How to Use Firefox Private Browsing

Turn on incognito mode and keep your web activity private

Businesswoman spied on by cctv camera

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Privacy while surfing the web is important to most people, to the point that the majority of web browsers offer some type of private mode providing the ability to cover your tracks throughout a browsing session. In Mozilla Firefox, Private Browsing can be activated at any time by following the steps below.

Private Browsing doesn't mean your activities on the web are completely anonymous. Your ISP or employer can still monitor which sites you visit, and some of your actions on said sites, while website owners may also have some insight into information like your IP address and general location.

How to Start a Private Browsing Session in Firefox

You can activate Private Browsing mode in a few different ways.

Open a new Private Browsing window

  1. Select the Hamburger menu in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window.

    screenshot of Firefox for macOS
  2. Select New Private Window.

    screenshot of Firefox menu on macOS

    You can also use the following keyboard shortcuts in lieu of this menu option. Linux or Windows: Control+Shift+P; macOS: Command+Shift+P

  3. A new browser window will now appear, indicating you’re in Private Browsing mode and detailing what that means. All tabs opened within this new window will be private, as indicated by the purple and white “eye mask” icon on the far left-hand side of each tab’s title bar.

Open a link in Private Browsing mode

  1. To open a link from a web page in Private Browsing mode, first right-click the link so Firefox’s context menu appears. On macOS, press the Control key and right-click the link.

  2. Select either Open Link in New Tab or Open Link in New Private Window.

  3. The link’s destination page should now be visible in a private tab or window, depending on your selection. Check for the purple and white mask in the page’s title bar to ensure you're in Private mode.

How to Automatically Use Private Browsing in Firefox

You can also choose to configure Firefox so every session is essentially private, although not technically in Private Browsing mode.

  1. Type about: preferences in Firefox’s address bar, then press Enter or Return.

    

  2. Firefox’s General preferences interface should now be displayed. Select Privacy & Security.

    screenshot of Firefox preferences
  3. Scroll down to the History section, then select the Firefox will drop-down menu and select Never remember history

    screenshot of Firefox History preferences
  4. A pop-up window will now appear, informing you that the browser must be restarted to enable this feature. Select Restart Firefox now.

    screenshot of Restart Firefox dialog

Although the purple and white Private Browsing mask may not be displayed, Firefox will not retain history and most other browsing-related data as long as this setting is enabled.

What Data is Not Stored While in Private Browsing Mode?

Firefox stores quite a bit of information on your hard drive over the course of a typical browsing session. With Private Browsing mode active, a lot of this data is either never saved locally or automatically erased once you close a private tab or window. This can be especially useful when accessing the internet on a shared computer.

The following data is not left behind at the end of a Firefox Private Browsing session:

In Private Browsing mode, any Bookmarks you create are stored and will be available the next time Firefox is launched. Additionally, any files you’ve chosen to download remain on your hard drive unless you choose to manually delete them.