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Everything You Need to Know About Safari Private Browsing

Chris Bluvshtein

Ever wondered what Safari Private Browsing does exactly? Chances are it might not be giving you the level of online privacy you expect. Safari Private Browsing does have some perks, including:

  • Stopping Safari from remembering the websites you’ve visited
  • Not storing any new usernames, passwords, payments cards, and other information you input into private browsing
  • Forgetting any search engine queries you’ve run
  • Allowing you to save money by avoiding marketing cookies that might inflate prices

However, this is pretty much all the privacy that you’ll get with Safari Private Browsing. This incognito mode  won’t cloak your IP address, encrypt your internet traffic, or make you safe on public Wi-Fi . Private browsing still leaves you pretty exposed to a lot of the risks that come with connecting to the internet.

For true online anonymity, you’ll need to use a VPN to change your IP address . We’re big fans of ExpressVPN, one of the fastest VPNs in the industry.

Below, you’ll find more information on how to use Safari Private Browsing on all your Apple devices, as well as more details on how this incognito mode does and doesn’t protect your privacy.

If you use a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, then chances are you’ve encountered Safari Private Browsing before. Whether you’re shopping for a partner’s gift or want to snoop on a long-lost colleague’s LinkedIn, there are many reasons why you might want to use private mode in Safari.

In this article, we answer the question, what is Safari Private Browsing ? We’ll also tell you what this handy tool can’t  do to save you any embarrassment or risk to your online security.

What is Safari Private Browsing?

Use anonymous search engine icon

There’s a little more to this method of browsing than meets the eye, but we’ll go into specifics further down in this article. The point is, for a more private experience, you can use Safari’s incognito mode . You’ll be logged out of all accounts, and Safari won’t autofill user logins, passwords, or payment information. When you turn on private browsing, Safari won’t remember :

  • Your search engine history
  • Webpages you’ve visited
  • Browsing activity or history

You should, however, be aware of a major drawback of this tool on Macs: your browsing activity likely isn’t as hidden as you might think. Websites you visit can still see who you are and what you’re doing . You can read more about this in our general incognito mode article .

With Macs, Private Browsing information is logged in a different place, as well: your Terminal archive.

Beware the Mac Terminal archive

On Macs, there’s something called the Terminal archive , and it’s as scary as it sounds — well, for fans of privacy at least. It’s a treasure trove for snoops. The Terminal archive contains all of the websites you visit , whether you’re using Safari Private Browsing or not. This is because your Mac stores static images and other files when you visit a website for the first time. This makes future visits to these sites and page loading much faster, as your Mac pulls the relevant files from the Terminal archive.

This command-line function also lets you make systemic changes to your Mac . For most users, there’ll never be a need to make any changes in the Terminal archive, and you shouldn’t if you don’t know what you’re doing. You could end up breaking something critical in your computer’s operating system if you tinker with the Terminal.

Screenshot of iOS user interface, Access Terminal app

However, it is good to know that, even when you’re using Safari’s Private Browsing mode, your online activity is logged here.

Make your Safari Private Browsing truly private

By now, you might be asking yourself: how do I clear the cache on my Mac? Well, today’s your lucky day.  Below, you’ll find a brief, step-by-step guide to clearing the cache on a Mac . Just make sure not to do anything else while inside the Terminal.

  • Open “ Finder ,” then search for “ Terminal ” in the search bar.
  • Run the  Terminal  application.
  • Paste the following text into the Terminal and hit enter: sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder

You may have to enter your Admin password to proceed. This is going to flush the DNS cache.

Remember that you shouldn’t do anything else inside of the Terminal application unless you know what you’re doing. It only takes a short command to nuke files or entire directories in this app forever! So, tread carefully.

Why You Should Use Safari Private Browsing on Macs and iOS

We can hypothesize all we want, but you’ve probably got a good idea of why you  use private browsing. According to a 2018 research study , the most common reason people use private browsing is so others that are using a shared device can’t see what they’re doing. This comes down to protecting two things from other users of your device:

  • Their personal data
  • Their browsing activity

Fortunately, these are two things that Safari Private Mode manages to do wonderfully. Below, you can read more about what else Safari Private Browsing does for you .

Online privacy

Privacy browser icon

  • Your browser won’t remember what websites you’ve visited.  Anything you browse while you’re in private browsing mode won’t be remembered by Safari. So, if you start shopping online for gifts or a product that you find embarrassing, you won’t usually have to worry about your friends or family coming across your browsing history.
  • Safari won’t suggest usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and so   on.  You’ve probably noticed that Safari can remember usernames, passwords, credit cards, and other information when you use it for the first time. If you tell your Mac, smartphone, or tablet to remember those details, they’ll be automatically filled in the next time you visit the website. With Safari Private Mode enabled, these kinds of details won’t be stored: you won’t be prompted to save or autofill them at all.
  • Your search engine queries won’t be remembered . If you’ve been shopping for gifts or trying to self-diagnose, you probably don’t want other users of the computer to see what you’ve searched for . Normally, you’ll see suggested searches popping up in search engines like Google. Based on your past searches and clicks, some links might be colored purple instead of blue, too. In private browsing mode, these won’t appear, nor will any new searches be stored.

How to pay less with Safari Private Browsing

There’s more to private mode options than just online security. You could also save money with Safari Private Browsing, as you won’t be quoted higher prices for products you’ve already viewed. When you visit a website, cookies (small text files) are stored on your computer by your browser.

These kinds of cookies aren’t delicious or rewarding at all. Instead, they allow the site to track you and figure out that you’re interested in, for example, a particular holiday destination. This can result in you seeing higher airfares, hotel booking fees, and more. Just turn on Safari’s Private Browsing to s top cookies from being stored on your browser and avoid hiked prices.

How to Go Incognito on Safari

Incognito mode icon

Safari Private Browsing on a Mac

Using  Safari Private Browsing  on a Mac is simple. If you’re reading this on a Mac, you can skip step one in our step-by-step guide below:

  • Open Safari on your Mac.
  • Click on “ File ” in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  • Select “ New Private Window .” This will open a new private tab, but you can open as many private tabs in your tab bar as you need.

Screenshot how to open a New Private Window on Safari

It’s that simple. Now, any new tab you open within this new private browsing window will be a private browsing tab. Give it a whirl by opening some new private tabs and navigating to a website you frequently log into. You’ll notice that your username and password aren’t suggested for autofill as they usually would be .

Also, you’ll know that you’re in private browsing, as the URL bar will have a gray background rather than the usual white. Just remember to ignore or close your existing browser window if you had any open. If in doubt, check the background color of the URL bar.

Finally, to  turn off private browsing in Safari , simply click the red cross in the corner of the browser window as you usually would.

Safari Private Browsing on an iPhone

Using  Safari’s private browsing mode on an iPhone or iPad is fairly straightforward and could increase your privacy on an iPhone . If you’re running  iOS 14 or earlier , simply follow the steps below:

  • Open  Safari on your phone.
  • Tap on the “ Tabs ” button. That’s the two small squares in the bottom-right corner of your Safari window on iPhone.
  • A new option called “Private” should appear.
  • Tap “ Private ” and you’ll be taken to a blank screen confirming that you’re using Private Browsing Mode . You’ll notice that it’s using the same gray color scheme as Safari for Mac.
  • Lastly, click on the small “ + ” (plus) icon to launch a private browsing window.

Screenshots of iOS Access Private Browsing mode

If you’re using  Apple’s latest iPhone update, iOS 15.1.1 , you’ll need to follow a slightly different (and hey, we’ll say it — more confusing) set of steps:

  • Tap on the “ Tabs ” button.
  • Tap where it says “ X Tab(s) ” – this number will reflect the number of windows you have open.
  • Tap “ Private .”
  • Now, you’re in Private Browsing mode and can click the small “ + ” (plus) icon to launch a new private window.

