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Have you ever wondered if your incognito history gets saved anywhere? While browsing incognito prevents your browsing history from being stored on your device, your online activity might not be gone forever after you end your session. Learn how to find your incognito history and delete it, or use a secure browser to make private browsing a no-brainer.
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But does incognito mode leave any traces behind, and can you ever recover a record of your activity after it’s deleted? While it can be tricky to view your incognito history again, it’s not impossible — skip down below to learn how to view your incognito history.
Whether you want to make sure all your incognito search history is wiped for privacy or simply want to find that tasty dinner recipe you stumbled across yesterday morning, we’ll share a couple methods you can try.
Despite how it sounds, going “incognito” does not mask who you are or what you’re doing online. Browsing in incognito mode prevents other people who use your computer from seeing your browsing activity, your tab history, or what you search for, but it won’t keep you private on the internet. So why doesn’t incognito mode work as well as you might think?
Your incognito browsing history is not completely anonymous. Personal information like what your IP address is and what you’re doing on a website or service (especially while logged in) is still visible to others around the web who might be tracking you online.
This includes your favorite websites, your internet service provider (ISP), even your employer — not to mention the data brokers and hackers coveting your personal data. If you’re using Chrome while logged into your Google account, some of your private browsing activity may still be logged in My Activity, depending on your settings.
Even if you’re browsing privately, downloaded files and bookmarks will still be saved in your system. And while incognito mode deletes browser cookies, login information, and other website data from your device at the end of your private session, your website visits can still be tracked and recorded while you’re online.
If you’re looking to stop family members or roommates from viewing your online activity when they use your device, browsing privately is a good solution. To learn more, check out our guides to using incognito mode in Google Chrome, private browsing in Firefox, and how to go incognito if you prefer Safari.
If you want to stop your employer, ISP, or anyone else from seeing what you’re up to on the web, you’ll need to take additional steps to protect your privacy. For true anonymous browsing, we recommend using a VPN (virtual private network) along with incognito mode to hide your IP address and encrypt all your web traffic.
Avast SecureLine VPN hides your online activity, doesn’t log browsing history or app usage, and secures your browsing data against DNS leaks. It encrypts your connection with the click of a button for true privacy, obscuring your online activity and identity from anyone who might be trying to snoop.
While there’s no direct way to see the sites you visited while browsing privately, there are some loopholes available, such as recovering data via the DNS cache or using third-party software to view incognito browsing history.
Here’s how to check your incognito history:
If you’re using a Windows device, you can see your incognito history in your DNS queries, even after your browsing session.
The Domain Name System (DNS) matches a website’s URL, or web address, with its IP address. When you type a URL into your web browser, a DNS server finds the right IP address so you can visit the website you want.
This information is recorded locally on your device in a temporary database called the DNS cache — even when you’re surfing incognito. DNS caching helps speed up your browsing so that the next time you go to a website, your browser doesn’t have to check the DNS server. This also means the DNS cache has records of the browsing history on your computer.
If you need to recover or clear your incognito history — or delete your browsing history entirely — it’s easy to access the DNS cache on a Windows device.
Here’s how to view your browsing records via the DNS cache:
Launch the Windows Command Prompt by clicking on the Windows icon in the bottom-left corner and typing in Cmd. Select Run as administrator, then click Yes if prompted.
The black command-line tool window will open. Type the command ipconfig/displaydns and press Enter to see your DNS cache history.
You’ll see a list of detailed information about all the websites you recently visited, even if they weren’t saved in your browser history.
Keep in mind that viewing incognito history via DNS cache works only on Windows devices. Other operating systems, such as macOS, may not offer a straightforward way to view cached DNS entries without more complicated workarounds.
But what if you don’t want to go digging around in your DNS cache? Or do you want to view your incognito browsing history on your smartphone? If you’re just looking to see the websites you visited — not delete the data — there are several third-party apps you can use to see incognito history on your Android or iOS devices.
Parental control apps help parents keep tabs on their children’s screen time, but they also provide an easy way to recover incognito browsing history on your Android phone or iPhone.
These browser history reports list all the websites you visited or searched, even in incognito mode, along with detailed information about the date, time, and number of times you visited. Some apps even collect keystroke records on devices, even if you’re privately browsing.
Here are some of the most popular parental control apps that you can use to view your incognito search history:
Now that you know how to view your incognito history, let’s learn how to delete it.
Incognito mode prevents your browsing history from being visible to other people who use your device. Instead of clearing your browser history yourself, when you close your private browsing window, your browser will delete your incognito history along with any cookies, web tracking tools, or form data you’ve entered.
But remember that private browsing mode doesn’t extend your privacy past your computer, tablet, or phone. As we mentioned above, incognito browsing does not hide your activities online. Your ISP, employer, and other websites can still see and record your browsing history, your location, and any personal data you may be sharing or leaking along the way.
Traces of your activity may remain behind on your computer in your DNS records, which even a powerful browser cleaning tool can’t touch. You’ll need to manually delete your DNS cache to remove any website URL queries that get recorded. Flushing the DNS cache differs slightly depending on your device’s operating system.
To flush the DNS cache and clear incognito history on Windows, follow these steps:
Launch Windows Command Prompt by clicking on the Windows icon in the bottom-left corner of your desktop and typing in Cmd. Select Run as administrator, then click Yes when prompted.
Type the command ipconfig/flushdns and press Enter to clear the DNS. This will delete all the DNS entries in the DNS cache so that there’s no longer any record on your device of the websites you’ve visited.
Mac users need to use their native command-line tool called Terminal to clear the DNS cache.
Open the Terminal by clicking on Go > Utilities.
For all MacOS versions from OS X Lion through macOS Big Sur, type the following command into the command-line window: sudo dscacheutil -flushcache;sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder.
Enter your computer password to flush the DNS cache.
If you’re on OS X 10.10.1, 10.10.2, or 10.10.3, type in the following command instead: sudo discoveryutil udnsflushcaches;sudo discoveryutil mdnsflushcaches.
And that’s it! You’ve successfully flushed the DNS cache and fully deleted your incognito browsing history. We also recommend clearing your browser caches on your Mac as an extra step. And for comprehensive privacy online, be sure to use a dedicated secure and private browser.
While incognito mode can go a long way toward hiding your browsing behavior from other people who use your device, it won’t do much against the snoops and spies lurking on the internet. Just about every browser offers some kind of incognito mode, but for truly private browsing, you need to use a browser committed to protecting your privacy.
You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your local or online browsing behavior is visible to others. And that’s why our dedicated team of privacy experts created a browser that combines encryption, private browsing, and a suite of other advanced security and privacy features that keep your online life completely private.
Avast Secure Browser includes a wide range of privacy and security features.
Avast Secure Browser goes beyond incognito mode to deliver powerful privacy features like built-in VPN integration, forced encryption, and a host of other tools to stop web tracking, disguise your browser fingerprint, block ads, and protect against other online threats.
Download Avast Secure Browser today to hide your browsing behavior and add an extra layer of security so you can do what you want online — privately and securely.