How to Go Incognito in Safari on Mac Featured Image

How to Go Incognito in Safari on Mac: 3 Quick Ways

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Last updated: October 21, 2023

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Online privacy is a growing concern and many of us want to browse the internet without leaving a digital footprint. Whether you’re researching sensitive material, shopping for a surprise gift, or simply prefer not to have your browsing history logged, going incognito is a useful tool for maintaining your privacy.

For Mac users, the Safari browser offers a convenient and robust way to go undercover while you surf the web. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps to go incognito in Safari on Mac, ensuring your browsing session remains your business and no one else’s.

Before We Begin

For enhanced online privacy, combine Safari’s private browsing feature with MacKeeper’s Private Connect VPN to conceal your IP address. Additionally, using MacKeeper’s Antivirus offers robust protection against spyware on your Mac.

What Is Safari Private Browsing Mode?

Safari’s Private Browsing Mode is a feature that allows you to browse the internet without saving your browsing history, search history, or form data. When you activate this mode, Safari won’t keep any cookies or temporary files that could be used to trace your online activities.

Private Browsing Mode aims to help you use the internet without leaving a record of your activities on your computer. So, in other words, this is the incognito mode on Safari.

What Happens When You Use Safari Private Browsing?

When you enable Private Browsing Mode in Safari, several changes occur to how the browser manages your data and online activity. Here are some key things that happen:

  1. 📜 No Browsing History: Safari won’t record the websites you visit, so you won’t see them in your history later.
  2. 🔍 Search History Cleared: Any search queries you enter will not be saved, so they won’t appear in the search bar’s dropdown suggestions in future sessions.
  3. 📝 No Form Data: Information entered into forms, like usernames, passwords, or search queries, is not stored.
  4. 🍪 Cookies and Site Data: Any cookies or site data obtained during your session are not saved, making it more difficult for websites to track you.
  5. 🗂️ Temporary Files: While temporary internet files like images may be stored to improve page load times during the session, they are deleted once you exit Private Browsing Mode.
  6. 🖥️ Open Tabs: Tabs opened in Private Browsing Mode won’t be stored in Safari’s Tabs feature for later retrieval.
  7. ⬇️ Downloads: Files you download will still be saved to your computer, but Safari won’t keep a record of these downloads within the browser.
  8. 🚫 Autofill Disabled: Features like Autofill for forms and passwords are disabled, meaning Safari won’t suggest information based on previous entries when you’re in Private Browsing Mode.
  9. 🔗 Extensions Limited: Some browser extensions may not work as expected in Private Browsing Mode to prevent them from tracking your activity.
  10. 🛡️ Isolated Session: Each Private Browsing window operates in isolation, meaning that if you open a new Private Browsing window, it won’t share cookies, history, or site data with the previous Private Browsing session.

While Safari’s Private Browsing Mode offers a good level of privacy, it is not entirely foolproof. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP), network administrators, and websites can still potentially identify you through your IP address.

How to Open a Private Window in Safari on Your Mac

Opening a private window in Safari on your Mac is a straightforward process that takes just a few seconds. Here are three ways to open a private window and go incognito in Safari on Mac:

Method 1: Using the Menu Bar

The most commonly used method for opening a private window in Safari is the menu bar. Follow these steps to go incognito in Safari on Mac via the menu bar:

  1. Open the Safari browser on your Mac.
  2. Click File in the menu bar.
  3. From the dropdown menu, choose New Private Window.
click file and selecte new private window

A new window should open with a dark search field, indicating you’re now in Private Browsing Mode.

private browsing window in safari

Method 2: Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Mac keyboard shortcuts are an excellent way to streamline your browsing experience, especially if you prefer using the keyboard over navigating through menus. So, if you’re looking to swiftly open a private window without taking your hands off the keyboard, follow these steps:

  1. If you haven’t already, launch the Safari browser.
  2. Press Shift ⇧ + Command ⌘ + N simultaneously.
macbook pro command shift n keys

This will open a new private browsing window instantly.

