How To Disable Private Browsing in Firefox
If you are managing younger internet users and want to keep an eye on their activities, disabling private browsing is one way to do it. This tutorial will show you how to disable private browsing in Windows. That will include Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Microsoft Edge.
If you use internet monitoring software, private browsing can circumvent website blocks in some situations. Combined with not leaving a trace of where users have been at any given time, it may be a good idea to turn off private browsing or incognito mode altogether.
What is private browsing?
Different browsers call it different things. Chrome-based browsers call it Incognito Mode. Firefox calls it Private Browsing and Microsoft Edge calls it InPrivate Browsing. Either way, the effect is the same. The browser sets up a sandboxed session where no history, cookies, or session stats are retained. Once the browser is shut down, there is no trace of what you did during that session.
Private browsing can be useful if you share your computer with others for surfing secretly, not letting others know where you bank or what you watch on Netflix.
Helpful Hints Before Getting Started
Depending on how familiar you are with Windows 10’s registry, you may have difficulty following the instructions below.
The Registry is a hierarchal database of settings in your computer’s software. It is easily accessed by typing the Win+R keyboard combination. The pop-up box that appears allows you to type a code for the place you would like to manipulate settings. For example; “regedit” will take you to the registry while “services.msc” will take you to a services page.
Once you have typed “regedit” to access the registry you will notice a menu on the left-hand side. If you double-click one of the options (in this case we will be clicking on the HKEY_Local_Machine) more options will appear. When we list HKEY_Local_Machine/Software/Policies, you should double click on each set as you move forward.
Many users may not see Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox under Policies when first navigating through the registry. That is ok because you can add it by right-clicking on Registry and clicking Policies, clicking New, then Key. Now, you can add the appropriate browser.
Disable private browsing
If you have children or vulnerable people in your household, disabling private browsing means they won’t be able to hide their activities or circumvent internet monitoring or blocking software.
This can be useful if you are concerned about the places they might go to while they are online.
Disable private browsing for Chrome
To disable private browsing for Chrome you need to make a registry change. This is quite safe as long as you follow the instructions exactly.
- Type ‘regedit’ into the Windows Search box and select Registry Editor.
- Navigate to ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Policies/GoogleChrome’. Create a Google entry if there is not one by right-clicking in the left pane, selecting New and Key, and naming it Google. Repeat this from inside the Google key and call the new key Chrome’.
- Select your new Chrome key in the left pane and right-click an empty space in the right pane. Select New and then DWORD (32-Bit) Value.
- Name it IncognitoModeAvailability and give it a value of 1.
- Restart Chrome if it is open and test. You should no longer see the option to select Incognito Mode within Chrome.
You should no longer see the option to select Incognito Mode within Chrome.
Disable private browsing for Firefox
To disable private browsing in Firefox, you need to download a JSON file from GitHub. There are registry changes you could make but I couldn’t get those to work on my Windows 10 PC. This JSON file worked fine.
- Download the Windows file from GitHub
- Navigate to your Firefox installation directory.
- Open or create a folder called distribution.
- Place the JSON file inside that folder.
- Try to open a private window in Firefox to test.
If that does not work, you could try the registry tweak as it may work for you.
- Type ‘regedit’ into the Windows Search box and select Registry Editor.
- Navigate to ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Policies/MozillaFirefox’. Create a Mozilla entry if there is not one by right-clicking in the left pane, selecting New and Key, and naming it Mozilla. Repeat this from within the Mozilla key and call the new key Firefox.
- Select that final Firefox key in the left pane and right-click an empty space in the right pane. Select New and then DWORD (32-Bit) Value.
- Name it DisablePrivateBrowsing and give it a value of 1.
- Shut down Firefox if it is open and test it.
If either of these work, you should no longer see the option for private browsing in Firefox.
Disable private browsing for Opera
Opera is based on Blink which is the same as Chrome and while some features have been adapted or changed, the basic features are the same. Therefore the method above should work by changing the folders to Opera, Opera instead of Google Chrome.
Otherwise, I cannot find any way of disabling private browsing in Opera.
Disable private browsing for Microsoft Edge
To disable private browsing in Microsoft Edge you have to edit Group Policy within Windows. Windows 10 Home may not allow you to use Group Policy but Windows 10 Pro will.
- Select the Windows Key + R to bring up the Run dialog.
- Type ‘gpedit.msc’ into the box and hit Enter.
- Navigate to Computer Configuration/ Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Internet Explorer/privacy using the left menu.
- Double click Turn Off In-Private Filtering and change it to Enabled.
You should no longer see the option to use InPrivate browsing.
Note: Some Windows 10 users will not have the Group Policy editor. If an error appears that it does not exist follow the same steps as above for using the Registry Editor but instead use Microsoft Edge.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I re-enable private browsing in Mozilla Firefox?
If you’d like to restore your settings you can follow the exact same steps you took to disable private browsing. Once you’ve located Mozilla Firefox in your computer’s Registry Editor, simply reset the Key to 0 or delete the Registry altogether. Just be warned, if you do the latter ensure that you are removing the Firefox Key and nothing else.
Should I disable private browsing?
Private browsing is not private outside of the local computer you’re using it on. This means that without a VPN, the mode can still be accessed by hackers, etc. But, for those who share a local machine with other users (whether in the workplace or at home), it is a great way to browse the internet discreetly.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eIf you have someone in your home and you feel the need to track their online activities (i.e. a child) then yes, disabling the private browser is certainly worth it because that individual won’t be able to browse without leaving a history.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eOn the other hand, you would still need to be wary that your tech-savvy ward can completely delete their browsing history when finished using the computer. Whether or not to disable the function depends on the individual user’s circumstances.
There are many reasons why you might want to disable private browsing in Windows and now you know how to do it. Do you know of any other effective ways to do it? Know of a way of disabling it for Opera? Tell us about it below if you do!