If you ever want to sign into two different accounts on the same website at once – say, to have multiple Gmail inboxes open next to each other – you can’t just open a new tab or browser window.
Websites store your login state in browser-specific cookies. There are a number of ways you can get another browser window with its own cookies and stay logged into multiple accounts at once.
Use Another Browser
Each browser stores its own cookies, so the most obvious way to log into multiple websites at the same time is by using multiple different browsers. For example, if you’re using Google Chrome, open a Firefox window. If you’re using Firefox, open an Internet Explorer window. You’ll be able to log into a website with a different username and password and stay logged into both accounts at the same time.
Enable Private Browsing or Incognito Mode
If you don’t want to use a different browser, you can use your browser’s built-in incognito or private-browsing mode. In private-browsing mode, your browser doesn’t use its existing cookies. It uses a fresh slate of cookie which are deleted when you exit private-browsing mode or close the private-browsing window.
To enter private-browsing mode in Google Chrome, click the menu button and select New Incognito Window.
In Firefox, click the Firefox button and select Start Private Browsing.
In Internet Explorer, click the gear menu icon, point to Safety, and select InPrivate Browsing.
Chrome and Internet Explorer will give you a new private-browsing window, allowing you to keep both windows open at the same time. Firefox will replace your existing session with the private-browsing window and restore it when you exit private-browsing mode. Your cookies and login state will be cleared when you close the private-browsing window.
Create Other Browser Profiles
You can use also use separate browser profiles with the same web browser. Each profile will have its own cookies, allowing you to log into a different account in each browser profile.
To create a new profile in Google Chrome, click your name at the top-right corner of the new tab page and select New User. You can then use this menu to open browser windows with different profiles.
In Firefox, you’ll need to use the Profile Manager, which is hidden by default. Follow these instructions to access the profile manager and log into multiple profiles at once.
In Internet Explorer, you can do something similar by pressing the Alt key, clicking the File menu that appears, and selecting New Session. This opens a new Internet Explorer window that functions as a different session with a separate set of cookies.
Google Multiple Account Sign-In
Websites can provide their own ways to log into multiple accounts at once, but few do. One website that does allow you to easily log into multiple accounts is Google. With the multiple account sign-in feature, you can log into multiple Google accounts at once and switch between them by clicking your account name at the top-right corner of any Google page.
Click your account name after logging into Google and select Add Account to add an account and get started. Once an account is added, you can click it in the menu to switch between accounts without entering a password.
Unless you used private-browsing mode or a new session in Internet Explorer, your cookies will be saved when you close the browser window. You can leave a browser or profile signed in to stay signed into all your accounts, opening the appropriate browser window when you want to use that specific account.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 10/14/12