Screenshots of iOS Access Private Browsing mode latest Apple update

Again, turning off private browsing in Safari for iPhones or iPads is simple. Just press the same “ Private ” button that you used to enable the feature. Don’t forget, if you have multiple private tabs open, they won’t close automatically. Swipe each tab closed before you exit private mode if you want to leave no trace.

How to Set Safari Private Browsing as the Default

If you’d rather always browse privately, you can also set Safari Private Browsing as your default, so that it opens automatically whenever you open a new tab or window. Check out the step-by-step instructions below for a Mac :

  • Make sure your active application is Safari, then select “ Safari ” from your Mac’s toolbar at the top of your screen. Click on “ Preferences ” next, which can also be accessed using the keyboard shortcut “ Command ” + “ , ” (that’s Command, plus a comma).
  • Now, you should see the Privacy window for Safari. Click on the “ General ” tab.
  • Next to “Safari opens with”, select “ A new private window ” from the drop-down list.

While you  can’t automatically use Safari Private Browsing by default on mobile , there are some options for minimizing what’s remembered, stored, or recommended. Here’s how you get there:

  • Open the “ Settings ” application.
  • Scroll down until you see “ Safari ” and tap on that option.

Now, you’ll have the choice to use a number of features. You can:

  • Disable search engine suggestions
  • Disable Safari suggestions specifically
  • Turn off autofill for Safari , either for personal information, payment information, or both
  • Disable “ Favorites “, which you can save in your Safari app’s home screen
  • Turn off “ Frequently Visited Sites “, which appear below your favorites

In this menu, you can also  prevent cross-site tracking and  block all cookies on the websites that you visit. In the event that you forget to launch Safari Private Browsing, these options should give you at least a little more privacy whenever you go online.

Is Safari Private Browsing Safe?

Question mark over padlock icon

That last risk is surprisingly common on public Wi-Fi networks  too. Bear in mind that private browsing doesn’t protect you against malware (malicious software) either, nor does it protect your payment information or other personal details . For true online anonymity and to  improve your online security , you should give serious thought to using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) .

How to use a VPN with Safari Private Browsing

Using a VPN along with Safari Private Browsing should give you the online security you’re looking for. In addition to avoiding any logged browsing history or search history , you’ll be much harder to track and enjoy greater online anonymity. You can check out the many advantages of a VPN for more information. Want to get started right away? The following steps will only take a few minutes of your time:

  • Choose a VPN provider and create an account. We recommend checking out our list of the best VPNs if this is new ground for you. Alternatively, ExpressVPN is a market-leading VPN provider that we’re always happy to recommend.
  • Download and install  the VPN software onto your Mac. You can also download ExpressVPN for mobile on your iPhone. Other premium providers like NordVPN, CyberGhost, and Surfshark all offer really slick mobile apps for iOS, too.
  • Log into your account , either in the desktop software or the mobile app.
  • Choose a VPN server in a country of your choice. If you’re purely interested in online security, then the location you choose isn’t  too  important (though some will be faster than others). However, if you want to  save money on subscriptions , for example, you should give it some more thought.
  • Connect to the VPN server . When you connect, you’ll be  changing your IP address to mirror the VPN server’s IP. It’s safe, legal ( in most countries ), and best of all, it’ll give you far greater online security than simply using Safari Private Browsing alone.

Safari Private Browsing is perfect for hiding those Christmas or birthday purchases from your family before the big day. It’s also a great way to save money on flights, hotels , or other purchases. However, it won’t do much for your online security. If you want  truly private browsing , then use a VPN along with Safari private mode.

Interested in exploring other private browsers? Check out these articles below:

  • How Anonymous Is DuckDuckGo?
  • Is Vivaldi Browser Safe?
  • How to Set Up Firefox as an Anonymous Browser

Do you want to know how to enable private browsing on Safari? Are you wondering how much privacy Safari Private Browsing actually gives you? You’ll find these answers and more in our frequently asked questions below.

To turn on Private Browsing in Safari for Mac, follow these simple steps:

  • Make sure Safari is the active application that you’re using.
  • Click on  File in the menu bar along the top of the screen.
  • Click on  New Private Window to switch to private browsing mode.

To turn on Private Browsing in Safari for iPhone or iPad, the process is much the same:

  • Open the  Safari application.
  • Tap on the  Tabs icon (the two small squares in the lower-right corner of your screen).
  • Tap on  Private to switch to private browsing.
  • Click on the small  + (plus) icon to open a new private browsing tab.

Check out our full article for more information on Safari Private Browsing.

No. Safari Private Browsing, like any browser’s private mode, won’t protect you against a lot of online threats. Your IP address will still be visible to many third-party individuals and organizations. For example, your ISP will know what websites you’ve visited, and hackers could determine your location using your IP (though some private modes do limit location tracking). For true online privacy and anonymity, you’re safer using a VPN like ExpressVPN .

With Private Browsing, it’s more difficult for websites to track you, since cookies are cleared the moment you close the browser — but it’s not impossible. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider), employer, school, or college could still see your internet history . That is, unless you use a VPN along with the incognito mode.

Yes. The owner of an internet connection can absolutely check up on your browsing session if they have the right technical knowledge. Some routers can be set up to remember all URLs a device accesses. So, if you’re trying to fly under your parents’ radar, for example, they could potentially bust you using the family router, even if you’re exclusively using private browsing modes.

For true anonymity , you’ll want to use a VPN. With a VPN connection, all of your internet traffic is encrypted, which gives you far better anonymity and privacy than using private browsing on its own.

Chris Bluvshtein

Chris Bluvshtein Author

Senior journalist.

Chris is a tech journalist with many years’ experience covering online privacy and cybersecurity. He’s also a published author and works as a Product Manager for some of the most innovative software development companies.

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Hi Chris , I’m finding while using private mode in safari my sound is being cut out and I have not been able to find a way to reconnect it. I use it on a iPad with a vpn and trend anti spam for protection as much as it can in private mode. I have not been able to find any reason as to why this is happening.

Hey Wayne, I've done a bit of digging, and I've found something that might be worth a try. It seems that recent versions of Safari have a built-in feature that can prevent audio from playing when you visit a website; it's enabled by default too. Give this a try and let me know if the issue goes away: 1. Open the Safari menu and click preferences 2. Click on the websites tab 3. Look for the setting: "When visiting other websites", which has a drop-down selection beside it 4. Change this setting so that it allows websites with media to play sound. You can alternatively add individual websites to this list if you'd rather have control over which ones can play sound by default.

Hi Chris Just tried your Terminal Commands, I am running macOS Monterey The Terminal Commands Below are not working dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host dscacheutil -flushcache

You're right. Thank you for pointing it out to us! There is a new terminal command you'll now need instead: "sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder". We've adjusted the article to reflect this. Hope this helps!

Private browsing: What it does – and doesn’t do – to shield you from prying eyes on the web

is private browsing in safari really safe

Professor of Computer Science and of Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

is private browsing in safari really safe

Graduate Research Assistant at the Institute for Software Research, Carnegie Mellon University

Disclosure statement

Lorrie Cranor receives funding from Bosch, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Mellon CyLab, DARPA, DuckDuckGo, Facebook, an endowed professorship established by the founders of FORE Systems, Google, Highmark Health, Innovators Network Foundation, NSA, and NSF. She is affiliated with the ACM Technology Policy Council, the Computing Research Association, the Future of Privacy Forum, the Aspen Institute Cybersecurity Group, the Center for Cybersecurity Policy and Law, and the Consumer Reports Digital Lab Advisory Council.

Hana Habib receives funding from Carnegie Mellon CyLab and Facebook.

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Many people look for more privacy when they browse the web by using their browsers in privacy-protecting modes, called “Private Browsing” in Mozilla Firefox, Opera and Apple Safari; “Incognito” in Google Chrome; and “InPrivate” in Microsoft Edge.

These private browsing tools sound reassuring, and they’re popular. According to a 2017 survey , nearly half of American internet users have tried a private browsing mode, and most who have tried it use it regularly.

