Incognito Mode

How to use Incognito mode in your browser and why you would want to use it when online shopping, gaming and browsing.

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How to use Incognito mode or private browsing mode?

Learning how to use Incognito mode certainly has its benefits on a shared computer. With private browsing mode, you can covertly shop for a gift for a loved one, research sensitive topics that you wish to keep private from people at home or keep your funny cat video viewing habits a secret.

What is Incognito mode or private browsing mode? 

Although Apple’s Safari was the first major browser to offer private browsing in 2005, Google Chrome’s Incognito mode helped popularize the feature after its launch in 2008. Today, Incognito mode has become synonymous with any browser’s private browsing mode.

So, what is private browsing mode or Incognito mode exactly? In a nutshell, this feature protects your privacy from other people who use the same computer by stopping your browser from locally saving the following data:

  • Browsing history
  • Cookies
  • Site Data
  • Form information

How to use Incognito mode 

You’re in luck if you want to know how to use Incognito mode because it’s quite easy. Open Google Chrome on your computer and hit Ctrl+Shift+N on your keyboard on Windows or Command+Shift+N on macOS to launch an Incognito window. Alternatively, click the three dots on the top-right corner of your browser and select the right option.

Going incognito is just as straightforward on other browsers. Find the private browsing option after clicking on the menu icon on the top-right-hand corner of Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox. Alternatively, use the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+N for Edge or Ctrl+Shift+P for Firefox on Windows. Use the Command key instead of Ctrl on macOS.

How to turn off Incognito mode 

If you want to know how to turn off Incognito mode quickly, simply hit the “X” on the upper corner of your browser to close it. If you’re wondering how to get out of Incognito mode with a shortcut, we suggest you hit Alt+F4 on your keyboard on Windows to close your active private browsing window. But remember, Alt+F4 completely closes any application your currently using, so use it carefully.

Users who want to know how to turn off private browsing mode temporarily can practice some other keyboard combinations. You can quickly minimize your Incognito window, switch between browsers, or hide all windows and display the desktop with the correct Windows keyboard shortcuts.

How to use AdBlock on Incognito mode 

In addition to preventing your browser from saving you’re browsing data, Incognito mode also deactivates extensions because some extensions can track your activity. Thankfully, you can activate your ad-blocking extension of choice like Malwarebytes Browser Guard with some easy steps:

  1. Enter chrome://extensions in Google Chrome’s address bar.
  2. Find your ad-blocking extension.
  3. Click Details under the extension.
  4. Click Allow in Incognito to enable your ad-blocker in private browsing mode.

What does Incognito mode do?

The primary function of Incognito mode is to protect your privacy from other people who use the same device. It mitigates the risk of a spouse, roommate, or anyone on a public computer spying on your browsing habits. Private browsing mode does so by stopping your browser from saving your browsing information on your computer.

Although the primary function of private browsing is to locally hide your browsing activity, Incognito mode has an interesting side effect — websites also see you as a new user in Incognito mode.

What it doesn't do:

Incognito mode does not make your online activity private 

Some websites, internet service providers, and advertisers can still snoop on you in Incognito mode. Additionally, on logging-enabled networks, someone with access to the logs, like a partner, employer, or network administrator, can still see the names of the websites you access in Incognito mode. They may also see the exact URLs you’re accessing with a private browser.

Private browsing mode does not hide your IP address 

Every device that connects to the Internet has an IP address. Think of this unique string of characters as something of a digital signature. Someone with your IP address can find your general geographical location or use it to learn more about you.

Incognito mode will not hide your IP address. Use a private VPN service to hide your IP address from the websites you visit if you want to mask your location. 

So, what is a VPN and how does it work? Well, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A good VPN service encrypts your data and covers your IP address with a virtual one. With a VPN, you can prevent websites from seeing your location.

Understanding how to clear cookies can also improve your privacy.

It doesn't make your real-time activity online private

Incognito mode deletes your cookies and site data once you close your private browsing window, but the files still exist while the session is active. If you forget to turn off Incognito mode, someone sharing the computer could see these files.

It does not prevent law enforcement from seeing your activity 

Incognito mode is only a rudimentary privacy measure that helps shield your browsing habits from others in the household. It’s not designed to stop law enforcement from tracking your activity. Citizens, activists, journalists, and political figures in countries with lax privacy laws should use more robust cybersecurity tools.

Incognito more doesn't delete your downloaded files

Files that you download in Incognito mode don’t disappear. Anyone who shares your computer can still find and view the images, videos, software, documents, and other files you saved on your storage drive in Incognito mode.

Finally, Incognito mode does not protect you from viruses and malware 

Incognito mode is not an anti-malware tool. The best antivirus software will protect you from malware like viruses, scams and malicious websites and improve your security.

Why use Incognito mode

  1. Always use Incognito mode on a public computer so the next person can’t snoop on your browsing activity.
  2. Incognito mode stops your browser from saving cookies that marketers can use to target you with repetetive ads.
  3. With Incognito mode stopping you from saving data on website forms, you can protect your private information.
  4. It’s easier to keep sensitive purchases like an engagement ring or plane tickets private from people who share your computer when you shop in private browsing mode.
  5. It's been reported that you might be able to get better deals while booking flights or hotels online.

How to use Incognito mode on different devices 

Whether you want to know how to use Incognito mode on iPhone or how to use it on a PC, the steps are almost identical. Open the browser of your choice, such as Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari, on your computer or device. Tap or click the three dots on the top right to access the menu. Now, use the New Incognito Window (or Private Browsing Window) option to launch Incognito mode.

Can you get viruses in Incognito mode? 

Incognito mode only protects your privacy from users of the same device. It can also offer some defense against marketers and websites. However, it doesn’t stop viruses or more complex privacy-invading malware like stalkerware, keyloggers, or spyware. While private browsing is a good start, you need a top anti-malware download for security. As mentioned above, good VPN app will also strengthen your privacy.

You should also look beyond mainstream browsers if you need more anonymity. Look through our list of the best browsers for privacy and security for more private browsing. By leveraging the right tools to stay private, you can shield your digital footprint on your computer and the Internet.

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