Several people have recently inquired about browsing the web without leaving evidence of the sites they’ve visited. Are more people suddenly afraid they’ll be caught peeking at naughty websites? Well, maybe, but the recent surge in anonymous web-browsing has more to do with the fact that people are trying to hide their online holiday shopping history from friends and family who share their computer.

Fortunately, it’s very easy to hide your web browsing history. In Safari, solution is simple: Before you begin browsing, go to the Safari menu and select Private Browsing. When the warning box appears, click OK. Now Safari stores none of the sites you visit, history of downloaded files (though any downloaded files will still be present on your computer), images you look at or movies you watch.

If you suddenly decide you need privacy after you’ve been browsing, there have several options: You can remove individual pages from Safari’s page-view history, erase the entire history or clear all traces of your activity, including any cookies and cache files you may have accumulated.

To review the pages you’ve visited and delete them as desired, go to the History menu and select Show All History. Here you can select pages and clear them with the Delete key. To wipe the entire Safari history, select Clear History from the History menu. For a completely clean slate, go to the Safari menu and select Reset Safari.

Apple reminds us that the Private Browsing option does not prevent Safari from collecting cookies (the preference files automatically generated by many websites). The Reset Safari option clears all cookies. If you want to delete only certain ones, choose Preferences from the Safari menu, click the Security tab, and then click Show Cookies. You can select and delete individual cookies from the list that appears. Careful, though—if you’re a frequent web user, this list can be very, very long.

Firefox has a similar provision for private browsing, which you can read about in depth on a Mozilla support page by clicking here.

Likewise, Google’s Chrome browser has a private browsing called “Incognito.” Read how on this Google Chrome Help page.

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