Private Browsing

Private Browsing

As you browse the web, Firefox remembers lots of information for you: sites you’ve visited, files you’ve downloaded, and more. There may be times, however, when you don’t want other users on your computer to see this information, such as when shopping for a birthday present.

Private Browsing allows you to browse the Internet without saving any information about which sites and pages you’ve visited. This article explains what information is not saved when in Private Browsing and gives you step-by-step instructions for using it.

Warning: Private Browsing doesn’t make you anonymous on the Internet. Your Internet service provider, employer, or the sites themselves can still track what pages you visit. Private Browsing also doesn’t protect you from keyloggers or spyware that may be installed on your computer.

Table of Contents

What does Private Browsing not save?

  • Visited pages: No pages will be added to the list of sites in the History menu, the Library window’s history list, or the Awesome Bar address list.
  • Form and Search Bar entries: Nothing you enter into text boxes on web pages or the Search bar will be saved for Form autocomplete.
  • Passwords: No new passwords will be saved.
  • Download List entries: No files you download will be listed in the Downloads window after you turn off Private Browsing.
  • Cookies: Cookies store information about websites you visit such as site preferences, login status, and data used by plugins like Adobe Flash. Cookies can also be used by third parties to track you across web sites. For more info about tracking, see How do I turn on the Do-not-track feature?

    Note: To prevent Flash from storing cookies, you must be using its latest version. See Updating Flashfor instructions.

  • Cached Web Content and Offline Web Content and User Data: No temporary Internet files (cachedfiles) or files that websites save for offline use will be saved.


  • If you create new Bookmarks while using Private Browsing, they will not be removed when you stop Private Browsing.
  • If you save files to your computer while using Private Browsing, they will not be deleted when you stop Private Browsing. However, any files you open in an external application will be cleared from the system’s temporary folder, and none of the files you download will appear in the Downloads window list.

How do I turn on Private Browsing?

To start a Private Browsing session:

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click the Firefox button (Tools menu in Windows XP) and select Start Private Browsing.
    Private Browsing Win1
  2. When you turn on Private Browsing, Firefox alerts you that it will save your current windows and tabs for after you finish using Private Browsing. Click Start Private Browsing to continue.
    Private Browsing Win2
    • Check the box next to "Do not show this message again" if you don’t want to receive this alert when you turn on Private Browsing.
  3. The Private Browsing information screen appears to confirm that you’re in Private Browsing mode.Private Browsing Win3

When browsing in Private Browsing mode, the Firefox button will be purple (for Windows XP the window title will say (Private Browsing) instead) during your session.

How do I turn off Private Browsing?

To end a Private Browsing session:

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click the Firefox button (Tools menu in Windows XP) and select Stop Private Browsing.
    Private Browsing Win4
  2. The windows and tabs you were using when you enabled Private Browsing will appear, and you can use Firefox normally. The Firefox button will turn orange again (for Windows XP the Firefox window title will no longer say (Private Browsing)) when Private Browsing is off.

How do I always start Firefox in Private Browsing?

There is a setting in the Options window that automatically enables Private Browsing whenever you start Firefox.

If you enter Private Browsing this way, the Firefox button won’t turn purple (Windows XP, the Firefox title bar won’t say (Private Browsing)) but Firefox will still not retain history as described above.

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button (Tools menu in Windows XP) and then click Options
  2. Select the Privacy panel.

  3. Set Firefox will: to Use custom settings for history.Custom History Fx 5 - Win
  4. Check the box next to Always use private browsing mode.Private Browsing Win5 Fx7
  5. Click OK to close the Options window

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