How to Set Up Firefox as an Anonymous Browser

Man behind the screen with firefox logo and a padlock icon
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How to Maximize Your Privacy with Firefox: A Short Summary

If maintaining your privacy online is a concern, using Firefox as your go-to browser is a good option. It consistently ranks among the best browsers when it comes to user privacy. But even the best option can be improved.

With some additional tweaks, you can make Firefox even more privacy-friendly. Here’s how:

  • Use Firefox incognito mode – open a private browsing window and surf the web without your data being tracked, cookies installed, or your download history saved.
  • Make incognito mode permanent – adjust your browser settings so that all your Firefox browsing is done in incognito mode, or customize what is tracked/saved.
  • Manually clear your browsing history – delete what you don’t want others to see, like websites you visited.
  • Use secure browser extensions – customize your Firefox browser with specialized privacy extensions.
  • Change Firefox privacy settings – modify how Firefox functions when you browse, so you can take control of data collection, enhanced tracking, and your more advanced settings.
  • Use good antivirus software – keep your device safe from spyware and keyloggers by using a powerful antivirus solution like Kaspersky.
  • Install a trustworthy VPN – make sure your online browsing stays private, no matter which program you use, by subscribing to a high-quality VPN like ExpressVPN:

For details on how to do each of the above and customize Firefox for maximum browsing privacy, read our full article below!

Firefox is consistently ranked as one of the most secure and private browsers on the market today. If you’re serious about avoiding the privacy pitfalls inherent to surfing the web, browsing with Firefox is a good starting point. However, when you use this browser without adjusting its settings, a lot of data is collected about you every time you go online, for example through browser fingerprinting and cookies.

If you’re at all concerned about your online privacy, you might want to manually turn Firefox into a more privacy-focused browser. Really, this is just a matter of checking the right boxes and using the right tools. Read on to learn how to use Firefox incognito mode, and discover additional ways you can configure Firefox to make it even more private.

How to Go Incognito on Firefox

When you use Firefox private browsing, your browsing data isn’t saved in your browser, cookies aren’t stored, and no history of your downloads is kept (although the files will remain on your device). However, keep in mind that using incognito mode won’t make you completely anonymous.

If you only occasionally want to keep your browsing history more private when surfing the web, like when you’re shopping for flights, opening an incognito window in Firefox is an easy way to keep a single online session private.

There are two ways to open a private browsing window in Firefox: via a shortcut and via Firefox’s menu.

Firefox private browsing via shortcut

Once you’ve opened Firefox, you can quickly open a new, private browsing window by pressing:

  • Shift + CTRL + P (Windows)
  • Shift + ⌘ + P (macOS)

Private browsing on Firefox via menu

You can also easily go into incognito mode on Firefox when you:

  1. Click the Menu button (three lines) in the upper-right of the Firefox screen.
  2. Choose New Private Window.

Both methods will open a new browser window that looks like this:

Firefox Private Browser Example screenshot

Turn on Firefox incognito mode by default

Perhaps you prefer to default to private browsing mode each time you go online. This means you’ll never have to stop and think whether you want to use incognito mode for a certain browsing session.

Firefox makes that possible via the browser’s history setting. You can also choose to create a customized approach to browsing the web on Firefox by picking and choosing what to track.

Here’s how to do this:

  1. Open Firefox and click on the Menu button.
  2. Select Settings, then go to Privacy & Security.
  3. Scroll down to History and choose one of the following from the Firefox dropdown menu:
    • Never remember history: you’ll always browse in private mode and no data will be remembered
    • Use custom settings for history: you can choose for yourself what data you want Firefox to remember. Simply check or uncheck the boxes in front of Remember your browsing and download history, Remember your search and form history, and Clear history when Firefox closes based on your own preferences.
  4. Restart Firefox to apply the changes.

Firefox History Settings Example screenshot

Manually Clear Your Firefox Browsing History

If you want to erase just (part of) your browsing history but leave other privacy settings alone, you can do that too. For example, if you’ve shopped online for someone you share a computer with, and you want to delete any evidence of the websites you visited, you can erase your browsing history.

To clear your history, follow the steps below:

  1. Open Firefox and click on the Menu button.
  2. Select History and choose Clear Recent History.
  3. Choose the Time range to clear (the last hour, the last two hours, the last four hours, the current day, or everything).
  4. Choose what you want to clear from your History:
    • Browsing & Download History: the websites you’ve visited and the download list of the files you’ve downloaded.
    • Active Logins: websites that you’ve asked Firefox to remember you’re logged into.
    • Forms & Search History: details you’ve entered into forms for autocomplete functionality. Search history includes queries you’ve searched for through the search field on the New Tab page and through the search bar.
    • Cookies: information stored on your computer by the website you visited.
    • Cache: temporarily stored information about websites you visit to speed up the loading time.
  5. Click OK.

