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Private browsing how to: Tips to shield your browsing history


Private browsing isn’t as perfect as you may believe, but it does do a good job of shielding your internet history and searches.


Private browsing, the ultimate tool for when you need to make sure whatever you are searching for doesn’t come back to haunt you. The secret way to flip your browser to private mode can help shield your browsing history, but beware, it’s not a catch-all method of privacy.

Different web browsers have different names for the tool that purports to provide a private web browsing experience. Chrome has “incognito mode,” Safari calls it browsing in a “Private window,” and Firefox refers to it as private browsing.

The goal of these modes is to allow web users some privacy in their search habits to make sure no one knows what was searched, when, or why. Supposedly.

Unfortunately, these modes can only go so far. If you are trying to truly browse the internet under the cloak of absolute darkness, you need to go a few steps further by using a VPN and privacy-centric browsers. Here’s our private browsing how to!

What does private browsing do?

Privacy browsing does cloak your internet usage in a way. Mainly, it will protect you from having an awkward moment with a family member who happens to use the computer and sees a strange search autofill their search bar.

Typically all browsers, or at least the most popular and common ones, store information about what you are browsing. Multiple forms of information are saved, including your history, which notes the websites you visited and at what time, cookies and autocomplete forms to help fill out forms faster. Most browsers also save searches you have input into the browser’s address bar, a cache of websites to make them run faster and files you have downloaded.

All of this makes life easier on the web.

When you decide to enter private browsing mode, your browser will stop storing all of this information. It won’t track cookies, the history of the sites you visited and any searches.

This will stop people from searching through your history on your computer and any searches you made.

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Related: The ultimate guide to digital security and privacy tools

Is private browsing really private?

As we mentioned above, private browsing protects your privacy in a number of ways. It doesn’t keep a memory of your history, your cache or searches on the browser you are using. This will stop anyone from your household, work or other public computer from being able to access that data.

Where things get tricky is when we look at the broader internet and server system. 

While private browsing will stop storing activity on your computer, other computers, routers and servers that process those searches and visits to websites are able to record your visit. Once the search leaves your computer and travels through a network and to the server of a search engine, it can be logged. 

Even if you are at home and not on a shared network at work or school, Internet Service providers can log your traffic. 

Another danger is malware such as a key logger or spyware application on your computer that could monitor your browsing history. If you are using private mode, that won’t stop a key logger from logging your searches and more.

While it isn’t perfect, private browsing does have benefits. Follow the steps below to learn how to browse privately.

Related: The top browser fingerprinting checkers to protect your data privacy

How to browse privately on Safari

To enable private browsing in Safari, follow these steps:

  1. Open Safari
  2. Click File in the top menu bar
  3. Select New Private Window
  4. Congratulations, you are now browsing privately.
Safari private browsing

How to browse privately on iPhone

To enable private browsing on your iPhone follow these steps:

  1. Open the Safari browser
  2. Click the button with two boxes at the bottom right of the screen
  3. Click the “Private” button on the bottom left of the screen
  4. Click the “+” symbol in the middle of the bottom of the screen
  5. You are now browning in private mode
iPhone private browsing

How to browse privately on iPad

To enable private browsing on your iPad, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Safari browser
  2. Click the button with two boxes at the bottom right of the screen
  3. Click the “Private” button on the bottom left of the screen
  4. Click the “+” symbol in the middle of the bottom of the screen
  5. You browsing is now private!

How to browse Chrome privately

To browse privately in Google Chrome, follow these steps:

  1. Open Google Chrome
  2. Click File on the top menu bar
  3. Select “New Incognito Window”
  4. You are now browsing in private mode
Chrome private browsing

How to browse Firefox privately

To enable private browsing in Firefox, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Firefox browser
  2. Click File on the top menu bar
  3. Select “New Private Window”
  4. You are now browsing in private mode
Firefox private browsing

Staying private online, forever

Once you’ve managed to shift your behavior to focus on privacy, you may want to go one step further and start using a VPN. These Virtual Private Networks route your Internet traffic through different servers so that it’s difficult to track. This keeps your data private and make sure that you aren’t being tracked by advertisers around the Internet.

To learn how VPNs and other tools can shield your browsing from prying eyes, dive into our guide to digital security and privacy tools. It takes a little bit of practice, but you too can stay private online forever!