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.

Background

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.

Related:

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:

How to use Private Browsing on Mac walkthrough 1
How to use Private Browsing on Mac walkthrough 2

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

Going further

  • 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)
How to use Private Browsing on Mac walkthrough 5

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