Firefox Manually Clear History Example screenshot

Use Security Extensions to Make Firefox More Private

There are other ways to enhance your privacy when you use Firefox. Extensions allow you to customize the browser to make it fit better for your situation.

Here are a couple of privacy-focused Firefox extensions you might want to add to your browser:

ExtensionWhat it does
History AutoDeleteAllows you to choose which websites to permanently block from your history, and clears older history entries by a specified amount of days.
Cookie AutoDeleteAsks you to pick and choose the cookies you want to remember and deletes the rest.
AdNauseamBlocks ads and prevents tracking by the online advertising industry.
Disable JavaScriptDisables JavaScript on specific sites or tabs.
Facebook ContainerMakes it harder for Facebook to use cookies to track your visits to third-party websites.

One consideration with Firefox extensions is that the more you install, the slower the browser runs. The best practice is to limit yourself to a small number of the most useful extensions and avoid extensions that duplicate functionality.

You can read more about our top picks for browser privacy extensions right here.

Change Your Firefox Privacy Settings

If you’re really serious about your online privacy, you might want to delve a little deeper than using incognito mode and clearing your history. Fortunately, there are a number of other settings you can adjust in Firefox to give yourself more privacy online.

Make Firefox your default search engine

Firefox is regarded as one of the safest and most private browsers on the market today. Unlike its main competitors, it doesn’t treat tracked data as a commodity. Rather, the Firefox focus has always been on providing a privacy-focused browser experience for users.

Using Firefox as your default search engine is an easy way to automatically build more privacy into your daily web surfing routine.

To change your default search engine to Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox and click on the menu button.
  2. Choose Settings and go to General.
  3. In the Startup section, click the Make Default button.
  4. You will be prompted to confirm you want to use Firefox as your default browser. Click the Use “Firefox” option.
  5. If you want to ensure that Firefox will always be your default browser, check the Always check if Firefox is your default browser box.

Firefox Default Search Engine Example screenshot

Disable telemetry

Telemetry is a Firefox feature that permits data collection. It’s on by default, but you can easily turn it off. That way, Firefox won’t gather as much data about you while you browse the web.

To turn it off:

  1. Open Firefox and click on the menu button.
  2. Choose Settings and go to Privacy & Security.
  3. Scroll down to Firefox Data Collection and Use.
  4. Uncheck the following boxes:
    • Allow Firefox to send technical and interaction data to Mozilla
    • Allow Firefox to send backlogged crash reports on your behalf

Firefox Telemetry Example screenshot

Turn on enhanced tracking protection

Firefox has many privacy-focused features built into its system already. All you have to do, is find them and turn them on. This is also the case for enhanced tracking protection. When you turn this feature on, you enable anti-tracking protection anytime you browse rather than only when in Firefox incognito mode.

Here’s how to turn this feature on:

  1. Open Firefox and click on the Menu button.
  2. Choose Settings and go to Privacy & Security.
  3. In the Enhanced Tracking Protection section, choose one of the following options:
    • Standard
    • Strict
    • Custom
  4. You can also choose to always send websites a Do Not Track signal.

Firefox Enhanced Tracking Protection Example screenshot

Update Firefox with about:config (advanced)

There are additional changes you can make to Firefox in your about:config settings to maximize privacy even more. These alterations will help turn Firefox into a more anonymous browser.

Important note: we strongly advise against modifying your about:config settings yourself unless you really know what you are doing. If you incorrectly update these settings, you can damage your system. Some websites may also break due to modifications to these options.

Some of the privacy-related settings that can be modified using about:config include:

  • browser.privatebrowsing.autostart (automatically starts Firefox in Private Browsing mode)
  • browser.safebrowsing.phishing.enabled (helps prevent Google from knowing your browsing history)
  • datareporting.healthreport.uploadEnabled (prevents health reports being sent to Mozilla)
  • privacy.trackingprotection.enabled (helps prevent cross-site tracking)
  • media.peerconnection.false (disables WebRTC-based IP address identification)

Use a Solid Antivirus Program to Enhance Your Online Security

A good antivirus program protects your devices from unwanted invasions and malware, like spyware, keyloggers, and computer worms. Beyond that, many of the best antivirus offerings also include anti-tracking features to protect your online privacy.

