How to Turn on Private Browsing on Your iPad

Keep others from finding out who you and your iPad visited on the web

Female doctor using iPad

JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Private Browsing Mode for iPad turns off web history in the Safari browser. This means that no matter what, when you're done using Safari and exit the private tabs, nobody can return to the Safari browser to see what you were doing.

These instructions apply to all iPads running iOS 5 or newer. However, with old versions of iOS, the instructions and images might differ slightly than how they're presented below in iOS 12.

What Does Private Browsing Do?

There are many reasons to browse privately on an iPad. However, these three things happen after you enable Private Browsing Mode for iPad:

  • The iPad doesn't keep track of the websites you visit or the searches you perform in the search bar.
  • Safari blocks certain types of cookies from external websites.
  • The border of the Safari app turns black to indicate that you're browsing privately.

Web browsing in private mode is limited when it comes to maintaining privacy. All this does is prevent others who access your iPad from viewing what you've browsed on the web. For greater privacy while using your iPad, see the tips at the bottom of this page.

How to Use Private Browsing Mode on iPad

Safari has a dedicated area just for private tabs that you can access by choosing Private. Tap the Private button to put Safari in incognito mode.

  1. Tap the Tabs button.

    Tabs button on iPad
  2. Select Private.

    Private button on iPad Safari
  3. Tap the Plus sign.

    Plus sign in Safari for iPad
  4. Use Safari as you normally would. It won't remember the pages you visit. Search the web or access a URL just like you can in regular mode.

    Lifewire site open in iPad Private Browsing Mode

Things to Remember About Private Browsing Mode

The most important thing to be aware of when using private tabs on an iPad is that the tabs do not close automatically when you exit Safari. Tap the X in the upper-left side of the tabs to close them completely.

Switch between private and regular tabs at any time without either of them shutting down. To do that, tap the Tabs icon, then tap Private. This toggles private mode on and off so that you can see the regular tabs but not close the private ones, and vice versa.

If you accidentally opened a tab in regular mode that you wanted to open privately, delete the iPad web history to clear it.

Other Ways to Stay Private While Browsing

Private Browsing Mode is one method to browse the web anonymously. This special private mode has limits in that it only prevents search and web history from staying on an iPad.

Using private tabs in Safari, Chrome, or any browser isn't the same as using a VPN or hiding your IP address. Private browsing like this doesn't necessarily stop your ISP from monitoring you or prevent hackers from sniffing out your traffic.

To remain anonymously online — like when browsing the web, downloading files, and using torrents — requires a bit more work, such as using the Tor browser or connecting through a VPN service.

Something else you can do in Safari to help keep yourself from being tracked online is to delete cookies regularly, or completely block cookies. Websites use cookies to track your web habits and target you with specific ads.