However, our research has found that many people who use private browsing have misconceptions about what protection they’re gaining. A common misconception is that these browser modes allow you to browse the web anonymously, surfing the web without websites identifying you and without your internet service provider or your employer knowing what websites you visit. The tools actually provide much more limited protections.

Other studies conducted by the Pew Research Center and the privacy-protective search engine company DuckDuckGo have similar findings. In fact, a recent lawsuit against Google alleges that internet users are not getting the privacy protection they expect when using Chrome’s Incognito mode.

How it works

While the exact implementation varies from browser to browser, what private browsing modes have in common is that once you close your private browsing window, your browser no longer stores the websites you visited, cookies, user names, passwords and information from forms you filled out during that private browsing session.

Essentially, each time you open a new private browsing window you are given a “clean slate” in the form of a brand new browser window that has not stored any browsing history or cookies. When you close your private browsing window, the slate is wiped clean again and the browsing history and cookies from that private browsing session are deleted. However, if you bookmark a site or download a file while using private browsing mode, the bookmarks and file will remain on your system.

Although some browsers, including Safari and Firefox, offer some additional protection against web trackers, private browsing mode does not guarantee that your web activities cannot be linked back to you or your device. Notably, private browsing mode does not prevent websites from learning your internet address, and it does not prevent your employer, school or internet service provider from seeing your web activities by tracking your IP address.

Reasons to use it

We conducted a research study in which we identified reasons people use private browsing mode. Most study participants wanted to protect their browsing activities or personal data from other users of their devices. Private browsing is actually pretty effective for this purpose.

We found that people often used private browsing to visit websites or conduct searches that they did not want other users of their device to see, such as those that might be embarrassing or related to a surprise gift. In addition, private browsing is an easy way to log out of websites when borrowing someone else’s device – so long as you remember to close the window when you are done.

Smart phone displaying Google incognito mode

Private browsing provides some protection against cookie-based tracking. Since cookies from your private browsing session are not stored after you close your private browsing window, it’s less likely that you will see online advertising in the future related to the websites you visit while using private browsing.

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Additionally, as long as you have not logged into your Google account, any searches you make will not appear in your Google account history and will not affect future Google search results. Similarly, if you watch a video on YouTube or other service in private browsing, as long as you are not logged into that service, your activity does not affect the recommendations you get in normal browsing mode.

What it doesn’t do

Private browsing does not make you anonymous online. Anyone who can see your internet traffic – your school or employer, your internet service provider, government agencies, people snooping on your public wireless connection – can see your browsing activity. Shielding that activity requires more sophisticated tools that use encryption, like virtual private networks.

Private browsing also offers few security protections. In particular, it does not prevent you from downloading a virus or malware to your device. Additionally, private browsing does not offer any additional protection for the transmission of your credit card or other personal information to a website when you fill out an online form.

It is also important to note that the longer you leave your private browsing window open, the more browsing data and cookies it accumulates, reducing your privacy protection. Therefore, you should get in the habit of closing your private browsing window frequently to wipe your slate clean.

What’s in a name

It is not all that surprising that people have misconceptions about how private browsing mode works; the word “private” suggests a lot more protection than these modes actually provide.

Furthermore, a 2018 research study found that the disclosures shown on the landing pages of private browsing windows do little to dispel misconceptions that people have about these modes. Chrome provides more information about what is and is not protected than most of the other browsers, and Mozilla now links to an informational page on the common myths related to private browsing.

However, it may be difficult to dispel all of these myths without changing the name of the browsing mode and making it clear that private browsing stops your browser from keeping a record of your browsing activity, but it isn’t a comprehensive privacy shield.

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Safari in iOS 17 has secret private browsing feature to better hide searches

iOS 17 has been out for a week now, but not even the keenest-eyed observers spotted this new Safari web browser feature.

An Apple executive, speaking during the Google antitrust trial in the United States last week, revealed a new iOS 17 feature that allows users to choose a default search engine when in Private Browsing Mode.

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The news comes from a Bloomberg report quoting Apple executive John Giannandrea, once of Google, who revealed a “second setting, so you could choose between two different” engines.

While you’ve always been able to set a search provider in Safari, the tweak enables iOS 17 users to set a different one when in Private Browsing mode.

Users can head, to Settings > Safari and select Private Search Engine to scan options. The existing setting adheres to your default search engine, but you can specify Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Ecosia.

iOS 17 private search safari

The feature might be handy if you’re perhaps seeking an extra layer of privacy within your private browsing.

Apple hasn’t acknowledged why it added the feature, but there are obvious potential reasons. For example, you may feel more comfortable using DuckDuckGo when in private mode, but want the power of Google for your main searches.

Private Browsing Mode in Safari in iOS 17 had already been boosted significantly because tabs have been placed behind a Face ID shield.

Apple also has the long-standing Private Relay feature , which is part of an iCloud+ subscription. It ensures that no third parties can see both your location and the sites you’re visiting. That prevents advertisers and others from building a picture of your location and browsing history.

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Chris Smith is a freelance technology journalist for a host of UK tech publications, including Trusted Reviews. He's based in South Florida, USA.  …

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How to make Safari Private Browsing much more private

By Ed Hardy • 2:30 pm, August 12, 2020

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How to make Safari Private Browsing much more private

Push a button in Safari and you’re in Private Browsing Mode. Suddenly, you’re completely safe from all tracking, and no one can tell what you did online, right? Wrong.

This mode really can help protect your privacy when you’re surfing the web, but you need to know its limitations.

Know the limits

Primarily, Private Browsing Mode helps prevent someone with physical access to your computer from finding out what you’ve been up to. The internet still knows.

Put your Mac, iPhone or iPad into this mode, and the web pages you visit won’t go into your browser history. And your cookies aren’t saved. The Smart Search field doesn’t remember what you looked for.

Plus, there are some Apple-specific protections. Open webpages aren’t stored in iCloud, and they don’t cooperate with Handoff.

All this means that if your spouse, parents, teachers, etc. examine your device, there won‘t be records on that device of where you’ve been.

But Private Browsing Mode doesn’t stop web sites from storing information about you, it just limits it.  Under the right conditions, Google can remember what you searched for. Not always, but you have to be careful. As Google itself warns , if you sign into Gmail through your browser then search for “untraceable poisons” or “how to cook meth” those searches will go into your search history.

Also, your internet service provider can track you. And your company can too, when you’re accessing the web on their network.

Safari Private Browsing: How to make it better

Really, Safari Private Browsing Mode does a lot to keep other people from knowing what you’re up to online. It fits well with Apple’s oft-stated belief that privacy is a human right . This feature isn’t perfect, though. But there are some easy steps you can take to improve it.

Use DuckDuckGo when you want to go off the grid. This search engine doesn’t save your searches or try to track you in any way. Its whole reason for existing is protecting your privacy on the internet.

To prevent your ISP from tracking you, change your Domain Name Server. Don’t be concerned that this sounds kind of technical — it’s easy to do on a Mac or iPad. And it can even speed up your connection. Cult of Mac has a handy guide to changing your DNS .

Also, and this may seem obvious but… remember to close your Private Browsing tabs when you’re done. You really don’t want to explain to your kids what the people wearing the funny costumes are doing.

You should also turn on Prevent Cross-Site Tracking . This isn’t just something you should have on occasionally, but leave it on permanently. It stops Google, Facebook and others from knowing everywhere you go online. Activate this in Safari settings.

Just in case, don’t think Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode is as safe as Safari Private Browsing Mode. A lawsuit filed in June 2020 accuses Google of deliberately tracking people who’ve gone Incognito . Beware.

And among the best things you can do is simply be smart. Don’t look for a new job on a company-issued Mac. Don’t search for “singles in my area” on the iPad you share with your spouse. Don’t download NSFW images on the family computer. Because there’s only so much Apple can do.

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How-To Geek

How to always start safari in private browsing mode on a mac.

Keep your Safari browsing history private on your Mac by opening a new Private Browsing window every time you launch. Here's how.

Quick Links

What is private browsing in safari, how to always launch safari with a new private browsing window.

