Tips for Leaving No Trace When Using Someone Else’s Computer

Featured, Firefox add-ons, Privacy Issues
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Leaving No TraceSometimes, you may have to use someone else’s computer for browsing the internet. How do you ensure that you will be leaving no trace when you get away from this computer?

Clear all your browsing history

If you are a Firefox user, most of the time, you would enter your credentials for checking your e-mails, hanging out on Facebook, watching the news, and the list goes on. Then you keep on reminding yourself to clear all browsing history when you’re done with the practical CTRL+SHIFT+DEL keystrokes.

On recent Firefox versions, you can decide to only clear the last hour browser activity or everything … I personally found out that choosing to clear the latest hour history isn’t “safe enough” as I clearly lose track of time once I am on the internet, I don’t know about you.

The same feature is available on Google Chrome by hitting “Ctrl +H”, then clicking on “Edit items”. The “good” thing about Google Chrome’s history feature is that you can pinpoint and choose whatever history you want to delete. Ain’t that a great feature if you only want to leave the impression that you didn’t do anything nasty on the computer by leaving the browsing history “untouched?”

What’s next?

Clearing the history can be a good idea only if you remember to do it when you’re done. However, chances are that you’re borrowing someone else’s computer because you just had a few spare time to use. And, as if Murphy’s law never fails, you usually have to hurry up leaving that computer for different reasons:

  • an urgent phone call that kept you away for a long time;
  • the pal you’ve been waiting for just showed up and asked you to hurry up because you’re late for another meeting …

Then what? There’s a high risk you would forget clearing your browsing history. Even worse, you would even ask the computer owner to close your sessions. Meaning, you’ll be leaving the responsibility for protecting your own stuff to a third party … Hmm, that’s bad… Chances are they’ll take a sneak-peak into what you did first – you know- trying to find out the nasty things you may have done …

Use Private/Incognito Browsing

So, how do you protect from those “unpredictable hurry” that don’t even let you clear your browsing history when working on someone else’s computer (or on a public computer?).  If we stick with the two browsers mentioned above, here’s how you’d do it:

On Mozilla Firefox: at your initial launch, quickly hit “CTRL+SHIFT+P” (or go to “Tools- Start Private browsing”)

On Google Chrome, still at your initial launch of the browser, hit  “SHIFT+CTRL+N” (or got to the Settings menu, and click “new incognito window”)

Whether on Firefox, or on Chrome, a new window will then open – do your own things from this window as it won’t record your browsing history, nor your password, nor your site preferences. You’re safe, at least on the browser side of things. Because you never know if there’s a keystroke recorder on the computer, or if there’s a network sniffer somewhere on your network …but that’s another story.

Now, when the urgent call rings, or when the pal you’ve been waiting for just steps by and push you to leave, all you have to do is close the browser window and that’s it … No sessions to close, no browsing history to clear …You can leave the floor with peace of mind… However, you should keep in mind that private browsing mode does not hide your public IP address.

Back to you

Hope this helped you… Now we’d love to hear about the experience of using other people’s computer while maintaining privacy. Share in the comment section.

2 comments… add one
  • Anonymous Lurker Aug 25, 2011

    Thank you for a very informative post.

    However, the browser you are using might still not be your ideal choice.

    Clearing the browser solves some problems but I personally prefer browsing through an encapsulated tunnel.

    A program like Proxifier, Sockscap or Proxycap can proxify an application.
    Get hold of proxifier portable from and enter your favorite socks proxy. You don’t need administrative privileges to run the program.

    Unfortunately the software is not free, but there are other proxification alternatives for both Windows and Linux.

    Another possibility is Firefox Portable from Even if the computer is locked down, and you can’t change the default Internet proxy settings, you might still do what you want provided that you can run a portable app from an USB key.

    Best Regards

  • heryzo Aug 29, 2011

    Hi anonymous Lurker,
    portableapps can actually be another alternative too… Thank you for that input.

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