌘ + Shift + N in macOS. Or click the three-dot button in the upper right corner of the browser window and then choose New incognito window. Click here for more info.

In Mozilla Firefox: Open the menu (three horizontal bars) in the upper right corner and click New Private Window. For more info visit this page.

In Microsoft Edge: Open the menu by clicking the three dots in the upper right corner and chose New InPrivate window. You’ll find more on that here.
In Chrome or Firefox, you can also right-click on a link and choose to open the link in a new incognito or private window.
To close this mode, simply close the tab or window. That’s it!

What incognito mode isn’t suitable for?

It is always fine to use incognito browsing. But you need to understand what it can’t do. The first, very important thing to keep in mind is that incognito mode doesn’t make your browsing anonymous. It erases local traces, but your IP address and other information remain trackable.
Among those able to see your online activities:

  • Your service provider,
  • Your boss (if you are using a work computer),
  • Websites you visit.

If there is any spying software on your computer (a keylogger, for example) it also can see what you doing. So don’t do anything stupid or illegal.

Second, and just as important, incognito mode doesn’t protect you from people who want to steal the data you send to and receive from the Internet. For example, using incognito mode for online banking, shopping, and so on is no safer than using normal mode in your browser. If you do any of those things on a shared or public network, we strongly recommend you use a VPN.

Last but not least, incognito mode doesn’t completely prevent tracking of you by online advertisers. Your Web cookies will be deleted at the end of the session, but modern targeted ad systems use a lot more than just cookies. There again, we can help you with our Private Browsing feature.

Now you know how to buy a present without getting caught — congratulations! Let’s go shopping and watch embarrassing videos without fear!