What Is an Ad Blocker?
Ad blockers, also known as content blockers, are software or apps that prevent ads from being shown on websites or other apps. The main purpose of ad blockers is to prevent adware, a type of malware that delivers ads to internet users for the purpose of generating revenue for its developer.
When you are forced to watch a video ad just to use a free app or you see a lot of ads on the website you are visiting, there is a huge chance that you’re dealing with adware.
Ad blockers can be browser add-ons, and they are typically available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer. These plugin-type ad blockers work by preventing annoying ads from popping up whenever users browse the internet. So when you visit websites, all ads should be blocked by the ad blocker.
Some ad blockers are standalone apps that need to be installed on the device, just like other ordinary apps. Unlike plugin-type ad blockers, this type provides a wider coverage against ads. Aside from browsers, they also prevent ads from appearing in other programs that use the internet, such as email clients, games, and messaging apps.
Aside from these types of ad blockers, there are also browsers with built-in ad-blocking features so you can block adware without installing or adding anything. Some of these browsers are pretty effective, but their features are generally limited compared with other types of ad blockers.
Most VPN services today are also equipped with built-in features that protect users from adware. Since VPNs prevent third parties from tracking your activities, it is impossible for adware to collect data about you and deliver ads based on your activities.
Why Use Ad Blockers?
Ads are not just annoying; they can be dangerous as well. Adware and malvertising pose serious security risks to internet users. Unscrupulous malvertising usually hides malware in digital ads on websites. In some cases, malware can infect your device even without clicking the ad. Just visiting the website can trigger the malware to be released into your system. Using an ad blocker can save you from these dangers.
With the absence of ads, websites will be a lot cleaner and more reader-friendly. You can freely enjoy the design, layout, and content of the website without the ads blocking the way. Plus, it is easier to move around the website because the navigation buttons are more accessible.
Ads consume a lot of data, which is why it takes longer for pages laden with ads to load. If there are no ads, a lesser amount of data will be needed to render the content of the page, resulting in faster loading times. Websites load by up to four times faster with ad blockers.
When you use an ad blocker, you only see what you want to see and the page loads a lot faster without the extra baggage.
But how do you choose which ad blocker to install? Our list of the best free ad blockers below provides an overview of popular ad blockers and will hopefully help you make the best choice.
Best Ad Blockers in 2020
Best Overall Ad Blocker: AdGuard
Cost: Free, Subscription
Browser support: Google Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Yandex Browser
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS
AdGuard is a multipurpose utility that blocks all forms of ads and adware, including video ads, pop-ups, text ads, and rich media advertising. With AdGuard working in the background, all you’ll see is a clean and safe website. AdGuard also ensures your online privacy by blocking third-party tracking APIs, analytical systems, and even spyware.
AdGuard can be downloaded as an extension for many browsers, including Google Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Yandex Browser. You can also download the app for various platforms, such as Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. AdGuard can also hide ads in programs, such as uTorrent and Skype.
AdGuard is lightweight software that functions as both an ad blocker and a VPN. You can use this tool to hide your online profile and browse the internet anonymously. It also has a dedicated module to protect your data from data leaks.
This tool is a good option for parents who want to protect their children’s online activities. AdGuard blocks all inappropriate websites, deletes search results with obscene materials, and allows parents to create a customizable blacklist for more personalized protection. All the settings are centralized in a single interface to make it easier to manage the app.
The only downside to using this app is a slight drop in the internet connection speed due to the filtering and processing activities running in the background. Users might also notice a difference in the level of productivity depending on the browser or device being used.
AdGuard is free, but you can upgrade to the premium version for $2.49 per year or get the lifetime subscription for a one-time fee of $79.99.
Best Safari Ad Blocker: Adblock Plus
Cost: Free, Subscription
Browser support: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Edge (beta), Opera, and Yandex Browser
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS
Adblock Plus, or ABP, is a free and open-source extension designed for most major browsers. It is one of the most popular ad blocker extensions on the market today, but it works best with Safari. The ad-blocking filters of ABP work well with the built-in ad-blocking features of Safari.
Adblock Plus is very easy to install and set up, with preset filters automatically loaded so users can quickly block most of the ads. ABP also provides the option to filter malware and social media, which the user can configure and add to the preset filter chosen.
Aside from the preset blacklist filters provided by ABP, users can also add additional entries to blacklist or whitelist their favorite websites. Adblock Plus has the Acceptable Ads feature, which allows some good ads to go through for revenue. This is where ABP draws its financial resources to be able to provide a free ad-blocking service to its users. This feature is enabled by default, but users can disable it via ABP’s settings if they really don’t want to get any types of ads.
