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What is Incognito Mode?

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Tech Lockdown Team
Updated January 29, 2024

Most of us are familiar with Incognito Mode. Originally introduced to Chrome in 2008, it's become an imbedded feature for almost every browser. Even it's been around for a while, information regarding how incognito mode actually works has only recently been made clear. 

What is Incognito Mode?

Incognito Mode, also known as private browsing, is a special kind of window, similar to right-clicking a link to "Open in New Tab". This private window doesn't save any cookies, browsing history, or auto-fill information on the browsing device. 

Private browsing is most commonly used to view websites without any cookies or history being saved. However, just because this information isn't saved on the computer or smartphone it's being viewed on doesn't mean that it's not saved somewhere. Google has recently been involved in a lawsuit in which it was determined browsing information is still collected, even while browsing incognito. 

To help clarify this, most private browsing windows show you a message like this:

Even other browsers now follow suit, for example, Microsoft Edge now explains what their "InPrivate" browsing does and does not do.

What Should You Know About Incognito Mode?

As mentioned before, Incognito Mode doesn't save browsing information your device. This includes internet and search histories. 

However, there are more facts that parents and accountability partners should be aware of.

Incognito Mode can use a Proxy, which can interfere with internet filters.

Incognito Mode is designed to reduce the visibility into your browsing. In most cases, private windows connect to the internet with a Proxy to add another layer of reduced visibility.

Proxies are servers that will reroute internet traffic on your behalf. You can think of a proxy as something like a tunnel - your traffic is not as visible to network filters or Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

If you use a network filter, or have parental controls set up on your router , then it's possible incognito mode can bypass your restrictions. 

Incognito Mode isn't exclusive to Chrome.

We've already brought this up earlier, but Incognito Mode isn't exclusive to Chrome. Different browsers will have different names, but Incognito Mode falls under the umbrella of private browsing.

Private browsing is designed to increase your privacy online, even if this privacy is only limited to the browsing device.

Incognito Mode can be disabled.

The good news is that you can disable private browsing on some browsers. 

Most of us are aware you can change different settings on browsers, such as light/dark mode, themes, or cache settings. You might notice that some settings, like disabling Incognito Mode, are nowhere to be found. That's because, in addition to the normal browser settings, there are more advanced settings that you can set for your browser. 

Disabling Incognito mode is not possible to disable within the browser itself. Instead, you will have to use either the Registry (on windows) or Defaults (on mac).

While it seems very complicated, we have researched and simplified the process for you. If you're interested in learning more, check out our article that explains how to disable incognito mode and private browsing .

What Does All of This Information Mean for You?

Now that we've cleared some things up, what does this mean for you?

At Tech Lockdown , we specialize in helping people block adult content, reduce bad habits, and become more productive with their technology. More recently, we've begun focusing on providing more resources for parents and accountability partners to help their loved ones break free of online addiction. 

Here's what we recommend for parents and accountability partners.

What this means for Parents

Parents should be aware that, on most browsers, internet search history may not be the most accurate way to determine browsing activity.

If you're trying to protect you child while they browse the internet, there are a few solutions that you might consider instead:

What this means for Accountability Partners

If you're trying to help someone else develop self-control, then we strongly recommend disabling all private browsing features, not just incognito mode.

Private browsing features have their place, but for those on the road to recovery , they can become a serious temptation. 

To get the most advanced form of protection, we recommend you consider device management for your loved one. Unfortunately, this is more advanced than we can dive into with this article, but put simply, device management  lets you:

  • Block or Enforce Apps on difficult devices, like smartphones.
  • Limit the ability to make changes to settings that can enable bypass.
  • Disable default apps and features, like the built-in browser or Settings app.

Can You Disable Private Browsing?

Yes! Not only can you disable private browsing, but you can also disable several other features that might enable someone to bypass a content filter.

If you're interested, you can find more information about disabling privacy features on browser  in our dedicated guide. However, if you're just looking for a simple solution for now, here are the easiest ways to disable incognito mode:

The Easiest Way to Disable Incognito Mode on Google Chrome for Windows

In order to disable incognito mode, you will have to use Command Prompt.

REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Google\Chrome /v IncognitoModeAvailability /t REG_DWORD /d 1

What does this command actually do?

This command makes a change to the Windows Registry, which tells Google Chrome to disable the Incognito Mode feature.

The Easiest Way to Disable Incognito Mode on Google Chrome for a Mac

defaults write IncognitoModeAvailability -integer 1

What does this command actually do?

This command will change the Defaults on your Mac, which are advanced settings that change more technical settings for programs. In our case, it disables incognito mode on Chrome.

The Easiest Way to Disable InPrivate Browsing on Microsoft Edge for Windows

reg add HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Edge /v InPrivateModeAvailability /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f

What does this command actually do?

This command makes a change to the Windows Registry, which tells Microsoft Edge to disable the InPrivate feature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there other features I can disable on a browser?

Yes! Guest mode, adding new profiles, and deleting browser history are all settings that you can disable. We go into more detail about this in our disabling privacy features in browsers guide.

Using the hosts file, you can also force SafeSearch on a browser.

Won't disabling privacy features on a browser reduce my privacy?

The privacy features that we recommend you block will reduce your privacy, but these privacy features will also prevent parents and accountability partners from seeing any activity as well.

Additionally, you should never assume that your browsing activity is truly private. Even if you're browsing with incognito mode, websites you visit, your internet service provider, or your school/job will most likely be able to see your browsing activity. This is standard practice nowadays: websites gather information about how you use their platform; businesses, schools, and ISPs will collect information about how you use their networks.