Everything You Want to Know About Google Chrome Incognito Windows


You’ve heard there is a special window within the Chrome browser called an incognito window and you want to learn more about it. We’ll you’ve come to the right place! I’m going to tell you what it does, what it doesn’t do, and why you sometimes want to use it.

Everything You Want to Know About Google Chrome Incognito Windows. Great for teachers working with students. Shopping for gifts. Works on a Chromebook, phone, iPhone, and Macbook.

Incognito: the state or assumed identity of one living or traveling anonymously.

A Google Chrome incognito window allows you to access websites as someone else or as no one at all. Merriam-Webster defines incognito as “the state or assumed identity of one living or traveling anonymously.” Does that mean you can surf the web anonymously? Well, not really.

The Google Chrome browser is available for Windows devices, Macbooks, Chromebooks, tablets, phones and other devices. When you open an incognito window on one of these devices, the browser doesn’t pay attention to any credentials you have signed into with your “normal” Chrome browser window.

For example, let’s say you are signed into Gmail in a “normal” Chrome browser window. If you then go to Gmail within an incognito window, you will be prompted to sign in. You can sign in with a different account.

A typical Chrome browser window remembers things you have done and places you have gone online by storing cookies on your device. For example, I once shopped for a particular inflatable two person Kayak online. For days afterwards, any website with ads I went to had an ad for the kayak. Based on my previous web browsing, Google knew I was interested in kayaks. They then tried to show me ads they thought were relevant to me.

An incognito window remembers accounts you have signed into and web sites you have visited only while you have the incognito window open. Once you close the incognito window, all of that stored information is forgotten. Even if you open a new incognito window afterwards, you start fresh.

An Incognito Window Can Be Useful for Teachers

Many teachers have Windows PCs attached to projectors in their classrooms. There are times when you want students to use your PC to display a presentation or project. Logging on and off a Chromebook is a quick process. Often, that same process can take several minutes on a Windows PC. Using a Chrome incognito is a good alternative to logging out of the PC.

Open an incognito window and have the student access the sites and files they need to present. When the student is finished presenting, close the incognito window and any account information and cookies stored for the user will be removed.

Using Multiple Chrome Incognito Windows

You can use multiple incognito windows at the same time. However, each incognito window shares the same information. That information is not removed / forgotten until all incognito windows are closed.

For example, If you have Johnny log into a website in an incognito window and then have Suzy use another incognito window to access the same site, instead of being prompted to log on, she’ll automatically be accessing the site using Johnny’s credentials. The take away here is close all incognito windows before trying to access the same site with the same credentials.

How To Open a Chrome Incognito Window

There are a few different ways to open an incognito window.

Open an Incognito Window from Within Google Chrome on a PC or Chromebook.

Open an Incognito window from within the Chrome browser.
  1. Click the three vertical lines in the top right corner of the Chrome window.
  2. Click on New incognito Window

Open a Chrome Incognito Window from the Taskbar (Windows) or Shelf (Chromebook)

Examples of how to open a Chrome Incognito window in Windows and on a Chromebook.
  1. Right click on the Chrome browser icon
  2. Click on New incognito Window

Open a Chrome Incognito Window using the Keyboard

Open a Chrome Incognito window using the keyboard by pressing Ctrl, Shift, N
  1. Open the Chrome browser
  2. Pres Ctrl + Shift + N

Open a Chrome Incognito Window On A Phone

How to open a Chrome incognito window on a phone
  1. Open the Chrome browser app. If you don’t already have it installed, Here are the links for the Apple iOS and Android versions.
  2. Open the Chrome app
  3. Click on the square box next to the search button
  4. At the top of the screen, click the incognito image
  5. Click the plus sign to open an incognito.

The Incognito window is Missing from the Chrome Browser

If you are using a Google account that is controlled by a school system or business, the option to open an incognito window may be hidden. Your organization’s Google Admin has the ability to turn it off. Most school systems turn off incognito for students.

What’s The Difference Between Sn Incognito Window And A Typical Chrome Browser Window?

The primary difference is the information stored while using an incognito window is forgotten by your device when you close the window. This includes:

  • The history of any sites you visited
  • Any cookies and site data that may of been cached
  • Any information you entered while filling out forms

If you download files or create any bookmarks, those will be saved.

Does An Incognito Window Hide Websites I Visit From My School or Organization?

No. Every device on a network has an IP address. If your school or employer does any kind of web filtering or monitoring, the websites you visit will be recorded and matched to your IP address. Internet Service Providers (ISP) can also track network activity back to a specific public IP address.

Can Amazon And Other Websites Track What I Am Searching For When Using An Incognito Window?

If you sign into Amazon or other account when searching, then the answer is yes. Only your device wont remember what you searched for. This could be handy when buying presents on a shared personal device.

If you are shopping for a Mother’s Day or Anniversary present using a shared account, don’t sign into any online accounts. Instead use the “Check out as guest option” if it exists for the site. Amazon does not currently have a guest checkout option so hopefully you have your own Amazon account.

Why Should I Use A Chrome Incognito Window?

If you want to search the Internet and not have the computer or other device remember any websites you visit or auto fill any information it knows about you in forms or sign in pages, then use an incognito window. For example, its a good idea to use an incognito window on a presentation PC or other computer you don’t expect to use again.

An incognito window will not hide your web browsing history from your school, employer, or Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you skipped to this section, I recommend reading the other tips on this page for using an incognito window.

You’re An Expert!

So now you know what a Chrome incognito window is and isn’t. It is useful in specific circumstances, but I wouldn’t use it all of the time on my personal device. Most of the time I want my device to remember form information, websites, and other data it can reuse when I visit websites.

If you found this information useful, please share it in your favorite social media platform.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Dave Carty

K12 district technology administrator, Google domain admin, Certified Google Trainer.

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