Default Google Chrome to incognito mode

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. To avoid unwanted cookies I use Google Chrome's incognito mode. Is it possible to make incognito the default mode whenever I launch Chrome?

A. Opening Chrome in incognito mode enables you to browse the internet more securely without saving third-party cookies to your computer, caching text and pictures to your computer, or recording the websites you visit or the files you download to your browsing history files. To launch Chrome's incognito mode by default in Windows 10, create a shortcut on your Desktop and edit the shortcut's command line as follows:

1. Click the Windows 10 Start button, scroll down to the Google Chrome application icon, then left-click and drag that icon onto your Desktop.

2. Right-click the shortcut and select Properties from the pop-up menu. (If you are using a taskbar shortcut on Windows 7 or 8, right-click the Google Chrome icon on your taskbar, right-click Google Chrome in the list, and then select Properties to open the Google Chrome Properties dialog box.)

3. On the Shortcut tab, in the Target box, add the phrase " -incognito" (a space character, a hyphen, and then the word "incognito") to the end of the text in the Target box, as pictured below, and then click OK.

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Thereafter, Chrome will start in incognito mode when you launch the application using this shortcut. As an option, you could create two Chrome icons on your Desktop and then rename the icon you've altered to read Incognito, as I've done on my Desktop, pictured below.

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This option makes it easy to launch Chrome in your choice of either standard or incognito mode, which can sometimes be useful because incognito mode does not access website passwords previously memorized in your browser. Be aware that incognito mode does not provide absolute privacy protection. When using Chrome in incognito mode, Google, your internet service provider, your employer (when you access the internet through your employer's router), and possibly other third parties can still track the websites you visit and files you download.

Because incognito mode disables auto-passwords and autofill, it may not always be your best option. Instead, an alternative is to use Chrome in standard mode but adjust its cookie settings as follows. In Chrome, click the menu in the top-right corner and select Settings, Show advanced settings. Scroll down to the Privacy section and click the Content settings button to open the Cookies dialog box, pictured below. Select the Block sites from setting any data option to prevent third parties from depositing cookies without your permission.

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To review the current cookies installed in your Chrome application, click the All cookies and site data button (pictured above) and then scroll the list of installed cookies, deleting each unwanted cookie one at a time (or use the Remove all button to remove them all). Once you've removed any unwanted cookies, click Done. (Note: Technically, you don't need any cookies saved permanently on your computer to browse most websites, but allowing cookies for those trusted websites you frequently use can have benefits, such as serving up your password automatically and providing content tailored to your preferences.)

When you use the Block sites from setting any data setting, websites that require you to sign in won't work unless you specifically enable cookies for those websites. To accommodate those particular websites, click the Manage exceptions button (pictured in the lower-left corner of the screenshot shown above) and one at a time, enter the website URLs for those websites you'd like to accept cookies. Once you've added the desired websites, click Done and close the Google Settings tab.

The above settings work fine if you routinely browse the same websites; however, if you browse a multitude of websites, then perhaps the better option may be to select the second option labeled Keep local data only until you quit your browser. This will allow you to access websites using the required cookies temporarily, but the cookies and other data are removed automatically each time you close your browser.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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