If you use Safari on a Mac and would like for your browsing history to stay private but don't want to always think about having to turn it on, there's a way to open a new private browsing window every time you launch Safari. Here's how.

Private Browsing is a mode where Safari doesn't save your browsing history, AutoFill information, changes to cookies, recent searches, and download history between sessions. The mode also inclues Apple-centric privacy features, such as preventing sharing of browsing information through iCloud . And if you have Handoff enabled, browsing windows do not get passed to your other Apple devices.

Even with all those features, you should be aware that Private Browsing mode does not conceal your browsing history from websites on the internet that might use your IP address to track you across sites , hosts of your network (such as a school or business), or your ISP.

Related: The Many Ways Websites Track You Online

First, launch Safari. In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click "Safari" and select "Preferences."

Click Preferences in Safari menu on Mac

In the Preferences pop-up window, make sure you're on the General tab. Look for the option called "Safari Opens With:" located beside a drop-down menu.

Find Safari opens with in Preferences on Mac

Click on the drop-down menu and select "A New Private Window" from the list of options.

Select A new Private Window from drop-down menu in Safari for Mac

Close the Preferences window, quit Safari, and launch Safari again. You should see a window with a "Private Browsing Enabled" notice along the top.

A Private Browsing window in Safari

Now you're free to use the window as you typically would . Just make sure you close it when you're done.

Related: Five Worthwhile Uses for Private Browsing Mode (Besides Porn)

It's worth noting that the option we just set only works when you first open Safari.  By default, new windows you open after that will not be private. If you want to open additional Private windows, you'll need to select File > New Private Window from the menu bar, or use the Shift+Command+N shortcut. Good luck, and happy browsing!

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  • Privacy Matters: Is Safari's Private Browsing Mode Actually Private?

Privacy Matters: Is Safari’s Private Browsing Mode Actually Private?

Is Private Browsing Mode Actually Private

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As data collection becomes more widespread over time, Apple continues to add more useful tools for us to protect ourselves. Last week we covered which alternative websites you can use to defend your data, but sometimes that might not be enough to fend off the guilty parties. Apple has a great feature called “Private Browsing” built into Safari, and this week we’re going to take a look to see if Private Browsing does enough to help. We’ll also take a look at some simple third-party tools that can also make a big difference in keeping you secure online.

Apple states that Private Browsing mode “protects your private information and blocks some websites from tracking your search behavior. Safari won’t remember the pages you visit, your search history, or your AutoFill information.” In a nutshell, Private Browsing mode is designed for Safari to forget everything you do while surfing the internet –it doesn’t store any of your web activity on your device or in the cloud.

But what about the websites themselves? Does Private Browsing protect you from them ? The short answer is, no .

Any time you visit a website; they can see something called an IP address.

  • An IP address is similar to a mailing address, which tells you where mail comes from or should be delivered to.
  • Every device has an IP address and your Internet Service Provider, many websites, and search engines will hold on to your IP address information whether you use Private Browsing or not.
  • Apple states that Private Browsing mode will block some websites from tracking your search behavior, but those same sites can and most likely will still track your IP address.

So, What Can We Do?

Clearly, Private Browsing mode is not enough. Luckily, some great tools are available. The easiest and most effective tool for the average consumer is a VPN. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. The way a VPN works is very technical, but in simple terms, it gives you a temporary IP address that can not be correlated back to you.

When you surf the internet using a VPN, all of your traffic is routed to a set of computers located somewhere else. Those computers get the website or information you’ve requested and send it back to you. So when the sites you’re visiting attempt to track you or log your IP address, they are actually only seeing the IP address of the computers your traffic is routed through, thus keeping your web surfing anonymous.

There are many great VPN providers on the market. NordVPN is one of the most respected VPNs on the market – and they offer many different plans, but their best-valued plan is $2.99 a month which will protect up to six of your devices. Nord overs over 5,000 servers to help anonymize your web surfing and a 30-day money back guarantee.

Another great VPN choice is ExpressVPN . ExpressVPN promises the most secure protection with over 3,000 VPN servers spread across 94 countries. Their best-offered plan is $8.99 a month and allows for unlimited VPN installs and up to 3 devices connected at once.

It’s clear that iOS does as much as it can to protect you, but if you want to remain truly anonymous online, make sure no one is tracking you, and have the peace of mind that all of your transactions online are secure, then a VPN is your best choice.

Learn More: 11 Important Things You Need to Look for in a New VPN Service

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How Safe Is Incognito Mode/Private Browsing, Really?

is private browsing in safari really safe

You might open a new browser window in Incognito Mode and think you’ve just vanished under a cloak of darkness with all your internetting perfectly hidden from the world. Sorry to burst your bubble, pal, but no. The various “private” options web browsers provide are not a panacea for your privacy concerns. In fact, you may be shocked to learn how little protection they actually provide from prying eyes, but there are still good reasons to use them. Today we’re going to dive into what these private browsing modes do, and what they don’t.

Do all browsers have a private mode?

All of the major web browsers out there have a private mode. In Chrome, it’s called Incognito Mode. Microsoft’s Explorer and Edge browsers both have “InPrivate” mode. For Firefox and Opera browsers, it’s called “Private Browsing.” Well, a rose by any other name would smell as… uh, insecure? Yeah, let’s go with that. There are subtle nuances between these different offerings, but they ultimately all pretty much do the same thing.

What it actually does

Simply put, these private viewing modes will hide your internet activity from others who might look at your actual computer. That is, family members, coworkers, roommates, and such. We’re talking about people with physical access to your computer. Incognito Mode and its ilk will not save the websites you visit, the info you might put into forms on those websites for autofill, or the cookies from those websites. For this reason, it’s good for:

  • Searching for gifts when you don’t want a family member to see what you’re looking for
  • Logging in to multiple email or social media accounts that only allow one user logged in at a time
  • Searching for things that you don’t necessarily want showing up in your search history (as a journalist this happens a lot)
  • Searching for airplane tickets, as some companies may change prices on you based on your search history
  • Other things which you would rather not have autofill in your URL bar

What it doesn’t do

Unfortunately, the list of things private browsing modes don’t do is a lot longer. Most of them actually warn you of this when you first open a window, but this is generally ignored by people, so it’s worth spelling out here:

  • It cannot hide your activity from your internet service provider. Your ISP can still monitor the sites you visit.
  • That’s extra true if you happen to be internetting at work or at school. Your activity may still be tracked by the resident IT person or the institution’s provider. For this reason (and other obvious ones) you really shouldn’t be doing anything on your work/school computer that you want hidden.
  • It doesn’t hide your activity from the websites you visit. The data you enter on those sites (the things you search for, the links you click, etc.) will probably still be monitored and recorded by those websites.
  • It doesn’t mean your activity can’t be traced back to you. Even though cookies and browsing history will be deleted off your computer once you close the window, websites these days may have access to sophisticated tools such as browser fingerprinting, which can still allow them to link you to your real identity.

This all isn’t to say that private browsing is bad or useless, it’s just important to understand its limitations. If you really do need a more secure way to browse the web , there are tools that can help, like a VPN, which we’ll be getting into in future posts.

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Jason Reed/The Daily Dot

How safe is private browsing?

It isn't an internet panacea..

Ben Dickson

Ben Dickson

Posted on Oct 23, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 3:29 am CDT

How safe is Chrome’s Incognito mode ? Most privacy experts (and non-experts) will recommend it if you want to enhance your privacy while surfing the web. True to its name, both Google Chrome Incognito mode and the private browsing mode you find in most internet browsers provide a more discreet experience and help cover some of your tracks.  But users often overestimate the extent of the protection private browsing provides.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago and Leibniz University of Hannover found that a considerable percentage of users wrongly think private browsing will protect them against malware, advertising, tracking codes and the prying eyes of internet service providers (ISPs).

Here’s what you need to know about what private browsing can and can’t do.

