How to Activate InPrivate Browsing Mode in IE

Illustration of a person using Internet Explorer privately in a cubicle

Lifewire / Adrian Mangel

As we surf the web, remnants of where we've been and what we've done are left behind by the browser on our 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 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.

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 within the web browser settings.

  1. First, open your IE11 browser. 

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

    Screenshot of gear icon in IE 11
  3. When the drop-down menu appears, point to Safety.

    Screenshot of Safety in IE 11 Action menu
  4. A sub-menu should now appear. Select InPrivate Browsing.

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.

Screenshot of new InPrivate browsing window

InPrivate Browsing mode is now activated, and a new browser tab or window should be open. The InPrivate indicator, located in IE11's address bar, confirms that you are indeed surfing the web privately. The following conditions will apply to any actions taken within the confines of this InPrivate Browsing window.

Cookies

Many websites will 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 utilized 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 webpages 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, which 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 will use both 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 once the session is complete. Therefore, they can be viewed in standard browsing mode and must be deleted manually if you wish to remove them.

IE11 Settings

Any modifications made to IE11's settings during an InPrivate Browsing session will 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.