Chrome Incognito vs VPN: 7 key differences to be aware of

by Sagar Naresh
Sagar Naresh
Sagar Naresh
Sagar Naresh Bhavsar has been writing about technology for more than two years. Some of Sagar's notable associations include Android Headlines, Guiding Tech, and TechWiser. When not writing,... read more
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  • Many people have confusion on which one to use either the Google Chrome incognito mode or a VPN with a browser.
  • This guide explains all the key differences between a VPN and Chrome incognito mode.
  • We have also explained what are the key benefits of using a VPN with Chrome incognito mode to enhance your privacy.
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There are tonnes of web browsers available that you can download, and each one of them serves the needs of different people.

Notably, there are browsers for more privacy-focused people. You can also download browsers that facilitate productivity and offer a lot of features but are not that good at securing your data.

Google Chrome is one of the most widely used web browsers across platforms. It comes with various features, but it isn’t regarded as one of the privacy-focused browsers.

However, questions might arise about what if you use Google Chrome with a VPN, and will it be safe as the Incognito mode? What is the difference between Google Chrome Incognito mode and a VPN?

Well, if you have the same question and are looking for a comprehensive guide on Chrome Incognito vs VPN, then you are in the right place. Because here we will try to answer all the questions you might have regarding this topic. Let us check it out.

What is private browsing mode or Incognito mode?

Private browsing mode or otherwise known as an incognito mode in Google Chrome lets you surf the internet not allowing other people using your device to see your browsing history.

Google Chrome Incognito mode does not store your history or the websites you visit. But several users have reported that their web searches in Incognito mode are being stored and showing up as suggested searches in the Omnibox.

There are some benefits of using Chrome Incognito mode:

  • As mentioned, it doesn’t store the websites you visit.
  • Do not store cookies. So, if you are logged in to a website in normal mode, you won’t see yourself logged in to the website when you browse through Incognito mode.
  • None of the extensions work. This gives you a great environment to test and resolve certain issues with the browser if an extension is causing the issue.
  • Information entered in the forms will not be saved. So, Incognito mode comes in handy when using a payment gateway or banking website.
  • Permissions you have given to the website won’t be saved.

That is it when it comes to the benefits of using Google Chrome Incognito mode. Do note that Incognito mode doesn’t make you visible to everyone.

Your IP and online activities are still visible to others, including your Wi-Fi network administrators or people sharing a Wi-Fi network with you.

Additionally, the Incognito mode does not hide locations or sites visited by your ISP, search engines, employers, or schools. Incognito mode just hides you from those who have physical access to your PC or laptop. Downloads and bookmarks are also saved.

Tip icon
The reason for the comparison between Chrome Incognito vs VPN is that Google Chrome Incognito mode isn’t a full-proof method of securing your data or your presence when browsing the internet. There are a few caveats that we have listed above and will list in appropriate sections, which make using a trusted and premium VPN the best option if you are privacy-focused.

However, Chrome Incognito mode isn’t worthless altogether. If you are looking to casually browse the internet, but do not want your internet traces to be viewed by anyone using your PC or laptop, then you can make use of the Incognito mode and avoid investing in a premium VPN service that would cost you monthly or annual subscription.

How does Chrome Incognito keep your browsing private?

As already mentioned, Google Chrome Incognito mode is a feature that helps you keep your browsing history and data private from other people that use your device.

The functionality of Chrome Incognito mode is pretty simple. When you switch over to an incognito tab, Google Chrome creates an Incognito browsing session.

You will notice that when you open an Incognito tab, it takes you to a new tab, away from the normal tabs, which you might have left open. All the new tabs that you open within the Incognito tab will be part of the same session.

This means that when you close the Incognito tab, all the corresponding tabs will also be closed.

In Google Chrome Incognito mode, the browser does not keep track of your browsing history, cookies, or site data. Even the permissions that you give to a particular website aren’t saved.

Besides, using the Incognito mode also means you will not be signed into any of your accounts. You will have to manually enter your credentials to log in to the websites in Incognito mode.

