How to Use Multiple Web Browsers at Once

by Aaron Parson

Brand loyalty aside, there's nothing stopping you from using several Web browsers on the same computer, even simultaneously. By running more than one browser, you can stay logged in to sites with multiple accounts -- one account in each browser -- check how your website works in different browsers, or take advantage of each program's extensions and features. If you're committed to a single brand of browser, you can run multiple instances of the program to use different accounts at the same time.

Run Multiple Browsers

Separate Web browsers do not interact or conflict with one another. If you want to run Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer simultaneously, you only need to install each browser on your computer and double-click the desktop icon for each in turn. When they are open, switch between the windows with the taskbar or the "Alt-Tab" shortcut. To show two windows side by side, press "Windows-Left" in one and "Windows-Right" in the other. In addition to providing support for multiple accounts on a single site, installing several browsers helps with compatibility: Some sites, especially old pages, only work correctly in Internet Explorer. Flash videos, meanwhile, usually require the installation of Adobe Flash Player, but Chrome can play these files without any extra software. For increased privacy, you could use a separate browser for sites such as Facebook or Google that are known for tracking browsing activity.

Move Between Browsers

When using a second browser for privacy, it's beneficial that the browsers on your computer don't share your personal information with each other. For other purposes, however, you might want your bookmarks, cookies or history to transfer. Each browser can import this data from other browsers. In Firefox, press "Ctrl-Shift-B" and import data from the "Import and Backup" menu. In Chrome's Settings window, click "Import Bookmarks and Settings." To move to Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11, press "Alt-F" to open the File menu, choose "Import and Export" and pick "Import from another browser." These processes transfer your data one time -- to access an always up-to-date bookmarks list across all browsers, try a Web bookmark service such as Xmarks, Delicious or Google Bookmarks.

Multiple Profiles and Sessions

To run two separate copies of Chrome or Firefox at once, create a second account. In Chrome, press "Add New User" in the Settings. The upper-left corner of the window shows your account's icon. Click it and pick another account to open a second window. To run a second copy of Firefox, press "Windows-R" and run the command "firefox.exe -p -no-remote" without quotes to create a new profile or switch between profiles. The "-no-remote" command allows Firefox to load a profile in a second window without closing the first copy of the browser. Internet Explorer can not run two separate profiles at once, but IE can display a second window for using multiple website accounts simultaneously. Press "Alt-F" to open the File menu and click "New Session."

Effects of Multiple Profiles

In Firefox and Chrome, your profile contains almost every customization you make to the browser. Your history, bookmarks, extensions, toolbar layout, cookies and home page are all tied to your profile, so you need to set up these items separately in each profile. In Chrome, each profile can also have its own Google account. Profiles do not contain plug-ins such as Adobe Flash, which install to all profiles on your computer. Using two Windows accounts in Internet Explorer has a similar effect as profile switching in Firefox and Chrome, but there's no way to run two accounts side by side. Instead, use a new session to open a second window that uses separate cookies, but otherwise shares the same user data as the main window.

About the Author

Aaron Parson has been writing about electronics, software and games since 2006, contributing to several technology websites and working with NewsHour Productions. Parson holds a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera BartekSzewczyk/iStock/Getty Images