Method 3: Right-Click Option

If you’re comfortable using contextual menus that appear with a right-click, this option offers a speedy way to go incognito in Safari on Mac. Follow these steps to right-click on a Mac and go incognito in Safari:

  1. Launch your Safari browser.
  2. Right-click (or control-click) the Safari icon in the Dock.
  3. From the contextual menu that appears, select New Private Window.
right click the safari icon and select new private window

A new window with a dark search field should appear, indicating that Private Browsing Mode is enabled.

How to Open a Private Tab in Safari

If you’re already in a regular browsing window in Safari, you can’t add a private tab to that window. Your only option for private browsing in this case is to open a new Private Browsing window. Then, add as many private tabs to that window as you like.

Follow these steps to open a new private tab within an existing private window:

  1. Open a new Private Browsing window in Safari. You can do this by clicking File in the menu bar and selecting New Private Window, or by using the keyboard shortcut Shift ⇧ + Command ⌘ + N.
click file and selecte new private window
  1. Once you’re in a Private Browsing window, click the plus (+) button in Safari’s toolbar at the top of the screen.
click the plus icon in safari private browsing window
  1. Alternatively, you can press Command ⌘ + T on your keyboard.
macbook pro command t keys
  1. A new tab will open within the existing Private Browsing window, indicated by a dark search field, confirming that it’s also in incognito mode.

You can have a regular browsing window and a private window open side by side. Just make sure you don’t mix them up to maintain the level of privacy you desire.

How to Always Browse Privately in Safari

Now that you know how to go incognito in Safari on Mac, can browse privately whenever you want. But if you want to set up Safari so that it always starts with a Private Browsing window, there’s a simple way to make that happen.

Following these steps will configure Safari to open in Private Browsing mode by default:

  1. Open the Safari browser on your Mac.
  2. Navigate to Safari in the menu bar at the top, and select Settings.
click safari in the top menu bar and select settings
  1. In Safari Settings window, click the General tab.
click the general tab in safari settings window
  1. Locate the Safari opens with option, click the dropdown menu button next to it, and select A new private window.
select a new private window option from the dropdown menu

By following these steps, you’ll set Safari to automatically open a new Private Browsing window each time you launch the application. However, this setting only applies to the initial window at startup, any subsequent windows you open will be regular, non-private windows.

How to Turn Off Private Browsing on a Mac

Turning off Private Browsing in Safari on a Mac is a straightforward process. If you’re using Private Browsing and want to switch back to the standard browsing mode, here’s how you can do it:

  1. A Private Browsing window in Safari is characterized by a dark search field at the top.
  2. Simply close the Private Browsing window by clicking the red x button at the top left corner of the window.
click x to close private browsing window
  1. Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut Command ⌘ + W.
macbook pro command w
  1. If you don’t have any other Safari windows open, you’ll need to open a new one. You can do this by clicking File in the menu bar and selecting New Window.
click file and select new window
  1. Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut Command ⌘ + N.
macbook pro command n

Once you leave Private Browsing, Safari will retain your browsing history, cookies, and other data unless you delete them manually.

Can You View Private Browsing History in Safari on Mac?

A key feature of Private Browsing in Safari is that it doesn’t retain your browsing history, search queries, or cookies once you close the Private Browsing window. This means that, by design, you can’t view the browsing history of a Private Browsing session once it’s closed.

However, while Safari’s Private Browsing mode doesn’t store your browsing history like a regular browsing session, the Terminal archive on Macs operates independently of Safari’s privacy features.

The Terminal archive contains records of all websites visited, including those accessed through Private Browsing. So, you can view your private browsing history in Safari on Mac through the Terminal archive.

