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How to Always Start Any Browser in Private Browsing Mode

private-browsing-in-all-browsers

Private browsing mode doesn’t offer complete privacy, but it does prevent your browser from saving your history, searches, cookies, and other private data between browsing sessions. You can have your browser always start in private-browsing mode if you prefer it.

Most people won’t want to use private-browsing mode permanently. You will have to log into the websites you use each time you open your browser, as your browser won’t save the cookies that keep your login state.

Google Chrome

To activate Google Chrome’s incognito mode by default, you will need to add a command-line option to its shortcut.

First, locate the shortcut you use to launch Google Chrome – either on your desktop, Start menu, or taskbar – and right-click it. Select Properties in the menu that appears.

If you are using using a taskbar shortcut on Windows 7 or 8, you will have to right-click the Google Chrome icon on your taskbar, right-click Google Chrome in the list, and select Properties.

chrome-taskbar-shortcut-properties

Add -incognito (that’s a space character, a dash, and then the word incognito) to the end of the Target box. Click OK after adding this option.

chrome-incognito-shortcut

Google Chrome will now start in incognito mode when you launch it via this shortcut. If you use other shortcuts to launch Google Chrome, you will need to modify them, too.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox allows you to automatically enable private-browsing mode via its options window. Click the Firefox menu button and select Options to open it.

firefox-menu-options

Click the Privacy icon and select “Never remember history.” Firefox will now use the same settings it uses in private-browsing mode, although it won’t display its normal private-browsing interface.

firefox-never-remember-history

Internet Explorer

You will need to add a command-line option to your Internet Explorer shortcuts to activate InPrivate Browsing by default.

Locate the shortcut you use to launch Internet Explorer, right-click it, and select Properties. On Windows 7 or 8, right-click the Internet Explorer icon on your taskbar, right-click Internet Explorer, and select Properties.

internet-explorer-taskbar-shortcut-properties

Add -private to the end of the Target box (that’s a space, one dash, and then the word private). Click OK.

internet-explorer-private-option

Internet Explorer will now start with InPrivate Browsing enabled when you launch it via this shortcut. If you use other shortcuts to launch Internet Explorer, you will need to modify each one.

Opera

Opera also has a command-line option to enable private-browsing mode.

As with the other browsers here, locate your Opera shortcut, right-click it, and select Properties. On the Windows 7 or 8 taskbar, right-click the Opera icon, right-click the name Opera, and then click Properties.

opera-taskbar-shortcut-proeprties

Add -newprivatetab to the end of the Target field (that’s a space, one dash, and then newprivatetab). Click OK.

opera-newprivatetab-shortcut

Opera will now open a private-browsing tab whenever you launch the shortcut. Note that Opera has per-tab private-browsing settings, so this tweak will only open a private-browsing tab when you launch Opera. You will have to open new “private tabs” instead of normal tabs while using Opera to continue using private-browsing mode.


Remember that your browser won’t be able to save login states, websites preferences, or any other type of data if you do this. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

If you want to undo any of these changes, you can modify the shortcuts against and remove the option you added. On Firefox, all you need to do is select the “Remember history” option.

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 02/15/13

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