On the other hand, your activity is still visible to your employer, ISP, or parental tracking software if it is in use.

What are the benefits of Google Chrome Incognito mode?

Let’s take a look at the advantages of using Google Chrome Incognito mode:

  • When you use Google Chrome Incognito mode, your activity isn’t saved to the browser, on your device, or in your Google account.
  • After you close the Incognito window, all of your browsing sessions, including site data, will be deleted.
  • You are not prone to the code-injection technique. Hackers can inject a code (a JavaScript tag) when you visit a website to hack information about your account or get inside your PC.
  • It saves you the pain of clearing your browser history every time you hand over your PC to another person.
  • When you use Incognito mode, you will see fewer fluctuations in the price of flight tickets or any other booking sites.
  • You will not see targetted ads in Incognito mode, which you see based on your searches, cookies, or saved website data in normal mode.
  • None of the data that you enter in a form or on a baking website will be saved by the browser.
  • You also get the option to block third-party cookies that track you across the web.

What are the disadvantages of Google Chrome’s Incognito mode?

Let us discuss the disadvantages of using Chrome Incognito mode:

  • Incognito mode hides your internet activity on a local level and not on a network level. Anyone physically accessing your device won’t have access to your browsing history, etc. However, someone monitoring your networks, such as your ISP, employer, or school, can still view your activity.
  • To use Incognito mode, you need to enable it. By enable, we mean that you need to follow a few steps to open a special window for the Incognito mode, and it is not available when you open the default window.
  • Advertisers can still track you based on the searches you conducted while in Incognito mode. If you search for a pillow, then you will be shown ads for pillows throughout your Incognito browsing session. This is true for Google Chrome Incognito mode and a few other browsers, but multiple browsers can protect you from being tracked by advertisers.
  • You cannot get the Incognito tabs back when closed. This is one of the main disadvantages of using Incognito mode.
  • All the files you have downloaded are not saved within the browser, but inside a folder, the Downloads folder by default. So, anyone with access to your PC can view or open the files that you have downloaded using Chrome Incognito mode.
  • Anyone who queries your DNS can get the hang of all the websites that you have opened, even with the Incognito mode.

How to use Incognito mode in Chrome?

  1. Open Google Chrome browser.
  2. Click on the 3-dot icon at the top-right corner, next to your profile picture.
  3. Select New Incognito window option.
  4. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + Shift + N keys on your keyboard to open a new Incognito tab in Chrome.

How does a VPN protect your privacy?

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We are connected to the internet in almost every walk of our lives. Right from shopping, to booking tickets, to payments, to entertainment, everything is done online.

Whenever you visit a website, it stores cookies as website data. This allows advertisers to target you with ads based on the searches you have made.

But this can be avoided if you use a trusted and good VPN app or service. A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and unlike the Incognito mode that provides online safety on a local level, it adds a security layer on a network level as well.

Using a VPN allows you to access restricted websites, download apps or software that aren’t available in your region, access your own files from anywhere in the world securely and privately and also use torrents for all the stuff that you already know.

The advertisers will have a hard time tracking you. Your location is practically impossible to track down since a VPN encrypts your connection.

When VPN is enabled, it connects to the internet through a private server. This makes it appear as if that private server is trying to access a website rather than an individual, hiding your real IP address.

If you use Windows OS then you can also use the built-in VPN that comes with Windows 10 and Windows 11. We have a dedicated guide that gives you details about it and how you can use the Windows built-in VPN.

What are the benefits of using a VPN?

Apart from the brief benefits of VPN mentioned above, below is a comprehensive list of the benefits of using a Virtual Private Network, i.e. VPN.

