Guest Mode to the Rescue!

Category: Browsers

Have you ever let someone use your Web browser “just for a minute” and returned to find things in total disarray? Perhaps your guest logged you out of Facebook or Gmail. Maybe they changed your settings or installed a toolbar. Yuck. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to clean up after guests, or worry about them seeing things that are not their business? Guest Mode solves the problem -- read on...

What Is Browser Guest Mode?

When a friend or family member sits down at your computer, you never know what they might do. In addition to logging you out of your online accounts, and installing unwanted web browser extensions or toolbars, they may also forget to log out of their own accounts, and that can be awkward. Even worse, what if they poke around in your stuff using passwords saved in your browser?

Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have “guest modes” similar to the guest account available on Windows PCs. In a browser, guest mode gives a guest his/her own browser window, which has certain restrictions on what the guest can do. When the guest leaves, closing the guest mode window erases all trace of the guest’s presence; your browser window stays untouched.

The easiest way to enable guest mode in Chrome is to update your browser to Version 38 (currently in beta as of this writing). Check your Chrome version by clicking the options button (the three horizontal bars near the upper right of the Chrome window) then select About Google Chrome.
Browser Guest Mode

If you already have Version 38 or higher, there's no further setup required. If you don't have Version 38, download it here, then close and relaunch Chrome. If you're nervous about using a Beta version of Chrome, there is a way to enable the Guest functionality on your current Chrome version. It's a bit messy, but you can find instructions here.

After relaunch, look in the upper-right corner of Chrome. To the left of the minimize/maximize icons you will see a new icon: your profile icon, with your name and a downward-pointing arrowhead. (If you're not logged into a Google account, the icon will say "You" instead of your name.) Click on the arrowhead to open a drop-down menu; then click on “switch person” to open a new window.

At the bottom-left corner of the new window is “Browse as Guest.” Click that to launch a guest browser. Optionally, you can use the "Add Person" link to add a Google account. The advantage of logging in as guest with a Google account is that your bookmarks, settings and themes will be available in your guest session.

A Few Caveats

Perhaps, like me, you were wondering how a Guest session differs from going Incognito. The difference is that an Incognito session will have all YOUR bookmarks and browser extensions. A Guest session is like a blank slate -- unless the guest logs in to their Google account. They are similar in that all traces of browser history, cookies, etc. vanish when the session is closed.

One important thing to remember is that when you open a Guest browser window, the original browser window remains open and fully accessible. So security is more or less on the honor system, unless you logout of your Google account and close your browser window after starting the Guest session. It would be much better if all other open Chrome windows were somehow locked or minimized while a Guest session is active.

What About Firefox, Safari and Opera?

Guest mode for Firefox is available only on Android devices. Tap the Firefox Menu button (either below the screen on some devices or at the top right corner of the browser), then Tools and finally New Guest Session. When you tap “Continue,” Firefox will relaunch in Guest Mode.

To end a guest session, tap the Menu button and then tap “Exit Guest Session” and “Continue.” Firefox will relaunch again, erasing everything the guest left and restoring things to the way you left them.

Guest mode has been available for the Safari browser since Mac OS Lion. Opera does not support guest mode.

In summary, guest mode is a much safer way to let other people use your device for a moment. During guest sessions, the guest does not have access to your bookmarks, browsing history, stored passwords, and other sensitive data. And if they remember to logout, you won't have access to their, either. :-)

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Guest Mode to the Rescue!"

Posted by:

Stuart Berg
05 Sep 2014

What about using something like Toolwiz Time Freeze freeware ( That way you could start Time Freeze, let them do anything they want to your PC, then reboot and it is EXACTLY where it was when you turned on Time Freeze.

Posted by:

05 Sep 2014

Interesting article, as always Bob.

But I don't think I'll be using this function. Fortunately for me, I get very few guests using my computer (maybe one a year). I would rather hide the Chrome browser altogether, and make them use Internet Explorer - mainly because of the bookmarks which are always on display on the first page. I'm sure I could hide those if I wanted to, but I don't! So I point them to the Windows Guest account and let them get on with it.

Posted by:

elizabeth landry
05 Sep 2014

Who needs all that stuff. Android is all we need. Everything is already out there. Get out of the box. Peace, E

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
05 Sep 2014

Let me see if I have this straight: I can use Guest Mode in Chrome, to avoid having my guest log me out of my accounts.

But ... in order to maintain security, I really need to log out of my accounts before I have my guest use Guess Mode? How, exactly, does that bring "Guest Mode to the Rescue"?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Well not exactly. You use Guest Mode to keep your privacy and avoid unwanted things from happening to your browser setup. If you trust the person using Guest Mode to "stay in the box" you don't need to logout.

Posted by:

05 Sep 2014

There is only one person that I've allowed to use my computer and that is my husband. Wouldn't let any of my other relatives, friends, but especially strangers to sign on to it. I think anyone that is foolish.

Posted by:

05 Sep 2014 just don't let ANYONE use your PC and password lock it if you go AFK!

Posted by:

06 Sep 2014

I think a separate guest account for the whole Windows system takes care of this nicely.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2014

There is no security to this method unless you can lock them out of removing guest-mode. It really only saves you from the ignorant yokel who acts as if your browser sw is their browser sw.

Posted by:

08 Sep 2014

We've had a few house rules, since the late 70s:
*We don't allow the TV to be on when we socialize.
*We also request our guests to go outside in the yard (or the middle of the street, if they wish) when they get the urge to communicate with others!
Maybe I should have never signed that non-compete contract; when it comes to those who elect to have phone conversations with others in my presence!

I hope a "guest" never asks me to use my PC: Since, I be guessing that my answer may be as rude as their request.
Old skool >> I know!

Posted by:

08 Sep 2014

I've a much quicker and easier solution.
Tell the parasites to use their own computer.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Guest Mode to the Rescue! (Posted: 5 Sep 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved