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Avast Academy Privacy Browser Private Browsing: How to Turn Incognito Mode On and Off

Private Browsing: How to Turn Incognito Mode On and Off

What is incognito mode and private browsing, and is there a difference? Keep reading to discover how private mode can keep you safe, how to browse privately, and what sort of information incognito mode can’t hide. Plus, learn how a secure browser can conceal your internet activity more thoroughly than private mode.


What is private browsing?

Private browsing is a feature offered in most modern browsers that hides your internet activity from anyone else who uses your device. Your browser won’t store your browsing history, search history, cookies, and other temporary browsing data during a private browsing session. Incognito mode is the same thing as private browsing — it’s just what Chrome calls it.

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    If you search for your partner’s Christmas presents while browsing in private mode, and then they later use your computer, there’s no chance of them accidentally ruining the surprise. Your partner won’t see your browsing history, search history, or cookies from that session.

    While it removes all traces of your browsing activity from your device, private browsing does not mean you stay anonymous online and does not protect you from web tracking.

    What’s the difference between private browsing and anonymous browsing?

    By clearing your cookies and other temporary data, private browsing protects your privacy only on your computer or phone. Your actions — visiting websites, searching for plane tickets, clicking links, adding items to shopping cart — can still be seen and tracked by advertisers, your internet service provider (ISP), the government (if they’re looking), and potentially hackers.

    By contrast, anonymous browsing hides your identity online so that your internet activity can’t be traced back to you at all. 

    The “privacy” of private browsing has been greatly exaggerated, and you’ll have to use additional tools, like a VPN, to get true internet privacy. But private browsing is a good first step, and incognito mode is safe and easy to use.

    How to turn private browsing on or off

    No matter which browser you use, it’s easy to turn private browsing on and off. If you’re using Chrome, Firefox, or Edge, all windows and tabs are part of the same private browsing session, meaning that they’ll share browsing data between them. On Mac and iPhone, Safari treats each private tab and window as an entirely separate session.

    Read on for instructions on how to start using private browsing and how to turn off incognito mode in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Avast Secure Browser. 

    And be sure to check out our guide to the best browsers for privacy and our review of the fastest web browsers.

    Google Chrome

    You can learn how to turn on private browsing on Google Chrome in a flash. Simply click the three dots in the top-right corner and select New Incognito Window.

    Opening Incognito mode in Google Chrome.

    You can save time by using a browser keyboard shortcut. On Windows, hit CTRL + Shift + N to open a new incognito window. On a Mac, use Command + Shift + N.

    While browsing privately, cookies and your internet search history from the session won’t be saved after you exit private mode. (If you’ve been browsing normally without incognito mode, you can still delete your cookies and clear your search history pretty easily.)

    The start page for Google Chrome's Incognito mode.

    Wondering how to turn off incognito mode on Chrome? Simply close all of your incognito windows, and you’ll be right back to normal browsing.

    Mozilla Firefox

    It’s just as easy to go incognito in Firefox. Open Firefox, click on the three lines (the hamburger menu) in the upper-right corner, and select New Private Window.

    Opening a private browsing window in Mozilla Firefox.

    You can also use a keyboard shortcut to browse privately in firefox: use CTRL + Shift + P on Windows or Command + Shift + P on Mac.

    The start page for Mozilla Firefox's private browsing mode.

    And here’s how to turn off private browsing in Firefox: Simply close all your private windows, and you’ll automatically start browsing normally again.


    Apple makes it nice and easy to begin a private browsing session in Safari. Open up Safari, click File, and select New Private Window.

    Opening a private browsing window in Safari.

    You can use the keyboard shortcut Command + Shift + N to start browsing privately on Safari in a snap.

    The start page for Safari's private mode.

    Need to turn off private browsing in Safari? Just close all your private windows, and that’s it.

    Internet Explorer and Edge

    If you’re still using Internet Explorer, you should really upgrade to Microsoft’s new browser Edge. Since IE is no longer updated with security fixes, it may contain software vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Stay protected by updating to Edge or changing your default Windows browser

    That said, Internet Explorer’s private browsing functionality is called InPrivate browsing, and you can open it by clicking the cog icon in the right corner. Then, select Safety and InPrivate browsing. The keyboard shortcut CTRL + Shift + P will get the job done fast.

    Microsoft Edge also calls its private browsing feature InPrivate browsing. Use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + Shift + P to open an InPrivate window in Edge. Or, you can click the three dots in the upper-right corner and select New InPrivate window.

    When you’ve gone incognito in Edge, you’ll see “InPrivate” in a blue band around your avatar in the upper-right corner of your browser window.

    An InPrivate browsing window in Microsoft Edge.

    Avast Secure Browser

    To go beyond incognito mode and level up your security, consider a privacy-focused browser like Avast Secure Browser. In addition to ad blocking, anti-tracking, and all its other privacy protections, Avast Secure Browser has a private mode, too. Here’s how to use it:

    1. Download and install Avast Secure Browser.

    2. Click the three dots in the upper-right corner and select New Stealth Mode Window.

      Opening a stealth mode window in Avast Secure Browser.
    3. Or, use a keyboard shortcut. For Windows: CTRL + Shift + N. For Mac: Command + Shift + N.

    4. Now you’re in Stealth Mode!

      The opening page in Stealth Mode in Avast Secure Browser.

    Is private browsing really private?

    While private browsing hides your searches and browsing activity from other people who use your computer, it’s not really private. Private browsing does not hide your internet activity from advertisers, your ISP, the government, hackers, or anyone else. And it does not prevent web tracking.

    Some browsers can block tracking cookies while in incognito mode, but they can’t block more advanced tracking techniques like browser fingerprinting, which can identify you online with near-perfect accuracy. Private browsing also does not hide your IP address, which is another way you can be identified online.

    How can I see what has been viewed in private browsing?

    If you’re wondering how to see what someone else has done during their private browsing session (or even what you did), the answer is simple — you can’t. That’s what private browsing is for! If you’re that curious to know what your partner got you for the holidays, you’ll just have to wait. 

    But if you’re a parent trying to see if your child has been checking out inappropriate content online, you do have some options. You won’t be able to unearth their past private browsing sessions, but you can introduce content filters. A parental control app can help you block explicit content, set screen time limits, and even pause internet access with the tap of a button.

    Get more privacy than “private browsing”

    As we now know, private browsing doesn’t really offer true online privacy. But that doesn’t mean you're out of luck — there are still options to protect your personal information and stay hidden online.

    One of the easiest ways is to use a browser built specifically for privacy and security. Avast Secure Browser offers advanced anti-tracking protection, anti-fingerprinting technology, and a whole suite of additional privacy and security features.

    Avast Secure Browser features a host of privacy and security features, like an ad blocker, anti-tracking and anti-fingerprinting protection, and more.

    Block ads and web trackers, keep your most sensitive information secure with Bank Mode, and enjoy faster browsing. Download Avast Secure Browser today and take your online privacy and security to the next level.

    Browse privately and get anti-tracking protection with Avast Secure Browser for Android


    Browse privately and get anti-tracking protection with Avast Secure Browser for iOS