Private Browsing is a useful mode on Mac with Safari. It means websites you visit aren’t saved in your history, with iCloud, Smart Search, and more. Follow along for a look at how to use Private Browsing, the keyboard shortcut to quickly open a new private Safari window, setting it as your launch default, and more.
Table of contents
Using a Private Browsing window includes a number of privacy features. In a support document, Apple details how a Private Browsing window works as of macOS Big Sur and Safari 14.
- Browsing initiated in one tab is isolated from browsing initiated in another tab, so websites you visit can’t track your browsing across multiple sessions.
- Webpages you visit and your AutoFill information aren’t saved.
- Your open webpages aren’t stored in iCloud, so they aren’t shown when you view all your open tabs from other devices.
- Your recent searches aren’t included in the results list when you use the Smart Search field.
- Items you download aren’t included in the downloads list. (The items do remain on your computer.)
- If you use Handoff, Private Browsing windows are not passed to your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or other Mac computers.
- Changes to your cookies and website data aren’t saved.
Below we’ll look at how to use Private Browsing on Mac but also a few extra tips and tricks to make it faster and easier to use.
- Mac: How to clear the cache, history, and cookies in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox
- Private Browsing on iPhone and iPad here.
How to use Private Browsing on Mac
- To open a new Private window, click Safari in the menu bar > New Private Window
- You’ll notice the search/url bar is dark gray for Private Browsing (black when using dark mode)
- There’s also an alert near the top that you’ve enabled Private Browsing (disappears when you start browsing)
Here’s how it looks:
Keyboard shortcut for Private Browsing on Mac
- You’re probably used to the command + N shortcut for a new Safari window
- Just add shift to that to get a new Private window – command + shift + N
Set Private Browsing as your default Safari startup page
- If you like to use Private Browsing regularly, you can make it your default when Safari launches
- Click Safari > Preferences in the menu bar
- Select the General tab at the top
- Next to Safari open with click the dropdown and choose A new private window
- If you want to tweak the default settings for normal Safari windows, check out the options at the bottom of the Safari > Preferences > General
- At the bottom of the window, you can adjust the settings for when history and downloads are removed and more
- Also, head to Safari > Preferences > Security or Privacy to tweak your fraudulent website warnings, and settings for cookies, website data, and more.
- To clear your Mac’s cache, history, and cookies head to Safari > Clear History (read more in our full guide on that here)
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