Sat Jul 14 2018

What is incognito/private browsing and how does it work?

Technology772 views

Incognito or Private Browsing

When you use the Internet, have you ever noticed that your search query is autocompleting when you type the first few words in the search text box? This is an example of your browser keeping tabs on your searching preferences and storing every moves what you make online. Many among us believe that the search history only helps users to keep track of what they have viewed on the internet for later use. However, there is a lot more than going on with your search history. Today, companies which have relied on Big Data (all of our search history) sold to advertisers who profile us based on our preferences and target us with ads of products that we may like. That is because of tracking, something that every website does nowadays. So, awareness about all of this type of function is most important for us and understand how to protect yourself from this. That's why we are highlighting the topic in this article. We will discuss Private Browsing or Incognito Browsing and will find out how it works. When you completely know about Private Browsing, it can be helpful to understand how you can protect your data. So, let's begin it -

What is a Private Browsing or Incognito?

Private browsing, privacy mode or incognito mode is a privacy feature in some web browsers to disable browsing history and the web cache. This allows a person to browse the Web without storing local data that could be retrieved at a later date. Privacy mode will also disable the storage of data in cookies and Flash cookies. This privacy protection is only on the local computing device as it is still possible to identify frequented websites by associating the IP address on the web server. Private browsing concept was first appeared in May 2005 and was used to discuss the privacy features in the Safari browser bundled with Mac OS X Tiger. The feature has since been adopted in other browsers.

Private browsing is a useful tool that any decent web browser offers is private browsing. This feature has a different name, depending on the browser that you are using. Google Chrome calls it Incognito, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge name it InPrivate, Firefox calls it Private Browsing with Tracking Protection, while Opera names it Private browsing. Some browsers offer more features for their private browsing mode. For example, Opera allows you to enable VPN when browsing privately so that your ISP cannot track the websites that you visit. Another positive example is Firefox, which blocks trackers from collecting information about your browsing behavior.

What does private browsing do?

This private browsing allows users to browse the web without saving data like cache, history, passwords or cookies. However, this is done locally, meaning that only people using your computer will not be able to find out what websites you have visited. The websites you visited, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and, in fact, every server your requests pass through, know what you visited.

Visited pages

No pages will be added to the list of sites in the History menu, the Library windows history list, or the Awesome Bar address list.

Form and Search bar entries

Nothing you enter into text boxes on web pages or the Search bar will be saved for Form autocomplete.


No new passwords will be saved.

Download List entries

No files you download will be listed in the Downloads Window after you turn off Private Browsing.


Cookies store information about websites you visit such as site preferences, login status, and data used by plugins like Adobe Flash. Cookies can also be used by third parties to track you across websites. Cookies set in private windows are held temporarily in memory, separate from regular window cookies, and discarded at the end of your private session (after the last private window is closed).

Cached Web Content and Offline Web Content and User Data

No temporary Internet files (cached files) or files that websites save for offline use will be saved.

How does incognito or private browsing work?

When you are in private browsing mode, your browser doesn't store any of this information at all. It functions as a completely isolated browser session. Private browsing only affects your computer. Your web browser can decide not to store browsing activity history on your computer, but it can’t tell other computers, servers, and routers to forget your browsing history. For example, when you visit a website, the traffic leaves your computer and travels through several other systems to reach the website’s server. If you’re on a corporate or educational network, this traffic goes through a router on the network - your employer or school can log the website access here. Even if you’re on your own network at home, the request goes through your Internet service provider - your Internet Service provider can log the traffic at this point. The request then reaches the website’s server itself, where the server can log your access. Private browsing also functions as a completely isolated browser session - for example, if you’re logged into Facebook in your normal browsing session and open a private-browsing window, you won’t be logged into Facebook in that private-browsing window. You can view sites with Facebook integration in the private-browsing window without Facebook tying the visit to your logged-in profile. This also allows you to use the private-browsing session to log into multiple accounts at once - for example, you could be logged into a Google account in your normal browsing session and log into another Google account in the private-browsing window. Private browsing protects you from people with access to your computer snooping at your browsing history - your browser won’t leave any tracks on your computer. It also prevents websites from using cookies stored on your computer to track your visits. However, your browsing is not completely private and anonymous when using private-browsing mode.

How can you start Incognito or Private browsing?

