Does VPN hide your search history?

Vlad Constantinescu
by Vlad Constantinescu
VPN Expert & Privacy Advocate
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  • If you're frequently using a VPN to anonymize your Internet traffic, you might've wondered at least once if VPN hides your search history.
  • The way a VPN works is it encrypts your traffic once it reaches the VPN client, then routes it through a secure tunnel. However, it won't hide your web browser search history.
  • Check out our best VPNs that can keep your privacy safe.
  • Visit the Security Hub to learn more about maintaining your devices' security at optimal levels.
Can VPN hide your search history?

If you’re frequently using a VPN to anonymize your Internet traffic, you might’ve wondered at least once if VPN hides your search history.

Although the answer to this question should be quite obvious, there are some implications that need to be taken into consideration.

If you’re only interested in whether or not does a VPN hide your search history, we’ll shoot the answer straight to you: it doesn’t. No VPN can hide your search history, and you can even try it for yourself.

However, a VPN is excellent if you want to keep a low profile while you’re online. Everything you do, including performing searches on your favorite search engines, can be cloaked by an effective VPN.

But we’ll get to that right away.

What does a VPN do?

Essentially, if you’re using a VPN, your entire online activity will be anonymized. Of course, the degree of anonymousness strictly depends on the efficiency of the service.

If you’re using a sketchy VPN app, you can expect little to no protection and privacy. However, reputable services such as Private Internet Access, CyberGhost VPN, and NordVPN can be trusted.

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The way a VPN works is it encrypts your traffic once it reaches the VPN client, then routes it through a secure tunnel. The data reaches the server you’ve chosen, where it gets decrypted.

Finally, your unencrypted request reaches the website, which generates a response and sends it back to you. However, the response gets encrypted by the server and decrypted by the client. Thus it’s safe to say that it follows a reverse route.

Basically, what happens between you and the VPN gateway remains secret to prying eyes. It’s worth mentioning that a VPN encrypts all kinds of traffic, including but not limited to browsing activity, regular downloads, and even torrenting.

Does VPN hide your search history?

In a sense, a VPN does hide your search history. Meaning that if your ISP or a curious attacker is listening to any data you might submit to your search engine, they won’t be able to figure out anything, since that data is encrypted.

However, if you’re aiming to hide your search history on your default web browser, then no. There are other ways you could achieve that, but using a VPN alone won’t hide anything you input in your web browser.

There’s another scenario. If you have a Google account and you perform regular lookups on Google, your queries might be saved and tied to your account.

Again, if you use a VPN and hope that this will prevent your queries from being linked to your Google account, then you’re in for a huge disappointment.

How to hide your search history?

1. Use incognito mode

Every web browser user is (or should be) familiar with Incognito mode. This type of web browsing ensures that everything you perform inside the browser will be immediately erased upon closing the browser.

Incognito mode has no history, there’s no trace of downloads you’ve performed while using it, and you can’t even restore recently closed tabs if you’re in incognito mode.

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Basically, everything you do in Incognito mode is erased each time you close your browser. However, note that your ISP can still see everything you access while using Incognito.

Incognito shortcut key combinations:

  • Chrome: CTRL + SHIFT + N
  • Firefox: CTRL + SHIFT + P
  • Opera: CTRL + SHIFT + N

2. Manually delete search history

The way you can delete your search history strictly depends on the browser of your choice. However, the principle is somewhat similar. You can access the browser’s entire history, select the data you want to remove and delete it.

Note that some browsers save cookies and thus you might still be able to see autocomplete text for your unwanted search history.

To make sure that doesn’t happen to you and save yourself the embarassment, consider removing cached content and cookies along with basic navigation/search history data. You’ll thank us later.

3. Use portable web browsers

If you can afford to do that, deploy a portable web browser on a removable storage media such as an external HDD or a USB flash drive. Use the portable web browser only for queries you want to keep private.

Once you’re done with the under-the-radar Internet browsing, simply close the portable web browser and unplug the removable storage media from your PC.

If you want a bit of extra protection, consider password-protecting your removable storage media and even using incognito mode on the portable web browser applications.

4. Use a dedicated operating system

Certain operating systems such as TAILS can protect your browsing history from falling into unwanted hands. TAILS, which stands for The Amnesic Incognito Live System is an OS that doesn’t require installation.

You can simply keep it on a removable storage media such as a DVD or a USB and use it occasionally.

After you’re done using it, you can just shut it down and unplug the removable media from your computer. Every action you performed while using TAILS will be erased and long forgotten.

No, VPN can’t hide search history

Well, it seems we’ve reached the end of our article and we feel like clarifying things again. No, you can’t use a VPN if you want to hide search history data on your favorite browser or keep it from being linked to your Google account.

What a VPN does is hide all of your traffic, including search history, from third-parties such as your ISP, your government, or anyone else who’d be interested in snooping through your private data.

On the bright side, there are several ways you can keep your search history clean. As long as you follow our suggestions, you should be in the clear and potentially embarassment-free.

FAQ: Learn more about VPN hiding your search history

  • Can your Internet provider see your browsing history with a VPN?

To put it shortly, no, your ISP can’t see anything you do if you’re well-hidden behind your VPN.

  • Can VPN traffic be decrypted?

Technically, VPN encryption can be broken, but realistically it’s extremely difficult to do so.

  • Can VPN be hacked?

Yes, technically VPNs can be hacked, but it’s highly unlikely that it will happen.