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Private Browsing Using Firefox

written by: Donna Buenaventura•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 9/13/2010

Ever want to browse the internet without leaving a trace? Mozilla Firefox has introduced Private Browsing. Learn the advantages and disadvantages of using Private Browsing.

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    Introduction

    Private Browsing is a new feature in Firefox and was introduced by Mozilla on June 30, 2009 with the release of Firefox v3.5. This feature is similar to inPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer v8 (released on March 19, 2009) that will not keep or store some activity when using the browser. There are advantages and disadvantages of using Private Browsing which we will discuss here.

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    What Does Private Browsing in Firefox will not keep and keep?

    How to turn on and off Private Browsing? Firefox Private Browsing is easily enabled by going to Tools>Start or Stop Private Browsing. Don’t confuse this feature with Firefox Safe Mode which is another feature in Firefox.

    When you use Private Browsing in Firefox, the cookies, download list entries, search bar entries, form auto-complete entries, visited pages, cache and passwords will not be kept by Firefox until the current Private Browsing user will end the session. However, not all activities is deleted or not kept. When you save a bookmark and download any files, these items is kept by Firefox even after you’ve ended Private Browsing session.

    The cookies manager in Firefox allows you add which cookies to keep though even you’ve enabled Private Browsing so be sure to review the cookies that you want Firefox to block or allow, if any.

    Tips: Use Toggle Private Browsing add-on that will add button in Firefox status bar or toolbar instead of pulling the Tools menu or using the shortcut keys Ctrl+Shift+P. For people who always want to start Private Browsing in Firefox, select “automatically start” under Privacy tab in the browser’s options. To disable Private Browsing in Firefox, rename or delete nsPrivateBrowsingService.js that is located in Components folder of Mozilla directory.

    Issue of Private Browsing in Firefox: You cannot use two open Windows of Firefox with two modes: Private Browsing mode and normal (non-Private Browsing) mode. This means Private Browsing window and non-Private Browsing window of Firefox cannot co-exist. This is possible to do in IE8 but not in Firefox. However, Firefox remembers the opened tab or pages and will open the pages again when you stop the Private Browsing mode or close/re-open Firefox.

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    Advantages and Disadvantages

    Advantages of using Private Browsing

    Private Browsing is useful if you want to keep your internet activity using Firefox a secret from other internet users of the same PC. The people who should take advantage of this feature are those who share computers in a home, work or school. This will provide some privacy (note that this is not true if the computer is using third-party software or service that records internet and computer activity e.g. OpenDNS, K9 Web Protection et al).

    Disadvantages of using Private Browsing

    The usage of Private Browsing feature varies though. Some will take advantage of this feature to prevent their parents to know where they’ve been while using Firefox and Private Browsing feature. This is the disadvantage of Private Browsing (or inPrivate in IE8) because parents or guardians who want to keep an eye on their children’s internet activity will be disappointed to know that they will no longer know what pages on the internet was visited by the kids! There are other solutions for that: Use K9 Web Protection or OpenDNS Basic or Deluxe that will record the URL or domains of anyone who use the connection on a computer.