When choosing an antivirus program for all your devices, be sure to pick one that also offers the types of privacy protection you need. This way, you can avoid the need for too many browser extensions that slow down your browsing experience.

If you’re unsure which antivirus program is right for you, check out our review of the best antivirus software. We personally recommend Kaspersky. Their Kaspersky Internet Security package won’t just protect your system against viruses, but also includes options for private browsing, has its own ad blocker, and offers webcam protection. If you’re interested, you can check out their service by clicking the button below.

Visit Kaspersky

Install a VPN to Browse Anonymously on Firefox

Firefox is one of the best browsers when it comes to mixing usability with online privacy. However, it doesn’t keep you completely anonymous when you browse the web. Your internet service provider can still see the websites you visit. To achieve more online anonymity, you’ll want to add a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to your surfing routine. This will give you one of the most secure browsing experiences available.

To use a VPN with Firefox, all you have to do is sign up for a VPN provider and download the application to your device. You can review our recommendations for the top VPNs. If you want to get started right away, the VPN we recommend for most users is ExpressVPN, due to its comprehensive features and ease of use. All you’ll have to do is click the connect button, and you’ll be good to go.

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While there are numerous VPN browser extensions available through Firefox, these aren’t the same as using a dedicated VPN application. The main difference is that VPN extensions use encrypted proxies instead of VPN connections. These extensions also only work on your browser, while a full VPN application keeps you anonymous on all the programs on your device.

How to Optimize Your Firefox Browser For Privacy

Maintaining your privacy while online is more important today than ever. From advertisers vying for your data to prying eyes trying to see what you’ve been up to online, it’s in your best interest to always protect yourself. Choosing a browser like Mozilla’s Firefox, which is renowned for its privacy protections, is an important first step.

By setting up Firefox in the right way, you’ll be able to guard yourself even better. Enable Firefox incognito mode for sensitive browsing sessions and reconfigure your default Firefox browser settings to maximize your privacy. Apart from that, adjusting other, more advanced settings within Firefox will help as well. Finally, using extra software, like browser extensions, antivirus, and a VPN will turn Firefox into the ultimate weapon in your online privacy arsenal.

By incorporating a variety of privacy-focused strategies, you can enjoy your time online without worrying about your online privacy being compromised.

How to Set Up Firefox as an Anonymous Browser: Frequently Asked Questions

Check out these frequently asked questions to learn more about Firefox privacy and how to maintain your anonymity and security online.

It’s easy to browse privately in Firefox. Just open the browser and do one of the following:

  • Press Shift + CTRL + P (Windows)
  • Press Shift + ⌘ + P (macOS)
  • Click the Menu button (three lines) in the upper-right of the Firefox screen and choose New Private Window.

A new browser window with a purple background will open. You’re now in private browsing mode.

When you surf the web in Firefox private browsing mode, you keep websites from tracking your data or installing cookies in the long run. However, you won’t be totally anonymous. Your employer, school, internet service provider, and countless other parties can still see the websites you visit. To make yourself fully anonymous online, you need to also use a virtual private network (VPN).

Firefox is consistently rated one of the best browsers for safely and privately surfing the internet. Using Firefox in private browsing mode adds an extra level of privacy to your online sessions. You can also tweak a number of Firefox settings to make your online sessions even more private. Read our full article about Firefox’s privacy settings to find out how.

Unfortunately, not. While Firefox private browsing mode offers enhanced privacy features, like blocking cookies, preventing websites from tracking your visit, and not logging your downloads, it does not make you anonymous. To achieve a higher level of anonymity online, you’ll need to use a virtual private network (VPN) like ExpressVPN anytime you go online.

Firefox has built its reputation on offering privacy to its users. Unlike Chrome does with Google, Firefox does not share any tracking data with its parent company, Mozilla. Firefox also offers numerous privacy setting options that let you make your web surfing even more confidential. These include Do Not Track and Enhanced Tracking Protection features. If you’d like to know how to activate these extra options, read our article on Firefox privacy right here.

Using Firefox’s private browser mode prevents the delivery of cookies, but it does not fully hide your IP address. It also does not hide the websites you visited from your ISP, employer, or school. To fully anonymize yourself online, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) anytime you go online.

Tech journalist
Liz is a professional writer with a special interest in online privacy and cybersecurity. As a US expat who travels and works in diverse locations around the world, keeping up with the latest internet safety best practices remains her priority.