In case you’re not aware, Apple’s Safari browser, like other popular browsers, offers a Private Browsing mode. Simply put, when you use this feature while using Safari, the browser won’t log or save any of your activity. Other browsers call this Incognito Mode. The downside is that all your saved preferences for websites you frequently visited are disabled. Still, it won’t hurt to browse websites using the feature from time to time for some private browsing experience. But is there really no way to browse your Private Browsing history? Well, there is, and that’s what I’m going to show you in this guide on how to view Private Browsing history in Safari on your Mac.
How Does Private Browsing Work in Safari
When you opt to browse websites in Safari using Private Browsing, it opens up a new private window in your browser. As previously mentioned, when privately browsing in Safari, your activity will not be logged or saved. Although it’s not a foolproof way of browsing privately, the feature still offers some level of privacy. As such, Private Browsing in Safari won’t record your search engine history, webpages you’ve visited, browsing activity, and most especially passwords you used on different websites.
It should be noted that this feature doesn’t really prevent the websites you visited from knowing who you are and your browsing activity on the website.
How to Browse Privately in Safari on Your Mac
Before I discuss the procedure on how to view your Private Browsing history on Mac, let me walk you through the steps on how to browse privately. You can either do it one time or opt to always browse privately.
To browse privately in Safari one time:
- Open the Safari app on your Mac.
- Click File > New Private Window.
- Browse as you normally would. Note that Private Browsing mode in Safari will have a dark search field as compared with the light search field in regular browsing mode.
To always browse privately in Safari:
- Open the Safari app on your Mac.
- Click Safari > Settings.
- Click General.
- Click Safari opens with pop-up menu > Choose A new private window.
What is the Mac Terminal Archive?
Now that you know how to use Private Browsing in Safari on your Mac, it’s time for you to know that your Mac actually logs that browsing history. This can be found in your Mac’s Terminal archive. You’ll be surprised to know that this Terminal archive contains information about all of the websites you visited. That’s even when you use the Private Browsing feature. So, you can view Private Browsing history via the Terminal archive.
How to View Private Browsing History in Safari on Mac
Time needed: 1 minute
- Click Applications > Utilities.
- Click Console > Your Mac HD on the sidebar.
- Type any:mdnsresponder in the search box, then click the Play button.
- Open another Finder window and click Applications > Utilities.
- Click Terminal.
- Type the following at the command prompt:
sudo killall -INFO mDNSResponder
- Provide your admin password and press Return.
- Go back to the Console to see your Private Browsing History.
You will notice that the website names have been translated into their corresponding IP addresses. You won’t see the exact name of the websites. That’s because your Mac has consulted a DNS directory to translate the website names into IP addresses.
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Final Words: Is It Really Safe to Browse Privately in Safari?
According to Apple, when you browse privately in Safari:
- The browser won’t save the web pages you visit and your Autofill information.
- Safari won’t store webpages you open in iCloud.
- Safari won’t include your recent searches in the results list when you use the Smart Search field.
- Safari won’t include items you downloaded in the download list.
- Changes to your cookies and website won’t be saved.
Knowing all that, Private Browsing in Safari would seem safe. But then, when you browse privately, are you really browsing anonymously, or does the feature just hide your information from anyone who could access your Mac? However, if somebody gets physical access to your Mac and knows their way around, they can still see the websites you visited, since the information is stored in the DNS cache of your Mac.
Even worse is when you are using a public network. The network administrator can still see the websites you are visiting using your Mac. The bottom line is that advertisers can still track you even if you browse privately on your Mac, and then serve targeted ads. If you don’t mind that at all, then there’s no harm in always browsing privately in Safari on your Mac.