How to Start Internet Explorer in InPrivate Browsing Mode by Default

Summary: This post tells you how to always start Internet Explorer in InPrivate mode by default, using a shortcut or when double-clicking a .url or .htm file. Instructions apply to all versions of Windows, upto Windows 10 as of the last revision of this post.

InPrivate Browsing mode in Internet Explorer enables you surf the web without leaving a trace in the computer, as the cache is erased automatically when the "InPrivate Browsing" window is closed. You can launch Internet Explorer in InPrivate mode by default using a shortcut, and this post explains how.

Shortcut to open IE in InPrivate Browsing mode

Right-click on the Desktop, click New, Shortcut

Type the following and click Next

"%ProgramFiles%\Internet Explorer\iexplore" -private

Note: The command-line argument is case-sensitive.

Provide a name for the shortcut, e.g. "Internet Explorer (Private)" and click Finish.


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The following indicator is shown when Internet Explorer is running in InPrivate mode.


Fig 1: InPrivate Browsing mode indicator

Internet Explorer Desktop icon – InPrivate mode as default

Alternately you can change the default double-click action for Internet Explorer namespace icon to launch Internet Explorer in InPrivate Browsing mode. Use the following Registry fix to set the "Start in InPrivate mode" option as the default context menu option for Internet Explorer (Namespace) Desktop icon.

Note: The above REG file adds a subkey under the Internet Explorer Namespace registry key. The GUID for IE Namespace is {871C5380-42A0-1069-A2EA-08002B30309D}

Registry Fix

Download ie-inpriv-context.zip and save to Desktop. Unzip and extract the contents of the file to a folder. Double-click the file inprivate-context.reg to run it. To undo the change, run the file undo.reg included in the Zip file.


Fig 2: Start in InPrivate mode as the default action.

Double-clicking Internet Explorer namespace icon will start Internet Explorer in InPrivate mode.

Register Internet Explorer (InPrivate) with Default Programs

The above two methods help only if you’re launching Internet Explorer directly. What about when double-clicking a .url file or .htm/.html/.mht file, or when launching websites via Run dialog etc? For this you need to associate all file types and protocols with the IE (InPrivate) mode. Long time ago I wrote a program to do this for Windows Vista and 7 (32-bit) and I haven’t updated the program since then.

So, here is a REG file that registers Internet Explorer (In Private) Mode entry to the Default Programs listing, for all versions of Windows, including Windows 10. Download ie-inprivate-default-programs.zip, unzip and run the enclosed REG file.

The enclosed REG file assumes your system drive as C:\. If it’s different in your case, alter the REG file using Notepad and update the correct drive-letter. The zip file also contains an undo file, in case you want to reverse the changes, i.e. unregister Internet Explorer (InPrivate) from Default Programs.

Select Internet Explorer (InPrivate) and click Set this program as default.

Or choose the associations that you want the Internet Explorer (InPrivate) to handle.

Note that even if Internet Explorer (InPrivate) mode is set as default, when a normal IE window is already open, double-clicking a webpage or internet shortcut file would still use the existing IE window that’s running in normal mode.

9 thoughts on “How to Start Internet Explorer in InPrivate Browsing Mode by Default

  1. This is a perfect example of why everything else is designed better than Microsoft products. In Firefox this is just an easy-to-find setting that you turn on and then you’re done with it. In the Microsoft world, the engineers think you’ll want to display a notification for every script error and to send UTF-8 URLs (those are actual settings in the options), but Microsoft engineers believe the possibility that someone would want to startup in private mode is so remote that the option isn’t even presented.

  2. Thanks everyone. I turned off parental controls (Windows Family Safety) and the option for Inprivate browsing returned. So I’m all set now. Thanks! John

  3. I just ran the registry fix at ie8-inpriv-context.zip and when I re-started IE it did not open new pages in the Inprivate mode. So I used the undo program associated with this utility, but now I can’t find Inprivate under the Safety tab. And it is no longer an option when opening a new tab. It seems to have totall disappeared. Any help? I’m now worse off than when I started.

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