How to Check Private Browsing History in Safari on a Mac

  1. Open the Console application by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Console.
launch console from utilities
  1. In the sidebar, click your Mac.
click your mac in the left sidebar of console
  1. Type the following into the search box:
type any mdnsresponder in console search box
  1. Click the Start button in the toolbar to display console messages.
click the start button in the console toolbar
  1. Enter your admin username and password and click Continue.
enter your admin username and password and click continue
  1. Head to Utilities and open the Terminal application.
launch terminal from utilities
  1. Type the following command and press Enter:
sudo killall -INFO mDNSResponder
type sudo killall info mdnsresponder in terminal
  1. You will be prompted to enter your admin password.
  2. Go back to the Console application as described in Step 1.
  3. Here, you’ll find entries that correspond to your Private Browsing history.
private browsing history in console

Note that the website names will be displayed as IP addresses instead of website addresses.

How to Delete Private Browsing History Stored in Terminal Archive

  1. Navigate to Finder > Applications > Utilities and open the Terminal application.
launch terminal from utilities
  1. Type the following command and press Enter:
sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder
type sudo killall hup mdnsresponder in terminal
  1. You will be asked to provide your administrative password to proceed.

Executing this command will clear the DNS cache, effectively erasing stored private browsing history. Be cautious not to modify other settings in the Terminal.

Is Private Browsing Enough to Hide Your Online Activity?

While Safari’s Private Browsing feature enhances your privacy to some extent, it doesn’t make you completely anonymous online. For instance, it won’t hide your IP address, which means websites and online services can still potentially identify you.

Likewise, Private Browsing Mode won’t prevent external tracking by advertisers or third-party websites. For these reasons, you should pair Private Browsing with additional security measures such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and antivirus software to create a more comprehensive privacy solution.

Heres’ how to use MacKeeper’s Private Connect VPN to protect your online privacy:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open the MacKeeper app on your Mac and click the Private Connect feature under the Privacy section.
click the private connect feature under the privacy section
  1. Select a server location from the VPN server location list. You can choose a server in your country for faster browsing or another country to bypass geo-restrictions.
select server location from provided list
  1. Click Turn On to activate Private Connect VPN.
click turn on to activate private connect vpn
  1. Once connected, you should see a notification indicating your VPN connection is active. You can also check your IP address online to confirm the change.
  2. When you’re done browsing, disconnect the VPN by clicking the Turn Off button.

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides offering a foolproof VPN feature, MacKeeper can help scan your Mac for viruses, remove login items from your Mac, delete duplicate files, and remove cache files from your Mac. Check out my MacKeeper review to learn more about its features.

Go Incognito in Safari on Mac and Start Secure Browsing

Navigating the web securely and privately is important, and understanding how Safari’s Private Browsing feature functions on your Mac is a significant step toward that goal. Private Browsing offers a level of protection, but it is not a replacement for more robust security measures, such as using a VPN or specialized security software.

Here are some more tips to make your browsing experience more secure:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are cookies saved in private browsing mode in Safari?

    Cookies are not saved in Private Browsing mode in Safari once you close the session. While the session is active, cookies may be stored temporarily to enable website functionality. However, these cookies are automatically deleted when you close the Private Browsing window, enhancing your privacy.

  2. Does Safari private browsing hide your IP address?

    No, Safari’s Private Browsing mode does not hide your IP address. While it prevents storing your browsing history, cookies, and form data, it doesn’t make you anonymous online. Your IP address is still visible to websites, your Internet Service Provider, and network administrators.

  3. Is Safari the best option for privacy?

    While Safari offers strong privacy features like Intelligent Tracking Prevention and built-in encryption, whether it’s the best option for privacy depends on your specific needs. Other browsers like Firefox focus extensively on privacy and offer advanced customization. It’s important to compare features and decide what best suits your privacy goals.

  4. Why can’t I open a private tab on Safari?

    You can’t open a private tab on Safari within a regular window due to design choices aimed at enhancing user privacy and ease of use. Instead, Safari segregates private browsing into separate windows to prevent you from mixing up private and regular tabs, reducing the risk of privacy breaches.

Hashir Ibrahim


I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.



Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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