Private Browsing - Use Firefox without saving history

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  • Revision id: 9017
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  • Creator: scoobidiver
  • Comment: dividing the first section into two sub-sections, adding a section about security and privacy
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  • Reviewed by: AliceWyman
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This article describes a feature available in Firefox 3.5, Private Browsing, which allows you to browse the Internet without Firefox retaining any data about which sites and pages you have visited:

As you browse the web, Firefox helpfully remembers lots of information for you – sites you've visited, files you've downloaded and more. However, there may be times when you don't want other users of your computer to see this information. For example, if you share a computer with someone and have been shopping for their birthday present.

Firefox 3.5 and later includes the Private Browsing feature which allows you to browse the Internet without saving any information on your computer about which sites and pages you’ve visited. This article explains what information is not saved in Private Browsing and gives you step-by-step instructions for using it.

Private Browsing does not make you anonymous on the Internet and does not protect you from other people, servers, or software that may try to track you. For more details, see the What does Private Browsing not do? and How can I improve my privacy and security? sections.


What is Private Browsing?

Private Browsing allows you to browse the Internet without saving any information on your computer about which sites and pages you’ve visited.

What does Private Browsing do?

Private Browsing does not save:

Note:
  • If you create new Bookmarks in Firefox while using Private Browsing, they will not be removed when you stop Private Browsing.
  • If you save files to your computer while using Private Browsing, those files will not be deleted when you stop Private Browsing. However, any files you open in an external application will be cleared from the system's temporary folder, and none of the files you download will appear in the Where to find and manage downloaded files in Firefox list.

What does Private Browsing not do?

  • Private Browsing does not prevent the cookies storage by plugins. If you want to remove them, use an appropriate extension (see the section below) or do it manually:
  • Private Browsing does not protect you from other people, companies that may try to track you. This includes:
    • Websites that collect or share information about you, such as online advertising or search engines companies.
    • Your employer, school or university if you are using an Internet connection they have provided.
    • Your Internet Service Provider.
    • Surveillance by the police and other government agencies.
If you want your surfing be also more anonymous on Internet, use a proxy server or a proxy extension (see the section below).
  • Private Browsing does not protect you from viruses, spywares (such as a keylogger) or other malicious softwares that you may have unknowingly installed, or that someone else may have installed on your computer without your knowledge.
For more information on malwares, see Troubleshoot Firefox issues caused by malware.


How do I turn on Private Browsing?

To start a Private Browsing session:

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, On the menu bar, click the Firefox menu (Tools menu in Windows XP),Tools menuTools menu and select Start Private Browsing.

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Not there? If Start Private Browsing is not in the Tools menu, you are not using the latest version of Firefox. To use this feature, update to Firefox 3.5.
  1. The first time you turn on Private Browsing, Firefox will alert you that it will save your current windows and tabs for after you finish using Private Browsing. Click on Start Private Browsing to continue.

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    • Put a check mark next to "Do not show this message again" if you do not want to receive this alert the next time you turn on Private Browsing.
  2. You will then enter Private Browsing mode, and the Private Browsing information screen will appear.

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    Private Browsing Win3 Private Browsing Mac3 Private Browsing Lin3

When browsing in Private Browsing mode, the Firefox window title will say (Private Browsing)the Firefox menu will be purple (for Windows XP the window title will say (Private Browsing) instead) during your session.

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How do I turn off Private Browsing?

To end a Private Browsing session:

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, On the menu bar, click the Firefox menu (Tools menu in Windows XP),Tools menuTools menu and select Stop Private Browsing.

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  2. The windows and tabs you were using when you enabled Private Browsing will appear, and you can use Firefox normally. The Firefox window title will no longer say (Private Browsing)The Firefox menu will turn orange again (for Windows XP the Firefox window title will no longer say (Private Browsing)) when Private Browsing is off.


How do I always start Firefox in Private Browsing?

There is a setting in the OptionsPreferences window which will automatically enable Private Browsing whenever you start Firefox.

If you enter Private Browsing this way the Firefox title bar won't say (Private Browsing).the Firefoxmenu won't turn purple (Windows XP, the Firefox title bar won't say (Private Browsing)).


  1. Click the menu button New Fx Menu Fx57Menu and choose Options.Preferences. .

Select the PrivacyPrivacy & Security panel and go to the History section.

  • In the drop-down menu next to Firefox will:Firefox will choose Use custom settings for history.
    customhistory38 Fx56Privacy&Security-CustomHistory-new CustomHistory fx57
    1. Check the box next to Automatically start Firefox in a private browsing sessionPermanent Private Browsing mode.

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    2. Close the about:preferences page. Any changes you've made will automatically be saved.


    How can I improve my privacy and security?

    • There are a lot of Firefox extensions that may help you to improve some parts of your privacy and security.
    • You may also be interested by security options available in Firefox. For more details, see Security and passwords settings.
    • If you are aware of your privacy and security, here are some handy tips:
      • Remember that YOU decide what information about yourself to reveal, when, why, and to whom: don't give out personally-identifiable information too easily; set your privacy settings in your social networking account; beware sites that offer some sort of reward or prize in exchange for your contact information or other personal details.
      • Be conscious of Web security: never submit a credit card number or other highly sensitive personal information without first making sure your connection is secure (encrypted); be on the lookout for "spyware"; use secure passwords and protect them with a master password; try to use Javascript only on trusted sites.
      • Keep a "clean" e-mail address: use some pseudonymous or simply alternate address, and keep your main or preferred address only on small, members-only lists and with known, trusted individuals.
      • Do not reply to spammers, for any reason.
      • Realize you may be monitored at work: avoid sending highly personal e-mail to mailing lists, and keep sensitive files on your home computer.
      • Be conscious of home computer security: Turn off your computer when you are not using your Internet connexion; secure your Wi-Fi network with a strong encryption (WPA or WPA2) ; use a firewall.
      • Examine privacy policies and seals: Does the site provide offline contact information? Does the site have a prominently-posted privacy policy? If so, what does it say? Do you have a reason to believe it? Have you ever heard of this company? What is their reputation? And are they backing up their privacy statement with a seal program? If you see a seal, is it real?