  • A VPN encrypts your network. Whether you use your home internet or public internet, it is very essential that your privacy and anonymity are maintained by encrypting the traffic with AES 256-bit encryption.
  • It is also beneficial for remote workers who download and use the company’s important files on their preferred network. A VPN encrypts the traffic, making it nearly impossible for anyone to hack the files.
  • You can bypass any geo-restricted content. This means you can download restricted apps, software, TV shows, movies, etc.
  • VPNs can also prevent bandwidth throttling, which ISPs and administrators might do to keep users under their download limits. Since the network traffic is encrypted, no one can throttle the bandwidth.
  • A VPN can bypass firewalls. Because the traffic is coming from an encrypted tunnel, it becomes difficult for the firewall to know if the connection needs to be blocked or not. People in regions like China can also stream Netflix and Amazon Prime Video where the services aren’t accessible.
  • VPNs are good for gamers as well. It shields them from DDoS attacks, swatting, or doxxing attempts, can help download region-locked DLCs or add-ons.

What are the disadvantages of VPN?

After taking a look at the different benefits of using a VPN, let us check out the downsides or the disadvantages attached to using a VPN.

  • A VPN may decrease your network speed. A VPN sends your internet traffic via an encrypted tunnel and connects you to a server located anywhere in the world. For long-distance travel, the traffic can result in slow internet speeds. For this reason, you may need to opt for a premium VPN.
  • If you use a free VPN, then you will come across dropped connections issue. This small window is enough for hackers to breach the security of your device since your real IP address is exposed. Again, this can be avoided by using a premium or paid VPN service that comes with a Kill Switch feature.
  • Many countries do not allow the usage of a VPN app, and they are illegal there.
  • You have to be very careful while selecting a VPN app because there are several imposter VPN apps, that look legit but give hackers a gateway to your device.
  • Not every VPN provides you with the best features. In order to avail yourself the top-of-the-line features and security, you have to shell out money for the subscription cost of a premium VPN.
  • A VPN cannot protect you from outside intrusion. This means, that a virus, trojan, or malware can still enter your PC or smartphone if you are not aware of which websites you should access and which ones you should not.

How can I use a VPN on a PC?

1. Use Windows built-in VPN

  1. Right-click on the Start button.
  2. Select Network connections.
  3. Click on VPN.
  4. Select Add VPN.
  5. Enter the below values.
    • VPN Provider: Windows (built-in)
    • Connection name: Anything you like
    • Server name or address:
    • VPN type: Automatic
  6. Click Save.

2. Use a VPN app

  1. Get a Private Internet Access subscription plan.
  2. Download and install PIA from the official website on your PC.
  3. Open the Private Internet Access VPN app.
  4. Log in with your credentials.
  5. Press the power button to connect to a VPN server.

Private Internet Access is one of our recommended VPNs that you can opt for. It comes with servers in over 77 countries, is 100% open-source, and does not store VPN logs or leaks.

If you are encountering issues with the PIA VPN, then you can connect with the world-class 24/7 customer support, and if you do not like the services of the VPN, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee as well.

For a list of other trusted and some of the best VPNs available, you can check out this guide on the 5 best VPNs for Windows 11, which were selected after 3 months of usage and tests.

Why should you use Incognito mode with a VPN?

Be it Chrome Incognito mode or be it any VPN, there are certain drawbacks or disadvantages attached to both of them. However, there is a way to fill this gap.

You can use a VPN with the Chrome Incognito mode. In doing so, the gaps in the VPN can be filled by the Incognito mode and vice-versa.

And for those who are wondering whether VPNs work with the Incognito mode, the answer is yes. VPNs work with Chrome’s Incognito mode and other browsers.

When you use a VPN with Chrome Incognito mode, all your internet traffic will be routed via the encrypted channel by the VPN, and the no-logging policy gives you full privacy.

So, for example, when you use private browsing mode, you are not logged in to Google or any other services. This will prevent the service providers to store the cookies and targeting your ads based on your searches.

On top of this, the VPN will reroute your network traffic to a different location, not allowing the websites to see your real IP address.

You can check out our guide on the best VPNs to use with Google Chrome. If you do not wish to install a separate VPN app and want to use a VPN extension, we have got you covered in our guide on 5+ Best Chrome VPN extensions to protect your online privacy.

Apart from this, if you are experiencing Chrome VPN issues, then you can check out our guide on how to fix it and if you are facing VPN not working with Google Chrome, then we have a guide that will fix the issue as well.