How to use Private Browsing on your iPhone in 2024

Tips & tricks
9 mins

Private Browsing mode is a basic method to increase your privacy when visiting websites. This guide will tell you all there is to know about using Private Browsing on your iPhone, explaining how to use it, what it does, and especially what it doesn’t.

What are Private Browsing and Incognito mode?

Private Browsing and Incognito mode are different names for the same feature, and they’re available in most modern web browsers, including those on iPhones. At their core, this feature is designed to offer a more discreet experience by creating a temporary browsing session isolated from your main browsing session.

Any websites you visit, search queries you enter, or forms you fill out during this session are not saved in your browser’s history once the session is closed. Additionally, Private Browsing or Incognito modes typically prevent the storage of cookies—small data files used by websites to remember users and their preferences—outside the private session.

Bear in mind that as soon as you start using these modes, your browser will not be able to access cookies already on your device, meaning that you will have to log in again on any websites you visit, and most custom settings won’t work.

It’s important to note that Private Browsing is primarily designed to prevent your activity from showing up on your browser, keeping it hidden from anyone who might share your computer—but it does not keep your activity hidden from sites you visit, your internet service provider, or your Wi-Fi admin. Confusion over Incognito mode has even led to a 5 billion USD lawsuit against Google.

How to turn on Private Browsing on iPhone and iPad

There are several methods to access Private Browsing on your iPhone or iPad, and they vary slightly depending on your browser. Here, we’ll guide you through the simple steps for enabling Private Browsing in Safari and Incognito mode in Google Chrome on iOS 17.

Private Browsing on Safari with iOS 17

To enable Private Browsing in Safari, you just need to open a Private Tab. This is very easy to do by following these steps:

  1. Open Safari. The Safari app comes installed on every iPhone and iPad.
  2. Tap on the Tabs button (two overlapping squares) at the bottom right of your screen.
  3. Now, you should see the tabs you have open. At the bottom of your screen, you’ll see a button indicating the number of tabs you have open. Swipe that button to the right, or tap the grayed-out Private button.

4. Tap Done on the bottom right to start browsing.

You can ensure that Private Browsing is enabled in Safari by looking at the search/address bar. It will appear in dark gray.

Shortcut for Private Browsing on Safari with iOS 17

This is an even quicker way to enable Private Browsing, which is excellent if you’re already familiar with this mode. Once you’ve opened Safari, just follow these quick steps:

  1. Press and hold the Tabs button. A smaller menu will appear.

2. Choose either New Private Tab or Private. You’ll immediately start browsing in private mode.

Incognito mode on Google Chrome with iOS 17

If you prefer to use Google Chrome on your iPhone or iPad instead of Safari, you won’t find Private Browsing. Instead, this feature is called Incognito. Here’s how you can enable it.

  1. Open Google Chrome
  2. Tap the three horizontal dots at the bottom right corner of your screen.

  3. Tap New Incognito Tab.

You’re ready to start browsing in Incognito mode.

How to make Private Browsing the default mode on Safari

Some people prefer their browser never to store cookies or browsing history. If you’re one of them, making Private Browsing the default setting in Safari is a good idea. Doing it is very straightforward, and it involves these steps.

  1. Open Safari 
  2. Tap the Tabs button (two overlapping squares) at the bottom right of your screen.

3. Tap on the list icon at the bottom center of your screen.

4. In the menu, ensure Private is selected. Once you’ve chosen that, new links and pages will open with Private Browsing enabled.

How to turn off Private Browsing on iPhone and iPad

Turning off Private Browsing on your iPhone and iPad on iOS 17 involves steps similar to the ones above.

Turn off Private Browsing on Safari with iOS 17

In Safari, you can disable Private Browsing by following these steps.

  1. Open Safari
  2. Tap the Tabs button (two overlapping squares) at the bottom right of your screen.


At the bottom of your screen, you’ll see the Private button. Swipe that button to the left, or tap the grayed-out Tabs button just to the right of the Private button.

3. Tap Done

You can ensure you’ve disabled Private Browsing by checking the search/address bar. It should be back to its usual almost white color.

Turn off Incognito mode on Google Chrome with iOS 17

You can turn off Incognito mode on Google Chrome by following these steps.

  1. Open Google Chrome
  2. Tap the Tabs button (a square with a number) at the bottom of your screen.

3. Tap Edit

4. Select close all tabs

5. Tap the tabs button. This changes the browser from Incognito to normal mode. The tabs button will now be at the top center of your screen and contain a number representing how many tabs you have opened in non-Incognito mode.

6. Tap any tab, or create a new one by pressing the plus sign at the bottom.

Is Private Browsing actually private?

To take advantage of Private Browsing, it’s crucial to have a clear picture of what it does and doesn’t do. Private Browsing, whether in Safari, Chrome, or another browser, offers a very limited form of privacy.

