The following tutorial applies to Desktop version of Internet Explorer 11. Modern UI/Metro version in Windows 8.1 is covered in a separate guide.
Internet Explorer 11 remembers visited web pages, searches, cookies (small files that websites store to keep your preferences or track your behavior), user names on forms (for some careless people passwords, too!) and it saves displayed images in a special Temporary Internet Files folder to make loading them faster the next time you visit the page (this is also called caching or cache).
This all might be convenient on your own computer at all times, but what if you are on your friend's computer or a public computer and you need to check your webmail account or read company mail? Are you sure that your user name and password will not be remembered? What if you want to visit some web sites or execute some searches that you do not want to be seen in browsing history later?
Here come InPrivate Browsing, Tracking Protection and deleting Browsing History.
Please note that the tools do not make you completely invisible or anonymous on the Internet! Your usage tracks are still all over the web: in your ISP logs, in the logs of the sites you visited, in the logs of all third-party analytics and advertising companies on the sites you visited, etc.
In fact, it is pretty difficult to stop companies from tracking your browsing habits (see the Your Porn Is Watching You article by Brian Merchant), and you need to take additional steps (such as VPN services, anonymous proxies, etc) to actually stay a bit more private on the World Wide Web.
InPrivate Browsing allows visiting sensitive web sites with a bit more confidence - your PC will not retain data about visited sites, entered user names or passwords and executed searches. Some humorous people call this the "Porn Mode". Funny, but you actually need InPrivate Browsing when you are at an Internet Café or someone else's computer. Well, they need to have Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 installed, too.
To start InPrivate Browsing, press Ctrl+Shift+P on your keyboard or open Tools, click Safety and click InPrivate Browsing.
You can also right-click Internet Explorer icon on Taskbar and click Start InPrivate Browsing.
This will open a new window. Note the dark blue "InPrivate" text in Address Bar.
Keep in mind that InPrivate Browsing disables all third-party extensions and toolbars. This happens because Internet Explorer cannot delete information saved by third-party extensions and toolbars after you close your InPrivate Browsing window, therefore some information about where you have been might still be visible in browsing history.
You can now surf the Internet without having to worry about possible leaks of sensitive information.
To stop InPrivate Browsing, close Internet Explorer tabs and windows.
Tracking Protection allows Internet Explorer 11 to block websites and ads from tracking the current user's online behavior. The feature uses predefined lists that are automatically updated on weekly basis (in case the list provider has updated it).
While you can configure Tracking Protection manually, I strongly suggest to leave the job for professionals. To start, open Tools menu (keyboard shortcut Alt+X), expand Safety and click Turn on Tracking Protection.
If you have already enabled Tracking Protection, select Manage Add-ons from Tools menu instead.
Manage Add-ons window open with Tracking Protection tab activated. Click the Get a Tracking Protection List online link.
This will open a page at iegallery.com, where you can choose among many providers. I suggest using EasyList Standard in most cases. Please note that the Abine Standard list shown in the picture below might block useful content on several sites. Do not add more than two or three lists, because this can negatively affect browsing speed.
Click Add to subscribe to a new Tracking Protection list.
A confirmation dialog will appear. Click Add List.
After this you might notice the blue Protection indicator in Address Bar on most websites. This shows that Tracking Protection (or Do Not Track, described later) is doing its job safeguarding your privacy on the Internet.
If the Protection icon is blue, some content has been blocked on the site. You can disable the protection on individual sites by clicking the icon and then clicking Unblock content in the "Some content is blocked to help protect your privacy" dialog. As all site preferences are stored, this is one-time job.
On sites that you decided to remove from Tracking Protection, the icon is grey. To start blocking trackers again for the current site, click the icon and then click Block.
To manage Tracking Protection lists later, open Tools menu and click Manage Add-ons.
Click Tracking Protection tab on the left in Manage Add-ons window and then select a Tracking Protection List by clicking on it once. Click Disable to turn the list off. Click Enable to turn a disabled list back on. Click Remove to permanently delete the list from Internet Explorer 11.
Click Close after making changes.
As said before, using Your Personalized List for Tracking Protection is not a good idea. Basically, you must either add technical details manually or let Tracking Protection work automatically.
The latter might sound good, but while you can configure how quickly automatic protection starts blocking items on web pages, you will end up blocking useful items sooner or later. The first elements to disappear are Facebook and Twitter widgets (Like buttons, retweet counts, etc). In the end your list might be blocking really important data and make your whole web experience totally useless.
To disable Tracking Protection completely, either remove or disable all lists, or open Tools menu, expand Safety and click Turn off Tracking Protection.
Do Not Track is a pretty new standard that lets users select whether they want their online behavior (visited pages, clicked ads and links, searches, etc) to be tracked by advertisers or not. There's some controversy around the technology, but most modern browsers support the feature.
In essence, it is somewhat similar to Tracking Protection feature described above, but instead of relying on predefined lists, a special header is sent to visited websites by the browser itself.
To enable Do Not Track in Internet Explorer, open Tools menu (keyboard shortcut Alt+X), expand Safety and click Turn on Do Not Track requests.
Click Turn on in the confirmation dialog. Please note that you'll have to restart Internet Explorer for the change to take effect.
To disable the feature later, open Tools menu, expand Safety and click Turn off Do Not Track requests. Again, you must close and reopen all Internet Explorer windows after this.
ActiveX Filtering is an option to turn off all ActiveX add-ons/plugins. For example, this will disable Adobe Flash Player, Apple QuickTime and Windows Media Player add-ons and you will be unable to see any videos on the Internet (except those that use HTML5 codecs, e.g on YouTube). Also, opening PDF files inside Internet Explorer will not work.
This does not seem a good idea until you need to troubleshoot Internet Explorer or be absolutely sure that some malicious script will not try to infect your computer. ActiveX Filtering is a welcome addition to InPrivate Browsing or staying safe on a suspicious website.
To turn ActiveX Filtering on, open Tools menu, click Safety and select ActiveX Filtering. If a check mark is displayed to the left of ActiveX Filtering, the feature is turned on.
ActiveX Filtering will remain enabled even if you close Internet Explorer and reopen it. To turn it off, repeat the process above.
Some content on web pages might not load or display correctly while ActiveX Filtering is enabled:
Sometimes it is best to delete all browsing history, user names and passwords, search history and items in Temporary Internet Files folder. This has long been possible in Internet Explorer, but until Internet Explorer 7 this option was not too easy to find.
Internet Explorer 11 enhances Browsing History deletion by letting you keep data related to the web sites in your Favorites Center or Favorites Bar while deleting everything related to other sites.
To clear history, press Ctrl+ShiFt+Del on your keyboard or open Tools menu, click Safety and click Delete browsing history.
By default, Internet Explorer 11 keeps information related to your Favorites and deletes all Temporary Internet files, cookies, website data and history. If this is fine with you, click Delete.
In case you want to delete absolutely everything, deselect Preserve Favorites website data and select Download History, Form data and Passwords - keep only the first and last options deselected. Then click Delete button.
It is generally not recommended to delete Tracking Protection, ActiveX Filtering and Do Not Track data unless one of these seems to cause trouble. At least try turning the features off first using appropriate commands in Tools, Safety menu.
And last, but not least: do not forget to check the Securing Internet Explorer article for more privacy and security settings!