Avoid The Hack: 6 Best Privacy Browser Picks for Windows

/ data privacy, web browsers

This post was originally published on 2 APR 2021; it has since been updated and revised.

Let's go ahead and get this out the way: Edge, the default browser for Windows, sucks.

Edge especially sucks for privacy. Yes, even the "new and improved" Microsoft Edge that is based on the Chromium engine. Despite all the new features and heavy integration into Windows, it still sucks.

(If you want to dig a little deeper into how much Edge sucks for privacy, then just visit our general Privacy Browsers page. )

But we can say whatever to Edge's lack of regard to privacy - no matter how hard Microsoft attempts to make that - because there exist at least a handful of solid privacy focused browser alternatives available on the Windows platform.

As with our other recommendation lists, the browsers on this list are not placed in any specific order. Choose browsers from this post based primarily on your wants and needs that exist within a privacy and security standpoint - remember and stick to your particular threat model.

And also remember: nothing is really stopping you from trying them all!


firefox quantum logo

Firefox has been around for a long time (do you happen to remember the Netscape days?) so it has evolved with the huge changes brought forward by the modern Internet.

With that, Firefox has always been fast, reliable, secure, and as of more recent times - privacy conscious.

Not to mention that Firefox is one of the last browsers with a big enough market share and development team (Mozilla) that doesn't run on some fork of Chromium.

Instead, it runs on Mozilla's own Gecko engine.

To get slightly more technical, the Gecko engine is mostly programmed with the C++ and JavaScript languages. With the introduction of Quantum in 2016, Rust was added to this list.

However, it's important to understand that Firefox is not configured for optimal privacy straight from the jump.

You'll need to tweak the right settings, both advanced and basic from with the browser, and download privacy extensions to squeeze the most privacy out of it. Fortunately, doing so isn't hard - it just takes a little bit of time.

Honestly, if privacy and user experience is super important to you when browsing the web (even though you're using Windows 10...), Firefox is absolutely your best bet.

Download Privacy Configuration

Ungoogled Chromium

official updated chromium logo

To understand Ungoogled Chromium, it's important that you understand Chromium.

Chromium is the open-source engine and framework that the regular Google Chrome is built from.

This does not make Google Chrome totally open-source; it still has proprietary code mixed in with the open-source Chromium.

Most importantly, this also does not make base Chromium a "private" alternative to Chrome by itself.

Why? Because while base Chromium is not as bad as Chrome, it is still bad for your privacy.

Base Chromium still uses Google web services, which will still transmit some of your data to Google - thus, invading your privacy.

Now, enter Ungoogled Chromium.

Ungoogled Chromium is base Chromium minus Google web services and the other bits of code that periodically calls home to Google.

For example, it removes dependencies on Google Cloud Messaging and Safe Browsing. In the case that Google alters or adds services, Ungoogle Chromium is set up to block internal requests to Google in general.

Ungoogled Chromium also removes the Google-friendly defaults. For example, the default search engine is not set to Google.

It also features several privacy-friendly tweaks that have to be manually enabled.

Ungoogled Chromium is maintained by a small team of developers and anyone who wants to contribute to the code. They're decent in their timing of rolling out zero-day exploit patches to Chromium. Ultimately this means that you'll roughly be running the latest version of Chromium - sans the dependencies on Google and its numerous services.

For some people, the one drawback to using Chromium may be that using it contributes to Google's increasing monopolization of the Internet. However, given that Chromium is indeed the most popular browser engine as of writing, sometimes using a Chromium browser is unavoidable on today's Internet.

While Ungoogled Chromium is arguably more Linux friendly, volunteers do post versions that are compatible with Windows.

Naturally, This comes with its own risks; most notably, these binaries are compiled by these volunteers. Therefore you run the risk of the binaries not being what's explicitly found in the source code (at least, not without reverse engineering them). There is a warning posted on the linked download page.

Download Setup Guide


librewolf browser logo

Librewolf is a community-driven Firefox fork that focuses on privacy and security. Naturally, it is open source and the developers are very on top of patching to the latest Firefox Quantum/Proton updates as released by Mozilla.

Specifically, Librewolf incorporates both privacy and security hardening options found in about:config and based on the arkenfox-user.js project as a default. Librewolf is a hardened Firefox straight out-of-the-box - minus all the manual configuring and tweaking that otherwise must be done to regular Firefox.

Librewolf also features an extension firewall that limits extensions in initiating their own network connections and resists common fingerprinting techniques. Again, this is all out-of-the-box.

Furthermore, Librewolf places emphasis on stripping all Mozilla telemetry and Mozilla-dependent services from its source code.

Librewolf features uBlock Origin already installed by default, which is the de facto standard in the privacy community for ad and wide-spectrum tracker blocking protection. Librewolf is also already configured to utilize private search engines such as SearX and DuckDuckGo.

Due to the removal of Mozilla-related services, Librewolf is arguably debloated, making it fairly lightweight and fast. It consumes less resources to run and is responsive on most systems.

Download Install Guide

Pale Moon

pale moon project logo

Pale Moon is an open-source Firefox fork that has been around for a while. It runs on its own engine, called Goanna, which is forked from Mozilla's Gecko engine.

Unlike many other Firefox forks, Pale Moon is not just a rebranded "old version of Firefox."

It did indeed fork from the 2009 code base of Firefox, but it has been maintained and updated by an active team of developers since. (You can reasonably argue that it is its own application now.)

