How to Turn On Private Browsing and More

How to Turn on Private Browsing on the iPad


Have you ever wanted to turn off the web history on your Safari browser? Private browsing can be a handy way to make sure your kids don't go hunting what you bought them for Christmas on Amazon, and it is now easier than ever to switch on Private Browsing on the iPad, but you do need to know where the magic switch is located.  

In iOS 7, Apple moved the switch from the Safari section of the iPad's settings to the Safari browser. If you have at least iOS 7, read on about how to turn private browsing on or off. If you haven't yet upgraded, scroll down to the section for previous versions of the iPad's operating system.

Private browsing does three things: (1) the iPad will no longer keep track of the websites you visit or the searches you perform in the search bar, (2) the iPad will block certain types of 'tracking' cookies from external websites and (3) the border of the Safari app will turn black to indicate you are in private mode.

First, open the Safari browser.   

Next, tap the web address at the top of the screen. This is normally where you would go to search the web or type in a website's address, but we really just want to get the on-screen keyboard to appear.

Once the on-screen keyboard appears, locate the "Private" button. It's on the top-left corner of the keyboard, just above the "Q".   

After you tap "Private", the iPad will prompt you to choose to either Close All tabs, Keep All tabs or cancel. I would suggest closing all open tabs so you don't get confused. Private browsing will be turned on for all tabs, including existing tabs. But when you turn it off, you will be asked the same question, and you should always close all when turning it off.

Note: Private browsing simply allows you to browse the web without websites being recorded in your web history. If you exit out of the Safari browser, and even if you close the app, relaunching will bring up all open tabs with private browsing turned on. If you usually prefer to browse without private browsing turned on, you should turn it off after each session.

How to Enable or Disable Cookies in the iPad's Safari Browser


The iPad's Safari browser allows you to enable or disable cookies. Most people will want to keep cookies enables. Websites use cookies to keep track of who you and various settings.  Some websites will not work properly without cookies. However, if you are worried about websites keeping a piece of information on your iPad, you can easily disable cookies. Apple keeps all of the custom options for most of the default apps (Safari, Notes, Photos, Music, etc.) in the iPad settings, which is where you need to go to enable or disable cookies.

First, go to the iPad settings by tapping the settings icon.  (Get help getting into the iPad's settings.)

Next, scroll down the left-side window until you locate Safari. When you tap Safari, the safari's settings will show up in the main window.

To enable/disable cookies, simply locate the Privacy block and change the Block Cookies option. Your choices are "Never", "Always" and "From third parties and advertisers". The "From third parties" choice is the best for enabling cookies while keeping a moderate level of security by ensuring you have actually visited the website associated with the cookie. If you want the most secure experience, choosing "Never" will turn off cookies completely. Remember: Many websites are designed to work with cookies and may not work correctly with cookies turned off.

To keep websites from tracking you, flip the switch next to "Do Not Track". Rather than turn off all cookies, this setting simply turns off the ability for websites to track you across the web.

To turn on fraudulent website warning, simply flip the switch next to the label. The switch for warnings against fraudulent websites is turned off by default. While these warnings aren't perfect -- you could get a warning for a perfectly safe website -- this system does provide an extra layer of security and helps you make more informed decisions on the web.

To Clear Cookies and Data, locate the buttons at the bottom of the Safari settings. Clearing cookies will erase data such as the username and password you used to sign into websites like Facebook and Twitter as well as any other personal or non-personal information a website has stored about you. 

An Overview of the iPad's Safari Settings

AutoFill is one of the best Safari settings, allowing the iPad to automatically fill in user names and passwords. Image © Apple, Inc.

The iPad's Safari settings aren't limited to changing your cookie settings or turning on/off private browsing. There are a number of tweaks you can make to the iPad's default web browser.

  • Search Engine. By default, Safari will use the Google search engine when you type something into the search bar. In the Safari settings, you can change this to Yahoo! or Bing.
  • AutoFill. This is a very handy setting that will allow the iPad to automatically type in your username and password when being asked to log in to various websites. You can also enable your contact information for autofill.
  • Open New Tabs in Background. This setting is on by default and allows the iPad to load new tabs when you open them even if you are not changing immediately to that tab. If you have a poor web connection, you may want to turn this off so that it doesn't slow down the browser from your current tab.
  • Always Show Bookmarks Bar. The Bookmarks Bar is a special bar that allows you quick access to websites or even folders filled with various websites. When you enable it, a small bar will appear just below where you type in a web address or search string. This bar will give you quick access to the websites/folders saved in the Bookmarks Bar.
  • Privacy Settings. As discussed in step one of this guide, you can enable or disable cookies and even turn on private browsing.
  • Clear History. If you are turning on the private browser, you may also want to clear history. This clears the log of all websites you have been to on the iPad and all of the search terms you have typed into the search bar.
  • Clear Cookies and Data. Clearing cookies and data is a good idea if you are disabling all cookies from your iPad. There's no sense in keeping leftover cookies if you want to turn them off completely.
  • Fraud Warning. This setting (which is on by default) protects you from phishing attempts by trying to detect when a website is attempting to trick you into entering private information like credit card information or banking information. It is recommended to keep it on at all times.
  • JavaScript. Many websites use JavaScript to perform various tasks such as putting a clock on the screen or having a pull out menu section. Most websites use some type of JavaScript, and many won't work at all without it turned on. However, if you are really concerned with security, you do have the option to disable it.
  • Block Pop-ups. The most popular feature of most modern browsers is the ability to block pop-up ads. But occasionally, something gets caught in the pop-up blocker that is not an advertisement, and this can keep a web application from working properly. You'll probably only want to disable the pop-up blocker to go to certain websites and turn it back on after visiting them.
  • Advanced. The advanced settings include the ability to delete cookies and data from specific websites rather than deleting all cookies and data. You can also turn on the debug console, which is useful for web developers.