How to Turn on Private Browsing on Your iPad

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 it to see what you were doing.

There are so many reasons to want to browse privately on your iPad that we don't need to list them here. However, before we look into how to enable Private Browsing Mode for iPad, remember these three things that will happen after you turn the feature on:

  • When in this private mode, the iPad will no longer keep track of the websites you visit or the searches you perform in the search bar.
  • Safari will block certain types of cookies from external websites.
  • The border of the Safari app will turn black to indicate that you're browsing privately.

Web browsing in private mode like it's described on this page is severely limited when it comes to maintaining privacy. All this really does is prevents 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.

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

How to Use Private Browsing Mode on iPad

Safari has a dedicated area just for private tabs that you can access by choosing Private. Tapping that button instantly puts Safari into incognito mode.

  1. Tap the tabs button at the top right corner of Safari. It's the icon represented by two small boxes.

    Tabs button on iPad
  2. Select Private.

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

    Plus sign in Safari for iPad
  4. Now you can use Safari normally but without it remembering the pages you visit. Search the web, access a URL directly, etc., 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 your iPad is that they do not close automatically when you exit Safari. You have to tap the x on the upper left-hand side of the tabs to close them completely.

On that note, you can switch between private and regular tabs at any time without either of them shutting down. To do that, tap the tabs icon (the two boxes) and then Private. This toggles private mode on/off so that you can see your regular tabs while not closing down the private ones, and vice versa.

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

Other Ways to Stay Private While Browsing

Private Browsing Mode is just one method for browsing the web anonymously. Like you read at the top of this page, this special private mode has its limits in that it only prevents your search and web history from staying on your 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 really remain anonymously online — like when browsing the web, downloading files, using torrents, etc. — 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 even completely block cookies. Websites can use cookies to track your web habits and target you with specific ads.