Firstly, Private Browsing prevents your browsing history, cookies, and site data from being stored on your device. This means that anyone else using your device won’t be able to see your activity. The lack of cookies also makes it harder for sites to recognize you if you return to the site repeatedly. 

However, this does not make you invisible online. Your internet service provider (ISP), websites you visit, and network administrators can still track your online activities.

Moreover, Private Browsing doesn’t shield you from web tracking technologies like browser fingerprinting, where websites use data points about your browser to identify and track you. It also doesn’t encrypt your traffic like a VPN, so your online activities can still be monitored or intercepted, especially on unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Alternatives to Private Browsing and Incognito

While Private Browsing and Incognito modes offer a basic level of privacy, they do not suffice for a high level of online anonymity, privacy, or security. This section explores alternative tools and methods that enhance your online activities’ privacy and security.

Using a VPN

A VPN is one of the easiest ways to increase your privacy on your iPhone. It encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a VPN server in your location of choice, effectively changing your IP address and making you appear to be in a different location. This enhances your privacy and allows access to censored content.

Here’s how to use ExpressVPN on your iPhone.

  1. Sign up for ExpressVPN
  2. Download ExpressVPN from the App Store.
  3. Open the app and sign in
  4. You will be asked if you want to add VPN configurations to your device. Tap Allow, as this is a necessary step for the VPN to work correctly.
  5. Choose a server location from a list of countries and cities. Choose the one you want to connect to, or just press the large On button in the middle to connect to ExpressVPN using the Smart Location feature, which chooses the more suitable location for your network conditions.

Using a privacy-focused browser

Other browsers take privacy even further than Chrome and Safari. Brave, DuckDuckGo, or Aloha provide better privacy and security as you browse the web. They don’t track your activity and go as far as blocking pop-ups and trackers. You can even use them alongside a VPN for maximum privacy.

What is the best private browser for iOS?

  • Very fast
  • Open-source architecture
  • Blocks trackers and ads
  • Anti-fingerprinting
  • Can be complex for novice users
  • Compatibility issues with some websites
  • No extensions
  • Tracker protection
  • Ad and tracker blocker
  • Analyzes downloads on iOS 
  • Collects user data for UX purposes and personalized ads (it can be turned off in Settings)
DuckDuckGo Browser
  • It doesn’t store your browsing history
  • Uses the DuckDuckGo search engine by default
  • It’s faster than Safari
  • Ad and tracker blocking
  • You might not like Bing search results
  • Not very customizable
Firefox Focus
  • Always-on ad blocking
  • Very fast
  • One-button browsing history deletion
  • Built by the trustworthy Mozilla Foundation
  • Doesn’t have tabs for browsing at the same time
Red Onion
  • Offers Tor network browsing
  • Can bypass some censorship
  • Supports user agent spoofing
  • Slower browsing speeds due to Tor routing
  • Some websites may block Tor connections
  • Interface may not be very user-friendly


Can iPhone Private Browsing mode be tracked?

Yes, the iPhone’s Private Browsing mode can still be tracked by external sources like internet service providers (ISPs) and websites. While it prevents the storage of browsing history, cookies, and site data on your device, it doesn’t hide your online activity from third parties such as ad companies and website trackers. 

While they may not know what you’re specifically doing inside a website, network administrators and digital fingerprinting techniques can see where you connect, even in Private Browsing mode. For more comprehensive privacy, additional measures such as VPNs are advisable.

Is there a way to see Private Browsing history on iPhone?

No, there isn’t a straightforward way to view Private Browsing history on an iPhone. Private Browsing mode in Safari is designed to leave no trace of your browsing activity on your device. Once you close a Private Browsing tab, the information about the websites you visited and your search history is not saved and cannot be retrieved through Safari.

It is possible to set up your phone to record all browsing history, including Incognito, by using special software. Parental control apps are one type of software that can achieve this. Stalkerware apps can also serve this purpose but are unethical if used without the knowledge of the person being tracked.

Which browser is private on iPhone?

As an Apple product, iPhone comes with Safari built in, and it includes Private Browsing mode. While this mode prevents your activity from being saved to your phone, Safari is not a privacy-focused browser like Brave, Firefox, or DuckDuckGo browser, which can all be downloaded from the App Store.

Is there Private Browsing on Safari?

Yes, similar to all mainstream browsers, Safari offers a Private Browsing mode. After you close a Private tab, Safari won’t remember the pages you visited, your search history, or your AutoFill information.

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

If you’ve tried to enable Private Browsing by following the steps above and still can’t see the option, your device likely has some sort of restriction on browsing through parental controls. To turn that off, just go to Content & Privacy Restrictions in your settings and deactivate it completely. This should reinstate your ability to use Private Browsing.

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