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What is Google Incognito Mode good for in 2021?




Nowadays, the Incognito Mode is arguably an essential part of every modern Internet browser. But it was only around ten years ago that software developers followed Google’s lead after Chrome’s explosive growth convinced them that the average netizen likes the sound of built-in private browsing. Don’t worry, the irony of this revelation coming from the king of micro-targeted advertising would not have been lost for us – were it actually true.

Because Google hardly invented the concept of private browsing, and neither was it the first company to implement the idea into a mainstream app for desktop PCs. The gang that beat it to the punch is hardly some long-defunct startup – it’s Apple. Cupertino launched its own version of the Incognito Mode with Safari 2.0 on April 29th, 2005, more than three and a half years before Chrome was even a thing available for beta-testing. Except that it called it Private Browsing, and for one reason or another, that name really failed to stick outside of the limited macOS userbase.

Meanwhile, Chrome’s rapid growth, snappy performance (compared to its Windows alternatives), and modern, the lightweight design ensured that Google’s browser was the new cool kid on the Internet 2.0 bloc. And Incognito Mode happened to be one of its most universally praised features from that time.

If you find that difficult to imagine, try to relate by picturing how the World Wide Web was perceived at the turn of the century; those were still the early days of widespread ADSL adoption the world over. No way would the average person name Google as the biggest threat to their privacy back then. If someone from those times feared for their Internet browsing history leaking, their concerns were much more often centered on parents and roommates than Silicon Valley hipsters and disinformation-disseminating botnets.

How to turn on Google’s Incognito Mode for Chrome

Either way, Incognito Mode is still just as reliable as it was back in the day, so long as you understand that this is primarily a do-not-save-browsing-history mode and not a legitimate privacy solution. Its main purpose is to save you the trouble of deleting your browsing history afterwards, should you need to do so for any reason.

To turn on Google’s Incognito Mode for Chrome on desktop, you can either click the three-dot icon in the top-right corner and select New Incognito Window or press Ctrl + Shift + n. This shortcut also works on most other Windows browsers, including the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge. On a Mac, the correct key combination is Command (⌘) + Shift + n.

Alternatively, if you have the Windows version of Chrome pinned to either the Start menu or your Taskbar, you can just right-click that icon and select New Incognito Window from the bottom of the newly descended dropdown menu. For a bit of extra privacy, type chrome://flags into your URL bar, hit Enter, and then do a CTRL + F search for an option that mentions enabling “improved cookie controls UI in incognito mode…” This will go a tiny bit further than just checking the do-not-track preference in the regular Chrome Settings menu. That one is not at all binding, so it might as well not be there.

How to turn off Incognito Mode on PC

As the Incognito Mode will always open in a new window on both Windows and macOS, the only way to actually turn it off on any kind of PC is to close the element in question. This wasn’t always the case, but Google’s developers unsurprisingly discovered that the ability to run both Incognito and regular tabs inside the same Chrome window was a major source of confusion for most users.

With that said, you can still switch between two Chrome instances if you need to use Incognito Mode sporadically, without actually having to shut down either window. But doing so is basically just playing the game of “how long will it take for me to mistakenly use the Incognito Mode window instead of the regular one, or vice versa?”

How to turn off Incognito Mode on Mac

Pretty much the same thing applies to macOS, as well. In fact, even though Safari was the original browser to offer this functionality, it even embraced Google’s big-brain decision to use Latin nomenclature. Meaning that you’re looking for the same thing, under the same label.

The only exception is the lack of a right-click desktop shortcut for launching or closing the Incognito Mode in modern instances of Safari. Clicking the Safari icon while holding Control can still provide an alternative that will present you with a similar contextual menu. Just keep in mind that this isn’t the duplicate Ctrl button like on Windows, but the one to the right of the keyboard’s center.

How to turn off Incognito Mode on Android and iOS?

Chrome is definitely one of the most consistent multiplatform apps that are in widespread use these days, so the same desktop logic outlined above also applies to its mobile versions. i.e., Android devices, iPhones, and iPads, alike. Tap the three-dot menu on your daily driver (it might be horizontal, hamburger-like on mobile), and activate the “New incognito tab” from the dropdown menu that follows. In order to turn off private browsing in Chrome for Android or iOS, all you need to do is switch to a regular tab.

But, again, it’s better to manually close down all Incognito tabs regardless as you’ll just be wasting more time with deleting your browsing history afterward. Even just giving in to check whether your browsing history truly hasn’t been saved – if you haven’t made a mistake – will take precious moments out of your day. And if you have too many tabs to keep track of, Chrome allows you to kill them all at once via that same multifunctional menu you used for launching Incognito Mode in the first place.