How to Activate InPrivate Browsing Mode in IE

Browse privately with Internet Explorer

As you surf the web, remnants of where you've been and what you've done are left behind by the browser on your device's hard drive. This includes browsing history, cache, cookies, saved passwords, and more.

IE11 offers InPrivate Browsing, which ensures that private data is not stored on your computer at the end of your browsing session. While enabled, this incognito style of traversing the web ensures that no cookies, temporary internet files (also known as cache), or other private data components are left behind on your hard drive. Your browsing history, saved passwords and autofill form information are also permanently deleted at the close of your browsing session.

An illustration of a person using the InPrivate Browsing Mode in internet explorer
Lifewire / Adrian Mangel

Instructions in this article apply to Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7. There is a different procedure if you are running Microsoft Edge in Windows 10.

How to Activate InPrivate Browsing Mode in IE

InPrivate Browsing is a setting in the web browser settings.

  1. Open the IE11 browser. 

  2. Select the Gear icon, also known as the Action or Tools menu, located in the upper right corner of the browser window.

    Screenshot of gear icon in IE 11.
  3. Choose Safety in the drop-down menu.

    Screenshot of Safety in IE 11 Action menu.
  4. Select InPrivate Browsing in the submenu.

    InPrivate Browsing highlighted in IE submenu

    If you are running IE11 in Windows 8 Mode, first select the Tab Tools button (signified by three horizontal dots and displayed by right-clicking anywhere within your main browser window). When the drop-down menu appears, select New InPrivate Tab.

InPrivate Browsing mode is activated and a confirmation screen appears, along with a new browser tab or window. The InPrivate indicator, located in IE11's address bar, confirms that you are surfing the web privately.

Cnfirmation screen for new InPrivate browsing window.

The following conditions apply to any actions taken within the confines of the InPrivate Browsing window.

Cookies

Many websites place a small text file on your hard drive used to store user-specific settings and other information unique to you. This file, or cookie, is then used by that site to provide a customized experience or to retrieve data such as your login credentials.

With InPrivate Browsing enabled, these cookies are deleted from your hard drive as soon as the current window or tab is closed. This includes Document Object Model storage, or DOM, which is sometimes referred to as a "supercookie" and is also removed.

Temporary Internet Files

Also known as cache, these are images, multimedia files, and even full web pages that are stored locally with the purpose of speeding up load times. These files are immediately deleted when the InPrivate Browsing tab or window is closed.

Browsing History

IE11 typically stores a record of URLs, or addresses, that you have visited. While in InPrivate Browsing Mode, this history is never recorded.

Form Data

Information that you enter into a web form, such as your name and address, is normally stored by IE11 for future use. With InPrivate Browsing enabled, however, no form data whatsoever is recorded locally.

AutoComplete

IE11 uses your previous browsing and search history for its AutoComplete feature, taking an educated guess each time you begin to type a URL or search keywords. This data is not stored while surfing in InPrivate Browsing mode.

Crash Restoration

IE11 stores session data in the event of a crash, so that automatic recovery is possible upon relaunch. This is also true if multiple InPrivate tabs are open concurrently and one of them happens to crash. However, if the entire InPrivate Browsing window crashes, all session data is automatically wiped out and restoration is not a possibility.

RSS Feeds

RSS Feeds added to IE11 while InPrivate Browsing Mode is enabled are not deleted when the current tab or window is closed. Each individual feed must be manually removed if you so desire.

Favorites

Any Favorites, also known as Bookmarks, created during an InPrivate Browsing session are not removed when the session is complete. Therefore, they can be viewed in standard browsing mode and must be deleted manually if you want to remove them.

IE11 Settings

Any modifications made to IE11's settings during an InPrivate Browsing session remain intact at the close of that session.

To turn off InPrivate Browsing at any time, simply close the existing tab(s) or window and return to your standard browsing session.