Guest Mode vs. Incognito Mode in Google Chrome: What’s the Difference?


What you do online is personal, which is why Google Chrome offers a couple of ways to keep your browsing private. The two main options are incognito mode and guest mode, but how are these different?

Let’s take a quick look at guest mode vs. incognito mode in Chrome, including what they do and when you should use each one.

What Is Incognito Mode in Chrome?

Incognito mode, known as private browsing in some other browsers, has been around for years. While incognito, you can browse the web without Chrome saving any information about the session. When you close an incognito window, all the information on that session disappears.

This means that Chrome won’t save any browsing history, cookies, or form data created in the incognito window. It also blocks the functionality to reopen closed tabs with Ctrl + Shift + T and disables extensions (unless you enable them manually).

Starting an incognito session essentially opens up a new browser window that’s never seen the internet before. Because there are no cookies, you aren’t logged into any sites and none of them are personalized for you.

Chrome Incognito Window

This mode has lots of uses, such as:

  • Signing into one of your accounts on a friend’s PC without forcing them to sign out
  • Seeing how a webpage looks to the public
  • Testing if one of your installed extensions is breaking a website
  • Bypassing page view limits

While it’s incredibly useful, keep in mind that you aren’t invisible in private browsing

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. Websites can still identify you, and incognito doesn’t hide your browsing activity from your ISP or network administrator. You’ll need to connect to a VPN for increased privacy in those areas.

To open a new incognito window, open the three-dot menu and choose New incognito window, or press Ctrl + Shift + N.

What Is Chrome’s Guest Mode?

Guest mode is a separate function from the incognito mode. It takes advantage of Chrome’s profile switching feature

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to give you a blank profile for someone who’s temporarily using Chrome.

Like Incognito mode, it doesn’t save any record of the browsing history and disables all extensions. However, in Guest mode, the user also can’t see or change any Chrome settings (aside from the default search engine). A guest user can’t see any of the browsing history, bookmarks, or downloads from the main profiles.

Chrome Guest Mode

Guest mode is most useful when you’re browsing on someone else’s computer, letting someone use yours, or working on a public machine.

To launch a new guest window, click the profile switcher in the top-right of Chrome, which shows your current profile picture. Click Guest under Other People to start a new guest session.

The Differences Between Incognito and Guest Mode

As we’ve seen, the incognito and guest modes in Chrome are pretty similar. But the guest mode isn’t exactly the same as incognito, so when should you use them?

Both are suitable when you want to erase all traces of your browsing as soon as you close the window. However, incognito is primarily intended for you to use on your own computer, while the guest mode is meant for using a computer that’s not yours.

Thus, incognito mode allows the primary Chrome user to browse without recording history, while guest mode lets someone else use the browser without access to the primary user’s information. Both prevent any information about the session from being saved.

If this has you interested in making your browser more private, check out essential Chrome privacy settings you should know

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Image Credit: Jane Kelly/Shutterstock

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