What Is Incognito Mode?

Chyelle Dvorak
Mar 21, 2023
Icon Time To Read3 min read

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Let’s say you go to your friend’s house. You happen to receive a very important work email. You decide to answer it, but you can’t do it from your phone. So you ask to use your friend’s computer.

However, because your work deals with sensitive information, you’d rather not leave your history on their computer. This is where incognito mode comes in. Incognito mode stops your browser from collecting data on you, or “cookies,” from the websites you visit, the places you sign into, and the history you accumulate when browsing the internet.

Incognito mode helps make you safer online, but only to a certain extent. If you’re dealing with extremely sensitive information, then incognito mode isn’t going to cut it in terms of privacy. It avoids saving your web cache (so you won't have to delete it later), but it doesn’t protect all your banking information from hackers. Here’s more information about what Incognito mode is, how to us it, and whether you should use it.

What is incognito mode?

Incognito mode works by stopping your browser from collecting information on which websites you visit. When you search the internet outside of incognito mode, you develop a web history. This history is more public than you think.

Websites and browsers collect data and sell it. You go to one website, then the next, and then another. Pretty soon, there’s a long trail of web history that depicts which websites you’ve visited and when.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new purse and go to several websites, including Coach, Ralph Lauren, and Kate Spade. Google can collect and store this information, selling it to people who want to create targeted ads.

Or let’s say you visit a retailer website after shopping for new shoes. The site you’re visiting knows that you want to buy a pair based on your search history. So, as soon as you go shopping, the prices for shoes are higher than they would be for someone else. Suddenly, you’re paying a bit more money for those sneakers without even knowing it.

Does incognito mode really work?

Private browsing prevents your browser from collecting information on which sites you visit as well as your search history.  So if you want to stop this from happening, then incognito mode can help you do the trick. However, using incognito mode doesn’t stop websites from keeping your IP address and tracking what you’ve visited. If you want full privacy, then you should use a VPN or Tor browser.

How to use incognito mode

Incognito browsing is possible in most browsers like Chrome, Safari, and FireFox. The fastest way to open an incognito window is through keyboard shortcuts: Command-Shift-N (macOS) or Ctrl-Shift-N (Windows/PC).

For Chrome, another way is to click the three verticle dots menu on the top right of your browser and choose "New Incognito Window." And for Safari, select "File" on the top left of the screen and click "New Private Window." Firefox is similar, except you will click the three lines in the upper-right corner and select "New private window" from the dropdown menu.

How to use incognito mode on mobile

You can also browse in incognito mode on iOS or Android mobile devices.

For Safari, click the tabs icon–the two squares at the bottom right of your iPhone screen or the top right of your iPad. Next, tap the bottom middle of Safari that reads the number of tabs you have open. From here, tap "Private" to enable private (incognito) browsing.

For Chrome, tap the three-dot icon at the bottom right corner, similar to as you would choose the three-dot icon at the top right corner on your desktop. Select "New incognito tab"  to begin private browsing.

How to disable incognito mode

To disable incognito mode and return to regular browsing, simply close the incognito window. When you open a new window, it will be back to public browsing.

What is Tor browser?

If incognito mode doesn’t provide the level of privacy you need, you may want to check out Tor browser.

Tor browser works by isolating each website you visit to keep third-party trackers from tracking you. Once you’re done visiting the website, the cookies automatically clear. If you’re researching sensitive information and don’t want to leave a web footprint, then using Tor browser will help.

Many people assume that Tor browser is only for shady activity, but many people deal with private government data, access data on medical patients, or build projects for non-governmental organizations using this browser.

However, Tor has a slow loading speed because it uses several layers of protection to ensure that your information is private. If you’re also using a VPN that slows down your internet a lot, then you might be sitting for hours at your computer screen. If you’re using Tor browser, make sure you have a high-quality VPN that won’t slow your internet speed too much.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) is an excellent way to help secure private browsing. Unlike incognito mode, which only works to stop your browser from collecting user information, a VPN works by tunneling your information through a private server at a different location. Your information is kept private, and hackers aren’t able to trace you as easily.

Here are some VPNs that are reliable and easy to use. We’ve researched all kinds of VPN brands and rated them based on performance, price, and number of servers. These VPNs will keep your private documents secure and will prevent free access to your info at a coffee shop.

Top VPNs for 2023

VPN
Monthly price
Number of servers
Number of countries
Details

ExpressVPN

$12.95/mo.

3,000+

94

NordVPN

$11.99/mo.

5,278

60

Hotspot Shield

$12.99/mo.

1,800+

82

CyberGhost

$12.99/mo.

7,600

91

Data effective 03/21/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Chyelle Dvorak
Written by
Chyelle Dvorak
Chyelle works as a freelance writer for The Daily Beast and edited articles for Forbes, Inc.com, Fox News and other review sites. Chyelle tests, writes, and researches products and services related to internet consumption. She found her passion for public speaking and writing in her childhood when she won the Voice of Democracy speech and essay competition. Chyelle has a degree in International Relations from Crown College, Minnesota. Outside of work, Chyelle loves to spend time reading, kayaking, and running.

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