How does private browsing work?

woman using incognito mode

What is private browsing, exactly? The private mode feature included in all major browsers is meant to avoid leaving traces on your device. When you close a private browsing window, it clears all the data you generated during that session. This includes your browsing history, autofill information and your browser cache. Private browsing also deletes cookies, the bits of data that allow you remain signed in your accounts when you close and relaunch your browser.

Basically, what this means is that when you end your private browsing session, a person who gains access to your computer won’t be able to see which websites you’ve visited or gain access to accounts that you’ve signed into using the private mode.

Is private browsing safe?

Private browsing is also a good privacy tool when you’re using a shared computer, such as in a library or the university, to browse the web and access your accounts. It will make sure that the next person who uses the computer won’t be able to spy on you.  However, the power of private browsing is limited to your local device. It’s worth noting that most privacy threats come from outside your device, not inside. Here, there’s little your browser’s private mode can do.

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Private browsing won’t protect you against malware

More than 25 percent of the participants in the survey conducted by Chicago University and Leibniz University believed that private browsing will provide better protection against web-based malware. They couldn’t be further off the mark.

Most malware will cause harm only after they find their way into your computer, so it doesn’t have much to do with your browser. For instance, if you open a phishing email that contains a malicious attachment, it doesn’t make a difference whether you download it with a normal or a private browsing window.

Where malware is concerned, nothing will replace a good antivirus installed on your computer.

Browser extensions are an exception. Some browser extensions manifest malicious behavior such as stealing information, redirecting to malicious website or modifying on-page content. Browsers handle extensions in different ways when using the private mode. Microsoft Edge completely disables extensions while Safari and Firefox leave them enabled by default. Google Chrome and Opera disable extensions by default in private browsing, but users can enable them if they wish to do so.

Private browsing won’t protect you against government and ISP snooping

Eric Schmidt once said , “If you’re concerned, for whatever reason, you do not wish to be tracked by federal and state authorities, my strong recommendation is to use incognito mode, and that’s what people do.”

Government agencies regularly monitor internet traffic for different reasons, but they are not alone. Internet service providers also regularly collect and analyze the browsing habits of their customers for advertising purposes or to sell them to third parties. In fact, last year, a resolution ratified in Congress and signed by President Trump gave ISPs the green light to collect and sell customer data without their consent.

As an internet user, you have every right to be concerned about who can see your browsing habits, but contrary to what Schmidt recommends, Chrome’s Incognito mode won’t help you hide your traces. Private browsing does not make you anonymous or invisible. As the gatekeeper to your internet traffic, your ISP (and by extension, government agencies) will be able to see which sites you visit, regardless of the device or browser type you use.

Also, if you’re on a corporate network, your network administrator will be able to monitor and see the websites you visit.

Private browsing vs VPN (Virtual Private Network)

To obfuscate your browsing habits, you’re going to need a virtual private network (VPN) . VPNs encrypt all your internet traffic and channels it through an intermediate server which acts as relay between you and the websites you visit. When using a VPN, all your ISP can see is a stream of encrypted data being exchanged between you and your VPN provider, and it won’t be able to see any of the details, including the address of the websites you visit.

The exception in browsers is Opera, which has a built-in VPN service. Opera’s VPN will protect you from ISP snooping, but like all other VPN providers, its servers can monitor and log your activities if they choose to do so.

Another alternative is to use the Tor browser. Tor, which stands for The Onion Router , is a network of volunteer computers that encrypt and relay internet traffic. When you use the Tor browser, your ISP (or any other eavesdropper) won’t be able to see which websites you visit. Unlike VPNs, Tor’s relay nodes won’t be able to monitor your activity. But Tor does come with its own tradeoff, including a much slower internet experience.

Private browsing will not hide your search history

anonymous on laptop

When you’re logged into your Google account, any search you do on Google’s website will be registered in your account’s search history by default ( you can disable that , by the way). Browsers don’t transfer the accounts you’ve signed into when you open a private browsing window. This means that Google won’t register the search queries you type into a private window in your search history.

But if you sign into Gmail or YouTube in private browsing mode, Google will resume logging your searches. That means you aren’t so invisible in your account’s history.

On a side note, even if you haven’t logged into your account, Google will be able to link your private search queries to your account while you’re in private browsing mode. It has lots of footprints of your browsing habits: your IP and browser type, to name a couple.

In fact, this is true for all web applications that you use. As long as you’re using the same device and IP address, they can easily relate your private browsing activities to your account, even if you haven’t logged in.

If you’re really worried about hiding your search habits, you can use a VPN or the Tor browser and make sure you don’t log into your Google account while searching. Alternatively, you can try out DuckDuckGo, a privacy-friendly alternative to Google’s search engine . DuckDuckGo is not as powerful as Google, but at least it’s not interested in collecting and monetizing your data.

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Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

Ben Dickson is a software engineer and founder of TechTalks. His work has been published by TechCrunch, VentureBeat, the Next Web, PC Magazine, Huffington Post, and Motherboard, among others.

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Incognito Mode: Is Private Browsing Really Private?

A guy in incognito mode

Incognito mode. Privacy mode. Private browsing. No matter what you or your browser calls it, using incognito mode keeps your browsing habits private — but it’s not as private as you might think.

When most people switch to incognito mode, they enjoy the peace of mind that their web history and cookies won’t be saved. While their browser  might not be saving anything, that doesn’t mean the websites, servers, or search engines they visit aren’t. Incognito mode may be less, well, incognito than many would like to think.

So just how private is private browsing?

Check Out Our Video Guide to Private Browsing in Incognito Mode

Read on as we dive into the dirty details of incognito mode, including guides for setting it up, choosing alternatives, and seeing just how private your data really is.

What Is Incognito Mode?

New incognito mode window

Also known as private browsing , incognito mode is a browser setting that doesn’t keep track of your history, cookies, site data, or logins while browsing.

That may seem like a great way to hide your browsing habits, and it is — but only to an extent. While your browser won’t keep track of certain data, your browsing activity can still be seen by websites, some search engines , and your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

As a result, private browsing often isn’t quite as private as many of us would hope. However, as we’ll see in the next section, its basic functions still allow a valuable layer of privacy for users on shared devices.

But first, let’s explore what exactly incognito mode really does and how those functions are different from what many people might expect.

What Does Incognito Mode Do?

As we’ve seen, incognito mode stops your browser from recording various aspects of your browsing activity , such as cookies and browsing history. While the exact functions of incognito mode vary between different browsers, most do the following things to keep your browsing private.

  • Doesn’t keep history. As you browse the web, your web browser (such as Firefox or Chrome) keeps a detailed record of everywhere you’ve visited — unless you’re using incognito mode, that is.

With incognito mode on, your browser doesn’t record your browsing history, making it so that nobody can see which websites you’ve visited after your session. However, some browsers may keep a temporary history while using incognito mode, which will be automatically deleted once you stop using it.

  • Doesn’t store cookies. While everyone likes cookies, incognito mode doesn’t — so much so that they don’t even store them. Of course, we’re not talking about actual cookies like chocolate chip or gingerbread. Instead, we’re talking about HTTP cookies , which are little packets of data your browser stores on your computer while you browse.

Cookies are widely used for tracking and storing your browsing data, such as names and passwords. For example, when you add items to an online shopping cart, the site stores a cookie with your browser that saves your shopping cart data. That way, everything is still in your cart the next time you visit.

Though cookies are the backbone of much of our browsing experience, we don’t always want them. In some cases, they can even be a bit pesky, especially if we don’t want certain websites to store any unwanted data on our browser.

To this end, your browser doesn’t store cookies while in incognito mode.

  • Doesn’t store site data. In addition to not storing cookies, your browser also won’t store other types of site data while in incognito mode. Other site data might include images, files, form data , and active logins.

As you may have guessed, cookies are another form of site data. However, as cookies are used for tracking and identification across the web, they’re usually treated separately. For example, clearing your browser history often gives you separate options for clearing cookies and clearing site data .

Since most site data is just the site’s images and HTML files, deleting it doesn’t make a big difference beyond your browser having to re-download it on the next visit. The only security concern here might be active site logins, which won’t be saved in incognito mode.

