When Does Safari Private Browsing Delete Cookies?

by Aaron Parson
Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

The Private Browsing mode in Apple's Safari Web browser creates a browser window that does not store Internet history, passwords or cookies you access. It doesn't block cookies completely, though -- Private Browsing still temporarily accepts cookies according to your regular preferences. This allows you to stay logged in to websites for the duration of the Private Browsing session. Once you return to regular browsing, or quit and reopen Safari, the program will delete cookies received during Private Browsing.

Using Private Browsing

To enable private browsing, open the "Safari" menu and click "Private Browsing," then press "OK." While in Private Browsing mode, an indicator will appear on the window. When you quit Safari, Private Browsing will delete the current session's history and cookies, and the next time you run Safari it will return to normal browsing. To return without quitting the program, open the "Safari" menu and uncheck "Private Browsing." This will immediately return you to regular browsing and delete the cookies.

Cookie Preferences

Private Browsing only deletes cookies after the fact, rather than blocking their creation. While this is usually desirable, since blocking cookies causes some websites to not work, you can set Safari to block all or certain cookies completely, preventing Safari from ever storing them during private or regular browsing. To change cookie settings, open the "Safari" menu and click "Preferences." Select the "Privacy" tab and change the options under the "Block cookies" section.

Deleting Existing Cookies

If you want to delete existing cookies – created during regular browsing, or in the middle of a Private Browsing session – click "Details" on the Privacy tab of the Preferences window. On the Details screen, you can browse through a list of cookies stored on your computer and select specific cookies to delete. You can also click "Remove All" to clear all cookies. To completely clear your Internet history, including cookies, click "Reset Safari" in the "Safari" menu.

Private Browsing Security

While Private Browsing prevents history and cookie entries from appearing in your regular browsing history, Private Browsing does not make your computer completely anonymous. Even without permanent cookies, websites can identify your computer by the IP address provided by your Internet service provider. Your ISP may also keep a log of your browsing history that Private Browsing cannot prevent or delete. In general, Private Browsing only helps keep your actions private from other users on the same computer.


Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

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.

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