Google Chrome has long supported a private browsing feature called Incognito Mode. While browsing in Incognito Mode, Chrome blocks certain local tracking functions to prevent other users of the same computer from learning about the sites visited during the session. This includes deleting any cookies downloaded during the Incognito Mode session, disabling third-party extensions, and temporarily disabling Chrome’s website history function.
Related: iPhone and iPad users can block local browser tracking by enabling Private Browsing mode in iOS.
Incognito Mode is useful for hiding a user’s browsing activity from other local users of the same computer, such as when shopping for a secret birthday gift, conducting private business on a friend’s computer, or looking at adult content. However, Incognito Mode should not be confused with browser or online security. The websites a user visits while in Incognito Mode will still be able to identify the user via IP address, and many forms of online viruses and malware will still infect the computer if downloaded or executed.
That said, many users find value in Chrome’s Incognito Mode, and frequently access the feature. Doing so, however, requires that the user first launch the browser and then initiate a new Incognito Mode session with via Chrome’s menu or a keyboard shortcut (Control-Shift-N for Windows and Linux, Command-Shift-N for OS X).
If you find yourself frequently entering Chrome’s Incognito Mode, you can save a step by creating a dedicated Chrome shortcut that launches the browser with Incognito Mode already enabled.
In all supported versions of Windows, this can be easily accomplished with the addition of a command line option to the Chrome shortcut. In our example, Chrome is installed in its default location on a PC running Windows 8.1. Simply substitute the correct file path if you have Chrome installed elsewhere.
In order to add a command line option to Chrome, we’ll need to use a shortcut. Most users likely already have a Chrome shortcut on their desktop or Windows taskbar. In our example, we’re using a Chrome shortcut located on the desktop.
Right-click on the Chrome shortcut, select Properties, and make sure you’re on the Shortcut tab.
In Windows, users can add appropriate command line instructions to an application’s Target path to set certain parameters and launch options. To launch Chrome in Incognito Mode, the command line instruction is, unsurprisingly, “-incognito”. We need to add this to the end of the Chrome shortcut’s Target path, outside the quotation marks. You can type it yourself or, if you have 32-bit Chrome installed to the default location, simply copy and paste the following into Target box, overwriting what’s there:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" -incognito
Press OK to save the change and close the shortcut’s Properties window. You’ll now want to rename the shortcut (e.g., “Chrome – Incognito”) so that you can distinguish between “standard” Chrome and your new Incognito Mode shortcuts. Some users may also prefer to change the shortcut’s icon to help visually differentiate between the two (here’s a link to a nice Incognito Mode icon).
If, for some reason, you wish to stop providing easy access to Chrome’s Incognito Mode, simply delete the shortcut you just created. Chrome will continue to run unaffected by the change.