How to Control iPhone Safari Settings and Security

Control your settings and security in the iPhone browser

Safari, the default web browser for iOS devices, allows you to change security settings to protect private data. You can also adjust settings to suit your browsing habits and preferences better, helping to make your web experience more convenient.

We'll show you how to change these settings, as well as what each setting means.

These instructions apply to devices with iOS 11 or later.

Person using a smartphone.
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How to Change the Default iPhone Browser Search Engine

Searching for content in Safari is simple; tap the menu bar at the top of the browser and enter your search terms. By default, all iOS devices use Google for web searches, but you can select a different search engine by following these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Safari > Search Engine.

  3. Select the search engine you would like to use as the default. Options include Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. The setting is automatically saved, so you can search using the new default search engine right away.

    An iPhone's Settings app with Safari, Search Engine, and a checkmark highlighted

How to Use Safari AutoFill to Fill Out Forms Faster

Similar to a desktop browser, Safari automatically fills in forms by grabbing information from your address book. This saves time because you don't need to fill out the same forms over and over again. To use this feature, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Safari > AutoFill.

  3. Toggle the Use Contact Info switch to on/green.

  4. Your information appears in the My Info field. If it does not, select the field and browse your address book to find your contact information.

    Older versions of iOS allowed you to change your username and password info here. If you want to save, edit, or delete usernames and passwords in iOS 13 or later, go to the Passwords & Accounts settings page (select Settings > Passwords & Accounts).

    An iPhone with the Safari Autofill and My Info options highlighted
  5. To save frequently used credit cards to make online purchases quicker, move the Credit Cards switch to on/green. If you don't have a credit card saved on your iPhone, select Saved Credit Cards, and add a card.

How to View Saved Passwords in Safari

Saving usernames and passwords in Safari means you're not forced to memorize login credentials to access a website. As this data is sensitive, iOS takes measures to protect it. If you need to look up a username or password, you can do so by following these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Passwords & Accounts > Website & App Passwords.

    iPhone settings with the Passwords & Accounts and Website & App Passwords options highlighted
  3. You are asked to authorize access to this information using Touch ID, Face ID, or your passcode.

  4. A list details all the websites for which iOS has saved login data. Select a site to view the corresponding username and password.

Control How Links Open in iPhone Safari

You can choose where new links open by default—in a new window that appears either in front of or behind the page you are currently viewing. Follow these steps to adjust this setting:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Safari > Open Links.

  3. Select In New Tab to open links in a new window in Safari and to have that window appear in front of the current tab. Select In Background to open links in a new window that appears behind the page you are currently viewing.

    An iPhone's Settings with Safari, Open Links, and the options highlighted

How to Cover Your Online Tracks Using Private Browsing

Browsing the web leaves digital footprints. Between browsing history, cookies, and other usage data, you may prefer to cover some of those tracks. The Safari Private Browsing feature prevents Safari from saving information about your behavior—including browsing history, cookies, and other files—while it is turned on.

How to Clear Your iPhone Browser History and Cookies

When you want to delete your browsing history or cookies manually, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

    iPhone showing how to delete Safari browsing history through the Settings app
  3. A menu appears asking if you would like to clear the browsing data. Select Clear History and Data.

Prevent Advertisers From Tracking You on Your iPhone

Cookies allow advertisers to track you across the web. This lets them build a profile of your behavior and interests to target you with ads better. Here's how to opt-out of some of that tracking data:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Safari.

  3. Move the Prevent Cross-Site Tracking switch to on/green.

    Older versions of iOS included a Do Not Track feature that asked websites not to track your browsing data. Apple removed this feature, as the request was never mandatory and did not do much to limit the tracking of user data.

    iPhone settings with Safari and the Prevent Cross-Site Tracking switch highlighted

How to Get Warnings About Potentially Malicious Websites

Setting up fake websites that look like ones you normally use is a common method of stealing data from users. Safari has a feature to help avoid these sites. Here's how to enable it:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Safari.

  3. Move the Fraudulent Website Warning switch to on/green.

    iPhone settings with Safari and the Fraudulent Website Warning switch highlighted

How to Block Websites, Ads, Cookies, and Pop-Ups Using Safari

You can speed up your browsing, maintain privacy, and avoid certain ads and websites by blocking cookies. Here's how:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Safari.

  3. Move the Block All Cookies switch to on/green, then select Block All to confirm the action.

    iOS Settings with Safari and the Block All Cookies switch highlighted

How to Use Apple Pay for Online Purchases

If you set up Apple Pay, you can use it at any participating retailer to complete purchases. To make sure you can use it at those stores, enable Apple Pay for the web. Here's how:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Safari.

  3. Move the Check for Apple Pay switch to on/green.

    iOS Settings with Safari and the Check for Apple Pay switch highlighted

Take Control of Your iPhone Security and Privacy Settings

While this article focuses on privacy and security settings for the Safari web browser, the iPhone has other security and privacy settings. These settings can be used with other apps and features to protect private info stored on your iPhone.