  • Doesn’t save form information. Though it’s just another type of site data, form submissions  are an important security concern — especially on shared computers. Here, using incognito mode has the benefit of not saving form information, which might include usernames and other sensitive information.

With no form information saved, you greatly minimize the risk of having another user on the same computer find out your username or if you’ve chosen an autofill option, password. This feature alone makes incognito mode essential for security when using public or shared devices.

  • Doesn’t keep you logged in. By now, you know that incognito mode doesn’t save site logins, along with other site data. As a result, you’ll be logged out of any sites you’ve logged into while using incognito mode.

Depending on your browser and settings, incognito mode also won’t maintain previous logins during your session. In other words, if you were logged into a site before going into incognito mode, you usually won’t be logged in while in incognito mode. However, your previous login session will be restored once you turn off incognito mode.

  • Deactivates browser extensions. In addition to temporarily logging you out of any active sessions, incognito mode also deactivates any browser extensions . Though you can choose to reactivate them, keeping them inactive prevents them from storing additional data. Many people also use this feature to enjoy a “clean” browsing experience free from bulky add-ons.

Though we covered a lot of fine details here, there’s really only one key takeaway: Incognito mode doesn’t save any browsing data . As we’ll see in the next section, however, that’s not a guarantee of privacy.

What Does Incognito Mode NOT Do?

One of the biggest misconceptions about incognito mode is that it’s completely private — which it definitely isn’t.

Myth vs fact for incognito browsing

Though your browser won’t save your history or data while in incognito mode, that doesn’t mean the sites and search engines you visit won’t either. If anything, third parties make little distinction between browsing modes — from their perspective, it’s all the same.

As a result, there are many things that incognito mode doesn’t do, especially when it comes to your privacy and identity. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind.

  • Doesn’t  hide your IP address. Every device connected to the Internet has an IP (Internet Protocol) address, which is sort of the virtual equivalent of a physical address for a home or building. When you connect to a website, you’re essentially writing a “letter” addressed to the website’s IP address.

Since incognito mode doesn’t change your IP address , it’s still completely visible to any websites or search engines you visit. As a result, your identity and activity remain fully exposed to third parties regardless of whether you’re using incognito mode.

To hide your IP and activity, you’ll need to either encrypt your connection and/or use a virtual private network (VPN)  or proxy server. We’ll cover these in the “Alternatives” section at the end of this guide.

  • Won’t stop network admins from seeing your activity. If you’re browsing on a work or school network, all of your traffic is routed through the network’s router before heading out to the web. As a result, all of your outgoing traffic (and any incoming traffic such as downloads) is fully visible to your network administrator.

Just like not being able to hide your IP address, incognito mode can’t prevent your network administrator from seeing your activity. However, VPNs and proxies  also offer valid workarounds here, even though your administrator will still see you communicating with the VPN or proxy.

  • Doesn’t prevent your account activity from being tracked. If you log in to an account (such as your email or social media) while in incognito mode, any account activity is still visible to third parties — which also makes you trackable.

For example, if you log in to Facebook and visit a page about dog ownership, Facebook can still see that you visited the page and may even deliver targeted ads based on that activity.

For this reason, many browsers log out users while using incognito mode. You can think of it as a sort of “safeguard” that minimizes the risk of users being tracked when they didn’t intend to.

  • Still visible to sites, search engines, and ISPs. Since incognito mode doesn’t hide your IP, your identity is still visible to any sites or search engines  you visit. While they can’t easily track you without cookies (one upside to incognito mode), they can still find workarounds simply by knowing your IP and the pages you visit – especially if you log in to one of your accounts.

More importantly, both your identity and browsing data are still visible to your ISP and jurisdiction (i.e., government). Just like the network administrator example from earlier, all of your traffic gets routed through your ISP, which is also visible to government authorities in many countries.

Again, VPNs and proxies can help here. Remember that when you try to access a website, your request is sent through your (or your network’s) router and your ISP before being routed to the web server that hosts the website.

As a result, there’s little you can do to disguise your browsing between you and your ISP. With a VPN or proxy, however, all of your browsing will look like you’re only communicating with the server of the VPN or proxy.

  • Doesn’t stop malware. Incognito mode does little to nothing to protect you from malware, phishing, or the risk of visiting dangerous websites. Always be sure to use strong anti-malware software  and exercise caution when browsing, regardless of whether you’re using incognito mode or not!

In short: Incognito mode won’t hide your browsing data from third parties. Always assume that your data is fully visible regardless of whether you’re in incognito mode or not. Thankfully, several alternatives exist that do a far better job of keeping you private.

What Is Incognito Mode Mostly Used For?

As you might imagine (or already know from experience), there are plenty of reasons to use incognito mode. For most people, the biggest reason is usually to hide their browsing history from other users on the same device. While the exact reasons for wanting to do this can definitely vary, incognito mode is an extremely effective option.

Of course, being discreet isn’t the only reason to use incognito mode. Here are some of the most popular.

  • Hiding your history. No matter what you’re doing online, the thought of someone else seeing our browsing history is pretty uncomfortable — especially for users on shared or public devices. As a result, many people use incognito mode simply to hide their history from other users (or even themselves).

Hiding your history can also safeguard your security on shared devices. For example, if you access your bank account but don’t hide or delete your history, then the next user would be able to see which bank you use. Plus, if you also didn’t delete form and site data, then they might also be able to see your login information!

  • Avoiding unwanted cookies. Most websites use cookies to do things like save your active logins, maintain shopping cart contents, and track your whereabouts online. As you might imagine, there are many reasons you might not want these.

By using incognito mode, websites won’t maintain your login or any existing tracking data. As a result, many people use this feature to log into multiple accounts at the same time or make sure they’re getting the best prices on shopping sites.

  • Avoiding some types of tracking. With no cookies or logins saved, you can avoid most forms of tracking while using incognito mode. As a result, you won’t get the same targeted ads or suggestions you would normally. However, this only works as long as you don’t log into any of your accounts.
  • Staying organized. If you’re used to a certain browsing experience, then you know that checking out new sites or products can easily throw things off. With incognito mode, you can browse freely without having to worry about weird ads or product suggestions down the line.

For example, suppose you’re considering taking up tennis. You might use incognito mode to browse tennis-related sites and products without being prematurely categorized (read: served targeted ads) as a tennis enthusiast.

  • Browsing without extensions. While browser extensions are often very useful, they can also make our browsing experience a lot more cumbersome than it needs to be. Since incognito mode de-activates extensions in most browsers, it’s useful whenever you want a “clean” browsing experience.

For example, site blockers are popular browser extensions used to minimize distractions or, in some cases, control Internet usage. By deactivating site extensions, incognito mode can be an effective tool for unblocking websites .

  • Web development. Site performance is a crucial consideration for web developers. However, it’s hard to measure when site data like images and HTML files have already been stored (or cached ) from previous visits. As a result, many developers use incognito mode to test performance and loading times by forcing the browser to re-cache site data.

Is Incognito Mode Actually Private?

Incognito mode only makes your browsing private to other users on your device. It doesn’t hide your IP address or browsing activity from websites, search engines, or your ISP.

Can I Be Tracked In Incognito Mode?

Blocking third-party cookies in incognito mode

It depends. While incognito mode will prevent websites from tracking you with cookies, you can still be tracked if you log into an account or if a website can link your IP address to your identity.

What Is The Disadvantage of Incognito Mode?

The biggest disadvantage of incognito mode is that your IP address, identity, and browsing activity are still visible to third parties. As a result, it’s not a good choice if you’re trying to avoid being tracked online.

How To Use Incognito Mode

Most browsers make it very easy to switch into incognito mode. For a quick reference, here’s how to use incognito mode on the world’s most popular browsers .

Google Chrome

Incognito mode google chrome

Step 1: Open Google Chrome .

Step 2: Click the menu button (vertical dots) on the top-right and select “New Incognito window.”

Step 3: Switch to the new window and verify that you’re in incognito mode.

