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How to stop Firefox from exposing your browser history in new tabs

Prevent unnecessary leaking of private information

Ever since Firefox 13, opening new tabs redirects you to nine individual website thumbnails, shouting out your browsing history to whoever is using your PC at the moment. Here's how you can put an end to that.

The “New Tab Page" of Firefox is supposed to improve browser comfort by displaying nine of your favourite sites in a neatly arranged 3x3 grid for easy navigation. However, while this feature certainly means well, it often ends up being little more than a random patchwork of your past activities. Plus, it goes without saying that not everybody is all too keen on having his browser history displayed out in the open. That's why, in this how-to, we'll show you how you can modify Firefox tabs in three different ways to protect your privacy.

This might also be of interest: Firefox for Windows 8 review

Customize the thumbnails with your own websites

If you like the basic idea of the “New Start Page” and are just put off by its random nature, you should try customizing it with your own websites instead of disabling it altogether. To do so, hover your cursor over a thumbnail that you like and click on the pin in the top left corner of the picture to make it permanent. Alternatively, you can also drag and drop your bookmarks right into the pads and rearrange them to your liking by click-dragging them to any of the nine positions.

Disable the thumbnails superficially

The easiest way to disable the thumbnails is to open a new tab and look for the small symbol composed of nine little squares in the upper right corner. Click on it and all thumbnails will disappear, leaving only the symbol itself. To bring them back, simply click on it again. Whichever setting you choose should be saved automatically in Firefox and immediately applied to all open windows. This little trick is quite useful if you just want to be rid of the preview window and don't have the time to bother with the more elaborate method below.

Disable the thumbnails completely

Obviously, the above solution is neither particularly safe nor thorough, as other users may simply use the same button bring the thumbnails back again. To disable them properly, open a new tab and type in “about:config” to open the configuration settings of Firefox. Confirm the warning message that will pop up upon entering. Look for the entry “browser.newtab.url” in the search field up top and double-click it. By default, this will be set to “about:newtab”. In order to turn all your new tabs into empty pages, type in “about:blank” instead and click on “OK”.

See also: How to delete extensions and plug-ins from Firefox

Tip: The configuration setting “browser.newtab.url” can be taken rather literally and does exactly what its name implies. Thus, instead of using “about:newtab” or “about:blank”, you can also put in the URL of any of your favourite websites, say pcadvisor.co.uk for instance, as your universal tab start page.

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