If you use Firefox as your web browser, at some point you will likely need to use private mode to browse privately. So in this article, I’m going to show you how to use private mode in Firefox.
But, before we get into that, there are some things you should know about what private mode is and what it actually does and does not do.
If you already understand how private mode works and just want to see how to open it, you can click here to skip ahead to that, but if you don’t, let’s first take a look at what exactly private mode does before we get into the tutorial.
Prefer to watch a video about private mode in Firefox? Click here.
What Is Private Mode And What Does It Do?
Private Mode in Firefox is pretty much the same as Incognito mode in Google Chrome. Essentially it opens a special browser window where you can visit any website you want just like normal, but then, when you close the private window, all the history will be gone.
What It Does Do:
To give you an idea of what you could use private mode for, I’m going to list out the main things that private mode can do. And after that, so there’s no confusion, I’m going to list out some of the limitations of private mode.
1. Allow you to browse the web without your history being saved
When you browse the web in private mode, it won’t save any of your browsing history.
So you can open a private mode window, visit a few websites, and then close the window and it will automatically delete the browsing history of the websites you visited while in private mode.
This is really handy if you want to visit websites and not have them saved to your browsing history.
2. Delete any cache or cookies
After you close a private window, it will also delete any cache or cookies that the websites you visited might have saved to your computer.
Websites do this to keep track of specific things you have done on them like whether or not you’re logged in to that site.
So when you close the private window, all that data will be gone, and the websites you visited while in private mode won’t recognize you.
3. Keep Cookies Separated (I find this one the most useful)
Private mode will also keep the cache and cookies from different websites separate from regular Firefox.
This has many different benefits, but the main benefit is that you could (for example) log in to Facebook in regular Firefox…
And then, go to facebook.com in a private mode window, and you would not be logged in there. This can be really handy if you have two different accounts for one website and you want to use them both at once.
What It Doesn’t Do:
There are a few common misconceptions about what Private mode and Incognito mode actually does, private mode doesn’t actually make you invisible, so before I show you how to use private mode, I’m going to clear some of that up.
1. Prevent websites from tracking you
Private mode won’t prevent websites from tracking what you do on there. Any website you visit in private mode will still be able to track basic things like what pages you visited, how long you stayed on their site, and where you are in the world.
None of the cookies from your regular Firefox window will be there, so they won’t be able to see information like whether or not you’ve been there before, or whether or not you’re logged in to them, but they will still be able to see other basic information about the pages you visit.
2. Hide information from your work, school, or ISP
Another thing private mode won’t do is hide information from your ISP (internet service provider), or your work or school if you’re using their wifi. ISPs and organizations can often access basic information about your internet usage, and using private mode won’t make any difference to that.
If you want to be more private and hide all the data from your ISP or organization, you’ll need to use a VPN (virtual private network) that sends all your internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel so that your ISP can’t tell what it is.
If you want to get a VPN, I would highly recommend Express VPN for a very fast and secure browsing experience.
3. Protect you from viruses or hacking
The final thing I’m going to mention that private mode doesn’t do is protect you from downloading a virus or being hacked.
It does provide you some very slight protection in that none of your regular cookies will be there so the site you’re visiting has no chance of accessing them.
But it really doesn’t provide you with any sort of internet security or virus protection, for that, you’ll want to use an antivirus software like Avast.
Hopefully, you now have a good idea of what private mode is and what it will and won’t do, so now, let’s get into the tutorial and see how to open and use private mode in Firefox.
When you’re in Firefox, if you want to open a private window to use private mode, all you have to do is click on the three lines in the top right hand corner.
And then, in the menu that appears, click “New Private Window”.
Tip: You can also open a private window by pressing ctrl + shift + p on your keyboard.
Now, you’ll have a private window open in Private mode! And you’ll be able to tell it’s private mode because the default new tab page will be all purple with a message telling you you’re in a private window like this:
And, there’ll always be this purple mask icon in the top right hand corner:
So now, you can browse the web in this private window just like you normally would.
And then, if you close the private window by clicking the cross in the top right corner…
You will notice if you look at your browsing history, the website you visited in private mode isn’t showing up there.
So that’s really great if you just want your browsing history to not be saved, but if you have two different accounts for one website and you want to use it to be simultaneously logged in to both of them at once, you could log in to Twitter (for example) in a regular Firefox window.
And then, click on the three lines in the top right hand corner.
Then, in the menu that appears, click “New Private Window”.
Now, if you go to twitter.com in the private window, you will see a login page because you won’t be logged in.
So now, you could either log in to Twitter here with a different account, or do anything you’re able to do on the Twitter website without an account. And you’ll have two different Firefox windows both logged in to Twitter with different accounts.
So, now that you have them both open, if you want to switch between the two, you can do that just like how you would switch between two regular Firefox windows.
If you’re using a Windows computer, you just need to hover over the Firefox icon on the taskbar and you will see the two windows appear in little boxes.
And then, you can just click on the window you want to switch to.
And you’ll then be switched to the correct window!
So if you’re in the regular Window, you can do this to switch back to the private mode window that is currently logged out, or if you’re in the private window, you can switch back to the regular window where it is currently logged in.
I’m not exactly sure how it works on a Mac computer, but I imagine it’s a fairly similar process like that.
And that’s really all there is to it! Now you know how to use private mode in Firefox, what it can do, and some of the things it actually doesn’t do.