PC Guide

How to enable personal browsing in Firefox on Linux, Mac and Windows

This article is intended for users who want to run Firefox Web Browser on Linux, Mac OS X or Windows operating system only.

At the beginning of version 29, Mozilla completely redesigned the look and feel of the Firefox browser. There are some changes to the menu of this new coat of paint, where quite a few popular features are found – one is the personal browsing mode. If enabled, Personal Browsing mode ensures that you can surf the web without tracking behind hard drives such as cache, cookies, and other potentially sensitive data. This functionality is especially useful when browsing on a shared computer such as at school or at work.

This tutorial explains how to enable private browsing mode on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.

First, open your Firefox browser. Click on the Firefox menu, located in the upper right corner of your browser window and represented by three horizontal lines. When the pop-out menu appears, click the New Personal Window option. A new browser window should now be open. Private browsing mode is now active, can be noticed by the purple and white “mask” icon in the upper right corner

In a private browsing session, data elements stored on your local hard disk are usually deleted when the active window closes. These personal information items are described in detail below.

  • Browsing History: Firefox stores a log of all websites, using this data to list the Awesome Bar’s address list, history menu, and browsing history displayed in the Library window . Private Browsing mode ensures that this record is not stored on your hard drive or anywhere else.
  • Cache and Offline Web Content: Sometimes referred to as temporary Internet files, cached images, multimedia files, as well as entire web pages that are stored locally and used to speed up loading on subsequent visits. In addition to cache, some websites store specific content for offline use.
  • Cookies: Small text files containing unique user-specific settings and other information from you and your browsing experience, cookies are stored locally by most websites. Login session status, user preferences, and other customized data can be stored in a cookie file.
  • Download History: A record of the websites you’ve visited is not just a history that Firefox has at the end of a standard browsing session. For all files retrieved through the browser, the file name, origin URL, size and download date are also reserved for future reference. Details of any file downloaded in private browsing mode are not saved.
  • Forms and search bar autocomplete data: Some personal data is stored locally by browsers on web forms such as some names and addresses, entered as keywords entered in Firefox’s search bar. It is then used by its autocomplete feature during future browsing sessions. None of this information is retained when Private Browsing mode is enabled.
  • Protected passwords: The most commonly used personal data components that Firefox stores and perhaps one of the most security-risky, your personal passwords are used for email, banking, and other litigation websites that require a login certificate for access.

While personal browsing mode provides a welcome security skeleton for a user who is concerned about tracking tracks, it is not a catch-all solution to sensitive data stored on the hard drive. For example, new bookmarks created during a private browsing session will actually remain intact later. Also, when download history cannot be saved privately while browsing, the actual files are not deleted.

The previous steps in this tutorial detail how to open a new, blank private browsing window. However, you may want to open a specific link from an existing web page in private browsing mode. To do this, first, right-click on the desired link. When the Firefox context menu appears, left-click on the open link in the new Personal Window Options .

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