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox incognito mode

Step 1: Open Mozilla Firefox .

Step 2: Click the menu button (stacked horizontal lines) on the top-right and select “ New private window. ”

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft edge incognito mode

Step 1: Open Microsoft Edge .

Step 2: Click the menu button (horizontal dots) on the top-right and select “ New InPrivate window. ”

Apple Safari

Incognito mode safari

Step 1: Open Safari .

Step 2: Click “File” on the top-left toolbar and select “ New Private Window. ”

Step 3: Switch to the new window and verify that you’re in incognito mode. The address bar should have a dark background.

Mobile Browsers

Though most popular browsers have a mobile app, many mobile users stick to the default browser of their mobile device’s operating system. These are Chrome for Android and Safari for iOS.

Android (Chrome)

Incognito mode chrome android

Step 1: Open the Google Chrome mobile app.

Step 2: Tap the menu button (vertical dots) on the top right and select “New incognito tab.”

Step 3: Switch to the new tab and verify that you’re in incognito mode. Like the desktop version, the default window should say “You’ve gone incognito.”

iOS (Safari)

Incognito mode safari iOS

Step 1: Open the Safari mobile app.

Step 2: Tap the menu button (two overlapping squares) on the bottom right.

Step 3: Tap the “1 Tab” or “X Tabs” button at the bottom.

Step 4: Select “Private” from the “Tab Groups” settings.

Step 5: Tap the “+” option in the bottom-left corner to open a new private tab. You can tell you’re in incognito mode when the browser theme turns dark.

Other Browsers

Other browsers such as Opera and Brave  also offer private browsing features. As you may have noticed, however, the procedure for going incognito is somewhat the same regardless of browser: Simply open the main menu and select the option.

For alternative options and other private browsing features, be sure to consult your browser’s user manual or troubleshooting guide.

Alternatives To Incognito Mode

Depending on your private browsing needs, there are several excellent alternatives to incognito mode. Alternatives like VPNs and the Tor browser offer even greater privacy and security  than incognito mode.

Proxy Servers

Proxy server conversation

A proxy server  provides an intermediary between your device and the websites you visit. By routing your traffic through a proxy, third parties won’t know it’s you browsing.

The image above provides a good example of how this works. Here, sender Alice wants to ask Bob what time it is without Bob knowing it’s her. To do so, she sends her request through a proxy, which asks Bob on her behalf. From Bob’s perspective, the proxy is the one asking for the time — not Alice. He sends his response to the proxy, which then sends it back to Alice.

Though a proxy is an effective way of disguising yourself, it does little to secure your connection. As a result, many people use VPNs  to perform the same function as a proxy but with an extra layer of security.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

VPN connection

Though they share the same underlying principles, VPNs differ from proxies in several key ways .

The biggest difference is connection security. Where proxies do little to secure your connection, VPNs encrypt your data and provide a secure connection . In doing so, only you and the VPN can see the data you send, making it so that not even your ISP knows what you’re up to. Of course, just like a proxy, third parties will see the proxy server’s IP address instead of yours.

Another difference, however, is cost. Where many proxies are inexpensive (if not free), a top-quality VPN typically costs between $5 and $12 per month.

Tor network reroute

Short for “The Onion Router,” Tor hides your identity by encrypting your data and sending it through a random network of relays.

Like a VPN or proxy, third parties won’t know it’s you browsing. However, unlike these tools, the Tor browser uses a random route of multiple relays each time. By not relying on a single, set connection, Tor presents a far more secure option for staying private online.

You can access Tor by using the free Tor browser .

Anti-Tracking Software

Anti tracking software tracking

If you want to block cookies and other forms of tracking without the “bare bones” experience of incognito mode, look no further than anti-tracking software. At a minimum, anti-tracking software prevents your browser from storing tracking cookies , thereby preventing cross-site tracking.

Note that most of the alternatives we’ve discussed (such as VPNs and Tor) already include some type of anti-tracking capability. However, if you don’t need extra security or privacy, plenty of standalone anti-tracking extensions are available.

Incognito is an easy way to keep your browsing history private and avoid being tracked.

However, it won’t stop websites, search engines, or your ISP from viewing your IP address and browsing activity. As a result, more privacy-minded users should consider alternatives such as a VPN or Tor.

Your privacy isn’t the only thing to keep secure online. With Kinsta’s security features , you can rest assured knowing that your website is watched and secured 24/7. For more information, contact us at +1 (888) 610-2915 or schedule a free demo  today.

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How to View Safari Private Browsing History on Mac

Arnold Zafra

In case you’re not aware, Apple’s Safari browser, like other popular browsers, offers a Private Browsing mode . Simply put, when you use this feature while using Safari, the browser won’t log or save any of your activity. Other browsers call this Incognito Mode. The downside is that all your saved preferences for websites you frequently visited are disabled. Still, it won’t hurt to browse websites using the feature from time to time for some private browsing experience. But is there really no way to browse your Private Browsing history? Well, there is, and that’s what I’m going to show you in this guide on how to view Private Browsing history in Safari on your Mac.

How Does Private Browsing Work in Safari

When you opt to browse websites in Safari using Private Browsing, it opens up a new private window in your browser. As previously mentioned, when privately browsing in Safari, your activity will not be logged or saved. Although it’s not a foolproof way of browsing privately, the feature still offers some level of privacy. As such, Private Browsing in Safari won’t record your search engine history, webpages you’ve visited, browsing activity, and most especially passwords you used on different websites.

It should be noted that this feature doesn’t really prevent the websites you visited from knowing who you are and your browsing activity on the website.

How to Browse Privately in Safari on Your Mac

Before I discuss the procedure on how to view your Private Browsing history on Mac, let me walk you through the steps on how to browse privately. You can either do it one time or opt to always browse privately.

To browse privately in Safari one time:

  • Open the Safari app on your Mac.

is private browsing in safari really safe

To always browse privately in Safari:

  • Click General.

is private browsing in safari really safe

What is the Mac Terminal Archive?

Now that you know how to use Private Browsing in Safari on your Mac, it’s time for you to know that your Mac actually logs that browsing history. This can be found in your Mac’s Terminal archive. You’ll be surprised to know that this Terminal archive contains information about all of the websites you visited. That’s even when you use the Private Browsing feature. So, you can view Private Browsing history via the Terminal archive.

How to View Private Browsing History in Safari on Mac

Time needed:  1 minute

is private browsing in safari really safe

You will notice that the website names have been translated into their corresponding IP addresses. You won’t see the exact name of the websites. That’s because your Mac has consulted a DNS directory to translate the website names into IP addresses.

We think you might also be interested in how to clear browser cache on Mac for Chrome, Firefox and Safari .

Final Words: Is It Really Safe to Browse Privately in Safari?

According to Apple, when you browse privately in Safari :

  • The browser won’t save the web pages you visit and your Autofill information.
  • Safari won’t store webpages you open in iCloud.
  • Safari won’t include your recent searches in the results list when you use the Smart Search field.
  • Safari won’t include items you downloaded in the download list.
  • Changes to your cookies and website won’t be saved.

Knowing all that, Private Browsing in Safari would seem safe. But then, when you browse privately, are you really browsing anonymously, or does the feature just hide your information from anyone who could access your Mac? However, if somebody gets physical access to your Mac and knows their way around, they can still see the websites you visited, since the information is stored in the DNS cache of your Mac.

Even worse is when you are using a public network. The network administrator can still see the websites you are visiting using your Mac. The bottom line is that advertisers can still track you even if you browse privately on your Mac, and then serve targeted ads. If you don’t mind that at all, then there’s no harm in always browsing privately in Safari on your Mac.

One thought on “ How to View Safari Private Browsing History on Mac ”

When it comes to private browsing, Utopia P2P ecosystem’s web proxy function is the gold standard. Its advanced encryption and anonymity features are unmatched by other solutions like VPNs and incognito modes.

