All the things you can use private browsing mode for

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 18, 2014

While private browsing is mostly associated with browsing the naughty parts of the Internet it can be used for a wide variety of other things as well.

Private browsing refers to a mode that web browsers offer that leave little traces behind. This means that no browsing history is recorded and that data is only stored temporarily for the browsing session and deleted afterwards.

It needs to be noted that private browsing is not 100% anonymous on either side. Internet sites and servers for instance record activity just as usual and operating system features such as a DNS cache may also record data.

Lets take a look at how a browser's private browsing mode is turned on.

  • Firefox: Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-p to launch a new private browsing window
  • Internet Explorer: The keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-p is used in the browser as well.
  • Chrome: Ctrl-Shift-n is the shortcut to open a new private browsing window.
  • Opera: Uses the same Ctrl-Shift-n shortcut as Chrome.

So what can the private browsing mode be used for then?

1. Signing in to multiple accounts on the same site

The Private Browsing mode runs in an independent browser instance which means that it won't affect what is happening in the regular browser. This means that you can sign in to the same site or server using a different account to be signed in to two accounts at once.

Even better: since cookies are not stored you are automatically signed out of any account that you signed in while in private browsing mode.

2. Check a site as a new user

Since cookies are not carried over, sites cannot use them to identify you when you load them. While there are other means available, such as comparing IP addresses, most sites don't do so.

This means that you can check the contents of a site as a default or new user. Can be useful if you want to compare prices to make sure you don't have to pay more as an existing customer.

Some paywall sites may also let you through while the private browsing mode is active since cookies are often used to limit your access to those sites.

This can also be useful for development purposes. Say you are signed in as an admin or moderator in normal mode and use private browsing to check the site as a new user.

Another reason for this is if you don't want a site to use searches for recommendations. If you search on Amazon or eBay while logged in, the sites may display recommendations to you on your next visits based on those.

Last but not least, this can also be useful on sites that put you in a bubble such as Google Search.

3. Sign in on a third-party computer

If you need to check your email or other data on a computer that you don't own, or let someone check it on yours, you may want to use private browsing for that.

If someone wants to use your computer, your browsing history, bookmarks and accounts are not exposed as private browsing is always in a blank state when turned on.

The benefit on a third-party PC is that data accumulated over a session is deleted automatically at the end of it provided that you close the private browsing window.

4. Gift shopping and surprises

While there are other means to avoid that someone else can find out about the pages you have been to, private browsing mode does that nearly automatically.

This can be useful if you shop for gifts or surprises, especially on a family computer with just one account or if the computer is left turned on and accessible to others sometimes.


Private browsing is not the only option that you have for all the things mentioned above. You can easily use a second browser or even a second profile for a single browser instead. It is then necessary to configure the browser to forget all the usual information, for instance by configuring it to delete browsing data on exit or running a third-party tool like CCleaner regularly.

With that said, private browsing can still be useful to users as it can be easily accessed in each browser.

Now You: Are you using private browsing? If so, for what?

All the things you can use private browsing mode for
Article Name
All the things you can use private browsing mode for
This guide looks at things that you can use a web browser's private browsing mode for.

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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

  10. Anonymous said on September 28, 2023 at 8:19 am

    When will you put an end to the mess in the comments?

  11. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 9:36 am

    Ghacks comments have been broken for too long. What article did you see this comment on? Reply below. If we get to 20 different articles we should all stop using the site in protest.

    I posted this on [] so please reply if you see it on a different article.

    1. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 11:01 am

      Comment redirected me to [] which seems to be the ‘real’ article it is attached to

  12. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 10:48 am

    Comment redirected me to [] which seems to be the ‘real’ article it is attached to

  13. Mystique said on September 28, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    Article Title: Reddit enforces user activity tracking on site to push advertising revenue
    Article URL:

    No surprises here. This is just the beginning really. I cannot see a valid reason as to why anyone would continue to use the platform anymore when there are enough alternatives fill that void.

  14. justputthispostanywhere said on September 29, 2023 at 3:59 am

    I’m not sure if there is a point in commenting given that comments seem to appear under random posts now, but I’ll try… this comment is for

    My temporary “solution”, if you can call it that, is to use a VPN (Mullvad in my case) to sign up for and access Reddit via a European connection. I’m doing that with pretty much everything now, at least until the rest of the world catches up with GDPR. I don’t think GDPR is a magical privacy solution but it’s at least a first step.

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