In Google Chrome

Google calls private browsing Incognito. To open a new Incognito window, you have to press the "Customize and control Google Chrome" button in the top right corner of the browser window. It looks like three dots. Then, click or tap "New incognito window". The keyboard shortcuts for browsing Incognito in Google Chrome is CTRL+SHIFT+N.

Remember, you should know that Incognito disables extensions. You can manually enable them to work in this mode too.

In Mozilla Firefox

To enable Private Browsing in Mozilla Firefox, click or tap the "Open menu" button in the top right side of the browser window. It has the shape of three parallel lines. Then, choose the New Private Window. A new private window is opened with tracking protection. There are two other features available. One is it explicitly warns you that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or employer can still track the pages you visit. And another one is it enables by default tracking protection so that online trackers do not collect information about your browsing behavior. The keyboard shortcut for Private Browsing in Mozilla Firefox is CTRL+SHIFT+N.

In Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge shares the same name for its private browsing mode as the old Internet Explorer: InPrivate browsing. To start a new browser window in this mode, click or tap the “Settings and more” button in the top-right corner. It looks like three dots. In the menu that is shown, choose New InPrivate window. In Microsoft Edge for InPrivate, there is no keyboard shortcut available.

In Internet Explorer

Microsoft uses the term InPrivate for private browsing in Internet Explorer. In the desktop version of Internet Explorer, to enable this mode, you have to open the Tools menu by clicking the little gear icon on the top-right. Then, hover over Safety to open the corresponding submenu and click InPrivate Browsing. By default, it also disables extra toolbars and extensions you normally have installed in Internet Explorer. The keyboard shortcut for InPrivate browsing is CTRL+SHIFT+P.

In Internet Explorer app of Windows 8.1

The Internet Explorer app for Windows 8.1 is a touch-oriented version of this old web browser. Luckily, enabling InPrivate browsing is simpler than in the desktop version. To enable InPrivate browsing, tap the "Tab tools" button, represented by the three dots, found on the right side of the list with opened tabs. Then, tap the "New InPrivate tab" link in the menu. The keyboard shortcuts for opening an InPrivate tab, press CTRL+SHIFT+P.

In Opera

To open a private browsing window in Opera, you have to click or tap the “Customize and control Opera” button found on the top left side of the browser window. Then, click or tap "New private window." You can turn on the built-in VPN for more privacy. This button is found on the left side of the address bar. The keyboard shortcut to open a Private Browsing window in Opera is CTRL+SHIFT+N.

Good reasons to use incognito mode

Personal search ranking

Normally, cookies and your history could influence your search results. Go incognito and find out what Google really thinks of you, from a ranking perspective.

View site like a new visitor

With Incognito, you can see what a new visitor to a site sees.

Privacy on public PCs

Keep in mind that your network is not necessarily secure when on a shared computer. That said, if you don't want to leave tracks when using a shared PC, the incognito mode will help.

Unbiased searching

Your search history can always influence what you see in the search results. If you want completely unbiased searching, based on an empty search history (and no cookies), incognito mode can let you do so without detecting your existing history for regular work.

SEO analysis

Your search history can also influence your SEO keyword research. Think about it this way. If you work for a, say, locksmith, you're going to have a lot more lock-related history than most. That's going to influence your search results. Unless you go private, of course.

Work in multiple accounts or profiles

If you want multiple windows open in multiple accounts, sometimes profiles can get confused. With incognito mode (especially if you also use a guest window), you can keep each profile separate.

Screen recording

If you want to record a screencast, you probably don't want all your own browsing info cluttering your recording. Incognito mode is a great way to do a clean recording.

Unfettered e-commerce

Sometimes what online stores present to you (along with the prices) are influenced by what you've bought before. If you want to see it all without history influencing, both incognito mode and a VPN can help.

Sharing a computer

If you have to share a computer with a friend, guest, or sibling, one way to make sure your browsing is private is to turn on incognito mode.

Adult content

Not all adult content is sleazy. You may want to look something up without taking the chance that the kids might go to a site that they're not old enough to understand. Kids, for example, do not understand bacon like we do.


Note - Private Browsing doesn't make you anonymous on the Internet. Your Internet service provider, employer, or the sites themselves can still track what pages you visit. Private Browsing also doesn't protect you from keyloggers or spyware that may be installed on your computer.


Hope, this article successfully guided you and helped you to understand how important is to protect your data on the Internet. We are curious to know what is your view on this subject and what you think about private browsing. Comment below and share with us. Thank you!

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