Pale Moon definitely gives an old-school browser vibe that may throw some users off (or make you reminisce about the good ol' days), but it is highly customizable with many themes and add-ons available.

There are many add-ons that help with privacy and security as well; its add-on directory has many options for cleaning up URLs. It even features "legacy" versions of uBlock Origin and the now undeveloped uMatrix.

Even though Pale Moon is derived from Mozilla code, it does not incorporate the proprietary bits that can be found in Firefox's code.

Additionally, Pale Moon is designed to be fast and light on resources, even for older systems, while maintaining privacy.

The biggest trade off hits when you're faced with more "advanced" and "modern" web browser features. For example, Pale Moon does not support WebRTC.

Download Review


official tor logo

Tor free, open-source, and a hardened version of Firefox. Its configured to run on the Tor network.

Tor directs your traffic through a worldwide relay, which makes it harder to trace Internet activity to you, the user.

Think of it like an onion (TOR = The Onion Router) the - it adds layers between you and your destination.

This concept was originally - and somewhat surprisingly - introduced by personnel at the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) in the mid-1990s.

The Tor browser is probably the best option for protecting you against invasive fingerprinting practices and from being tracked across the Internet.

It is important to understand that Tor protects your privacy as a user, but it does not hide the fact that you are using Tor.

Because Tor sticks out like a sore thumb, many online services (such as Netflix) can easily detect that you are using Tor (not necessarily that it is you using it) and block you from accessing the site or service.

Additionally, since Tor encrypts and sends your connection request through these relays, download speeds and website loading speeds suffer. And the suffering can be very noticeable.

With that said, Tor is a solid browser for maintaining your privacy, even with some of the drawbacks.



official brave logo

You may have seen Brave mentioned on other parts of avoidthehack! (ex: in another post, I compared Brave and Firefox Focus.)

Brave launched sometime in 2016 as a project developed by a former Mozilla developer.

It's not a project anymore - it has a full and dedicated development team. It's fully-featured, privacy-focused, and can more-or-less handle the same extensions you can find and install for regular Google Chrome.

Brave is a little different in that it calls its tracker blocking functions "shields." These shields block ad and analytics trackers.

Additionally, you can configure it to provide enhanced fingerprint protection and to block all JavaScript. It also has built-in HTTPS everywhere, which will force a secure HTTPs connection to the sites you visit.

It also has an optional ads and rewards program.

Unlike Firefox, Pale Moon and Tor, Brave is based off Chromium, which again, is the open-source framework that Chrome is based on.

Understandably, this might be a cause of concern for some users because of two things:

  1. Open-source Chromium phones home to Google serves a lot and uses Google web services


  1. Chromium threatens to monopolize the internet.

For the first point, the developers behind Brave have made it "clear" that "Brave doesn't participate in Google surveillance" .

Additionally, Brave's code is open-source and available for all to see.

For the second point, there's not much to say - Google's browsing engine monopolizing the internet is a super valid concern, just as it is with Ungoogle Chromium.

Another totally separate and valid concern is that Brave has taken some heat from the privacy community in the recent past - mostly for its opt-in ads and rewards programs.

To some, because of its advertising platform and numerous privacy controversies, Brave may be considered compromised. If you plan to use this browser, please familiarize yourself with Brave's privacy controversies so you can make the best decision for your personal needs.

For Windows especially, despite its flaws, Brave can be a viable Chrome replacement for those who do not want to tweak many settings or deal with installing a lot of extensions.

Download Review

Criteria for private browser recommendations

At a minimum, to be listed as a recommendation on avoidthehack, privacy-oriented browsers must:

Be open-source

Given the modern state and role of the browser, browsers should be open-source to promote transparency above all else. Open-source browsers also promote customization in the form of building from source and/or forking as a default.

With that said, browsers forked from Firefox’s Gecko engine are preferred over Chromium forks.

Out of alpha or beta stages

Many browsers in alpha or beta stages are buggy or require additional attention to work properly. Additionally, a lot of browsers remain in a perpetual alpha or beta stage, never making it to a suitable release version.

Provide customization

The “best” privacy-oriented browsers provide a wealth of customization options inside the browser - without the help of extensions or add-ons - itself.

Customization allows users to tailor the browser to their wants and needs; customization in this aspect should allow for users to modify privacy-related settings, such as opting out of telemetry.

Naturally, customization is limited by the platform (operating system) on which a browser installation lives; across different operating systems, customization is relative.

Engage in limited telemetry or data collection

Browsers should not phone home any browsing related activity.

As for telemetry specifically, the browser should 1) allow users to opt-out of telemetry completely and 2) anonymize all information collected via telemetry. Browsers should not assign “unique IDs” or derive any hard to change information such as hardware UUIDs to phone home to remote servers.

Final thoughts

There's absolutely no doubt that on the Windows platform, you have many options for browsers.

These options become slightly less when your privacy is your number one concern.

Just like on other platforms, there are many browsers available for Windows that claim to put your privacy first.

The truth is, few actually do.

And of those few that are privacy-friendly, you'll more than likely have to make your own adjustments to achieve a level of privacy you are comfortable with.

As I mentioned earlier, your best option for privacy while browsing the Internet is a Firefox that is configured for privacy via its settings and true privacy-respecting extensions.

As always, stay safe out there!

Next Post Previous Post