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Get to know the security features in the Edge browser

Microsoft is trying to make its browser as efficient and secure as possible.

Microsoft's Edge browser has all kinds of security features to help you out.
Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Windows 10 comes with two built-in browsers: Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11. But Microsoft really wants you to use Edge, not IE11, because Edge is faster, sexier, simpler and more secure.

Microsoft knows that Internet Explorer ended up with a bad rap for being slow and lacking in security, so the company even disabled several legacy technologies in Edge to ensure it didn't fall prey to the same (bad) reputation. The new browser has a lot of security tricks up its sleeve, including isolating Flash into its own separate AppContainer and making all Flash videos click-to-play.

Modern browser extensions

Edge is sleeker and more minimalist than IE11, mainly because Microsoft removed several legacy IE technologies from Edge to create a more secure browser experience. These include Browser Helper Objects, toolbars, VBscript, VML, ActiveX and Java.

But that doesn't mean that you're stuck with Edge's ultra-minimalist interface. You can't download toolbars and plugins for the browser like you can in IE11, but, after the recent Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you can download browser extensions. Edge's new browser extensions are HTML, Javascript and CSS-based, which is the same extension model that Google Chrome uses.

Private browsing

The Edge browser includes a private browsing mode.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Like most browsers, Edge has a private browsing feature called InPrivate. When you use InPrivate browsing, Edge will not store cookies, history or temporary files from your session (for more info, you can check out Microsoft's recently-updated Privacy Statement). To open a new InPrivate window, click the ... button and choose New InPrivate Window. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + P.

Windows Hello

Microsoft Edge is the first (and, currently, the only) browser that natively supports Microsoft's biometric sign-in system, Windows Hello. Windows Hello uses biometric information that is unique to you -- such as your face, fingerprint, iris or even heartbeat detection gathered from a wearable device -- to authenticate your identity, instead of the traditional (and easily hackable) password system. Windows Hello is both more secure and more convenient than traditional passwords, since it requires unique biometric information and that unique biometric information isn't something you can easily forget.

Windows Hello was first introduced as a means of signing into your Windows account, but after the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it's now supported in Microsoft Edge. At the moment, this might not mean much (but Microsoft has published a test-drive site for those of you who want to check it out), but, depending on how websites and app-makers react, it could be an eventual password-killer. To use Windows Hello to sign into your computer, an app or a website, you'll need compatible hardware -- either a Windows Hello-compatible webcam or a fingerprint reader.

Advanced settings

Some of Edge's security features can be turned on or off at your discretion from the Advanced settings menu. To manage these features, click the ... button, go to Settings and click View advanced settings.

Security features in the Advanced settings section of the Edge browser.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

In the advanced settings menu, you can turn on features such as pop-up blocking, Do Not Track requests and the SmartScreen Filter. If you want to get rid of all ads -- not just pop-ups -- you can download a third-party browser extension such as Adblock or AdBlock Plus.

The SmartScreen Filter, which was introduced in Internet Explorer 8, is an anti-phishing and -malware tool that analyzes websites for suspicious content and checks downloads against a list of known malicious software sites and files.

In the advanced settings menu, you can also choose how Edge deals with cookies (you can select to block all cookies, block only third-party cookies or not to block cookies) and saved form data/passwords.

Pick what browsing data to clear here.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

To clear your browser history in Edge, go to Settings and under Clear browsing data, click Choose what to clear. You can manually clear your browsing history, cookies and saved website data, cached data and files, download history, form data, passwords, media licenses, pop-up exceptions, location permissions, full screen permissions and compatibility permissions. Choose the items you want to clear and click Clear.

In addition to your browser data, you can also choose to clear your Bing search history. Your Bing search history is connected to your Microsoft account, and includes all searches you make using the Bing search engine when you're signed into your account, regardless of which browser you're using. To clear your Bing search history, open Edge's Settings and, under Clear browsing data, click Choose what to clear and then click Clear Bing search history. You will be asked to sign into your Microsoft account, and then you can choose to delete specific searches or Clear all. Next to the Clear all button, you'll also see an Off/On switch; toggle this Off to prevent Bing from logging your search history in the future.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 24, 2015, and was updated on October 2, 2016 to reflect changes made in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.