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  • Arnold Zafra

is private browsing in safari really safe

Turn Private Browsing on or off on your iPad

When you use Private Browsing, the details of your browsing aren't saved, and the websites you visit aren't shared with your other devices. Safari won't remember the pages you visit, your search history, or your AutoFill information.

How to turn on Private Browsing

Open Safari on your iPad.

No alt supplied for Image

While Private Browsing is on, the Safari address bar appears black or dark instead of white or gray, and the buttons are black instead of blue.

How to turn off Private Browsing

No alt supplied for Image

Learn how to use Private Browsing on iPhone or iPod touch .

is private browsing in safari really safe

Explore Apple Support Community

Find what’s been asked and answered by Apple customers.

is private browsing in safari really safe

Contact Apple Support

Need more help? Save time by starting your support request online and we'll connect you to an expert.

IMAGES

  1. How to Use Private Browsing in Safari on Mac, iPhone, or iPad

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  2. How to set up private browsing in Safari

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  3. Private browsing in Safari: All you need to know

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  4. How to use Safari private browsing on Mac, iPhone & iPad

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  5. Why and How to Use Private Browsing in Safari for Mac

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  6. Private browsing in Safari: All you need to know

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VIDEO

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  4. How to use Private Browsing in Safari on iPhone (EASY)

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COMMENTS

  1. Everything You Need to Know About Safari Private Browsing

    Safari Private Browsing does have some perks, including: Stopping Safari from remembering the websites you've visited Not storing any new usernames, passwords, payments cards, and other information you input into private browsing Forgetting any search engine queries you've run

  2. Is private browsing really private? Short answer: No

    Chances are, you want privacy and safety when you go online. So how do you get it? Hint: Think VPN or virtual private network. What is private browsing? Web browsers can store data about users' activities to make revisits easy. How?

  3. Private browsing: What it does

    Many people look for more privacy when they browse the web by using their browsers in privacy-protecting modes, called "Private Browsing" in Mozilla Firefox, Opera and Apple Safari;...

  4. Safari in iOS 17 has secret private browsing feature to better hide

    Safari in iOS 17 has secret private browsing feature to better hide searches By Chris Smith September 25, 2023 9:00 pm BST Scroll to section iOS 17 has been out for a week now, but not even...

  5. Browse privately in Safari on iPhone

    View the Privacy Report Safari helps prevent trackers from following you across websites and viewing your IP address. You can review the Privacy Report to see a summary of trackers that have been encountered and prevented by Intelligent Tracking Prevention on the current webpage you're visiting.

  6. Private browsing may not protect you as much as you think

    These options have different names — Private Browsing on Safari and Firefox, and Incognito mode on Chrome — but the functionality is similar on each. ... "You don't really know what that ...

  7. Private Browsing Won't Protect You From Everything

    Private browsing gets rid of your browsing history, saved passwords, and field content. But if you think it keeps you safe from malware, ads, and ISP monitoring, think again.

  8. Turn Private Browsing on or off on your iPhone

    With Private Browsing, Safari won't remember the pages you visit, your search history, or your AutoFill information. Private Browsing also blocks known trackers, removes tracking used to identify individual users from URLs, and adds protections against advanced fingerprinting techniques. How to turn on Private Browsing

  9. PDF Learn how the Safari web browser protects your privacy.

    Private Browsing doesn't save browsing history, protecting a user's privacy from other users who may share the same device. ... Similarly, in Private Browsing mode, Safari doesn't show search suggestions or pass any information to the default search engine while the user types in the Smart Search field.

  10. Use Private Browsing in Safari on Mac

    Table of Contents Use Private Browsing in Safari on Mac When you browse privately, the details of your browsing aren't saved, and the websites you visit aren't shared with your other devices. Browse privately one time In the Safari app on your Mac, choose File > New Private Window, or switch to a private window that's already open.

  11. Can private browsing be traced on iPhone in 2024?

    Table of contents What is Private Browsing? How do you turn on Private Browsing on an iPhone? Bump your Safari privacy up - hide your IP from trackers and more Is Private Browsing mode really private? 6 ways Private Browsing can be traced on an iPhone How to avoid being tracked on Private Browsing

  12. How to use Private Browsing in Safari on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

    Open Safari on your iPhone. Tap and hold the Tabs button. Tap [number] Tabs in the pop-up menu. You may also exit out of incognito mode in Safari on iOS 17 by completing these steps: Open Safari on your iPhone. Tap the Tabs button. Tap [number] Tabs or Start Page to show the Tab Groups list. Tap Private, then tap Done.

  13. How to make Safari Private Browsing much more private

    Really, Safari Private Browsing Mode does a lot to keep other people from knowing what you're up to online. It fits well with Apple's oft-stated belief that privacy is a human right . This ...

  14. How to Always Start Safari in Private Browsing Mode on a Mac

    First, launch Safari. In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click "Safari" and select "Preferences." In the Preferences pop-up window, make sure you're on the General tab. Look for the option called "Safari Opens With:" located beside a drop-down menu. Click on the drop-down menu and select "A New Private Window" from the list of options.

  15. Privacy Matters: Is Safari's Private Browsing Mode Actually Private?

    In a nutshell, Private Browsing mode is designed for Safari to forget everything you do while surfing the internet -it doesn't store any of your web activity on your device or in the cloud....

  16. Private browsing in Safari: All you need to know

    A new blank Safari window will open. It looks like any others, except the address bar is darker. Safari will also display that this is a private browsing window at the top. Now, if you open other tabs, they should also appear in private mode. If not, repeat the process above. Once you close the private browsing mode windows/tabs, you will see ...

  17. How Safe Is Incognito Mode/Private Browsing, Really?

    Sorry to burst your bubble, pal, but no. The various "private" options web browsers provide are not a panacea for your privacy concerns. In fact, you may be shocked to learn how little protection they actually provide from prying eyes, but there are still good reasons to use them.

  18. How to use Private Browsing in Safari, and how private is it?

    To switch to Private Browsing using a shortcut in your iPhone: Open Safari and tap and hold the Tabs button in the bottom right. Click Private (the icon shows a hand signaling stop). To open a new private tab, choose the New Private Tab option. Close the Private Browsing window to turn off Private Browsing on your iPhone.

  19. Is Private Browsing Safe? Not as Safe as You'd Think

    A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago and Leibniz University of Hannover found that a considerable percentage of users wrongly think private browsing will protect them...

  20. Incognito Mode: Is Private Browsing Really Private?

    iOS (Safari) Opening incognito mode in Safari on iOS 15. Step 1: Open the Safari mobile app. Step 2: Tap the menu button (two overlapping squares) on the bottom right. Step 3: Tap the "1 Tab" or "X Tabs" button at the bottom. Step 4: Select "Private" from the "Tab Groups" settings.

  21. Turn Private Browsing on or off on your iPhone

    With Private Browsing, Safari won't remember the pages you visit, your search history, or your AutoFill information. Private Browsing also blocks known trackers, removes tracking used to identify individual users from URLs, and adds protections against advanced fingerprinting techniques.

  22. How to View Safari Private Browsing History on Mac

    Open the Safari app on your Mac. Click File > New Private Window. Browse as you normally would. Note that Private Browsing mode in Safari will have a dark search field as compared with the light ...

  23. How to use Locked Private Browsing in Safari

    Click Privacy. Next to Private Browsing, select "Require Touch ID to view locked tabs." Or unselect it, if you don't want your private windows to lock. When private windows lock On iPhone or iPad, private windows lock when Safari isn't running in the foreground or when you switch from Private Browsing. They also lock when your device locks.

  24. The Best VPNs for Safari in 2024

    That being said, browsing with Safari isn't as safe and private as you may think. Safari doesn't automatically make you private. Even in its most secure configuration, your internet provider ...

  25. Turn Private Browsing on or off on your iPad

    Safari won't remember the pages you visit, your search history, or your AutoFill information. How to turn on Private Browsing. Open Safari on your iPad. Touch and hold the Tabs button. Tap New Private Tab. While Private Browsing is on, the Safari address bar appears black or dark instead of white or gray, and the buttons are black instead of blue.