Tech corner

How to use Incognito in browsers and apps


Using the private browsing feature on your chosen internet browser is useful for covering your tracks when searching for things you don’t want others to be able to see, such as booking a surprise holiday for the family. Every internet browser has its own name for private browsing, and while accessing it is accomplished in practically the same way, there can be subtle differences from product to product.

How does Incognito mode work?

When browsing the web in a regular window, your browser notes the URL of every page you visit and stores that information even after the window is closed, making it easier for you to go back to those pages again sometime in the future.

Browsers also stores cookies, which are little files embedded into the websites you visit. Next time your browser loads a page with elements from a company’s servers, the information is sent back. Cookies have lots of useful functions, like allowing you to go to password-protected sites without logging in each time.

If you’re using Incognito mode, once you’re done browsing for the day, your cookies go away and you’re left with a whole new set. Whatever you’ve looked at during your Incognito session will also not show up in your History tab, so no one can go searching for what you’ve been up to.

Why is Incognito mode useful?

Using Incognito mode is great for searching for surprise gifts for your family, as it prevents anyone else who uses your device from seeing what you’ve been searching for. It also stops ads popping up relating to your searches that might give the game away. Plus, it’s useful if you want to look up something without being bombarded with related videos the next time you use the site, such as a video on YouTube.

It's great for being sneaky too – for example, if you want to browse someone’s LinkedIn page without them finding out, you can simply visit their profile in an Incognito window. It also works if you’re visiting a friend and want to check your emails or social media accounts on their computer without having to log out of all of their profiles.

Still, even with Incognito mode, logging into personal accounts from a public computer is a risky endeavor. Make sure to guard your passwords closely, and always close windows when you’re done with them.

What doesn't it prevent?

Once you close an Incognito window, most of the data about your web session will be deleted, but that doesn’t mean it stops everyone from seeing what you’ve been up to.

Private browsing windows can’t erase the records of your visit from a website’s servers. If you’re using the Wi-Fi network at work, your company will still be able to find out which sites you visited, private window or not, so you can’t get away with being on Facebook all day.

Incognito mode also doesn’t do anything to protect you from malware, so you should continue to ensure that your software is fully updated, you’re running trusted antivirus software and you’re wary of what you download.

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