ABP is also the only ad blocker that allows users to whitelist their favorite YouTube channels. This ad blocker also offers flexible ways to manage the service depending on what you need. Just left-click on the webpage you are currently on to pause ad blocking on the page, choose a specific ad you want to remove or pause the service for all websites. Take note, however, that the space occupied by the ads will be blank, which may not be really pleasing to look at. However, without the ads, the web pages load really fast.
Aside from Safari, Adblock Plus is also available as a plugin for major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Yandex Browser. The extension for Microsoft Edge is still in the beta stage, though. Take note, however, that you can’t add the ABP extension for Chrome if the computer’s IP address is in the USA. You can also download the app on your PC, Mac, and mobile devices. ABP also offers a dedicated ad-blocking browser for Android and iOS devices.
Best Ad Blocker for Firefox: uBlock Origin
Cost: Free, Subscription
Browser support: Mozilla Firefox, Chromium, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari (macOS), Opera
Platforms: Windows, macOS
According to uBlock Origin’s GitHub page, this nifty little tool is not an ad blocker but a “wide-spectrum blocker.” This is because it blocks not only ads but trackers and malware as well. It has more features than other similar products on the market. This open-source ad blocker is most compatible with Chromium-based web browsers, which makes it perfect for Mozilla Firefox. Aside from Firefox, it is also available as an extension for Microsoft Edge, Safari (macOS), Chromium, Opera, and Chrome.
Once the ad blocker is installed, it automatically blocks ads using the EasyList filter, which is enabled by default. However, you may choose to add or delete pre-selected filter lists depending on how thorough you want the filtering to be. You can also create a personal filter based on the websites that you want to block and that are not included in the preset filters.
The only downside to using uBlock Origin is that you can’t use it as a standalone app on your mobile device or your computer because it is only available as an extension for browsers. There is no mobile app or desktop app for uBlocker Origin.
Best Ad Blocker for Chrome: AdBlock
Browser support: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Google has incorporated ad-blocking features into its Chrome browser. Although useful, this built-in functionality is not powerful enough to filter all the ads, so most users prefer to use an additional ad blocker. However, because of its own ad-blocking feature, not all third-party ad-blocking software will work with Chrome.
The best ad blocker that works well with Google Chrome is AdBlock. As one of the most widely used ad blockers in the world, AdBlock has already proven its worth. Once you install the extension on Google Chrome, it automatically begins blocking ads on static web pages and online streaming sites like YouTube. In fact, AdBlock claims that it can prevent YouTube ads before you even see them. However, some ads are still able to get through the ad blocker, especially in-video ads that are almost impossible to intercept.
AdBlock also lets users whitelist specific YouTube channels and customize their web experience by showing ads that they like. This extension gives you more control over what you see. You won’t even notice the missing ads because the ad blocker rearranges the layout so that there are no missing blocks of content. Aside from banners and Google AdSense, you can also configure AdBlock to remove other components you find irritating, such as social media links, share buttons, and more.
According to AdBlock’s website, the developers participate in the “Acceptable Ads” concept, wherein the app (with your permission) can allow ads that meet specific requirements. If you’re uncomfortable with this, you can set Ad Blocker to hide all ads completely — no problem with that. Unfortunately, AdBlock is a little bit resource-heavy and the effect of this becomes apparent when you have multiple tabs open. You’ll notice that your browser is slower than usual because AdBlock is running on all those pages simultaneously.
Another aspect that makes AdBlock a great ad-blocking program is the frequency of updates. AdBlock regularly releases updates to keep the software up to date with all the latest adware and ad delivery methods.
Best Ad Blocker for Internet Explorer: Adblocker Ultimate
Cost: Free, Subscription
Browser support: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, Yandex, and Internet Explorer
Platforms: Windows, macOS
This ad blocker provides fast and efficient ad-blocking power to major web browsers, but this ad-blocking extension works particularly well with Internet Explorer. You can also download the extension for Chrome, Opera, Mozilla, Edge, Safari, and Yandex Browser.
Adblocker Ultimate works as well as the other popular ad blockers, such as uBlock Origin, AdBlock, and Adblock Plus. It uses powerful ad-blocking technology and algorithms to keep out ads regardless of the content you want to access. Aside from blocking ads, Adblocker Ultimate also protects your important data from online trackers and system analyzers.
Adblocker Ultimate has very low resource consumption, so you don’t have to worry about having many tabs open. You can freely watch videos, play games, or go about your online transactions without being bothered by flashing and intrusive ads.
Adblocker Ultimate blocks all ads — no exceptions. It doesn’t have a predefined directory of acceptable ads, so it is up to the user to whitelist a specific website. AdBlocker Ultimate is available for Windows and macOS. You can also download its extensions for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, Yandex, and Internet Explorer. You can download the app for free, but you have the option to upgrade to a premium version for more features. Their package costs $4.95 per month for the monthly subscription or $2.50 per month for the yearly subscription. You can also choose to pay $74.95 for the lifetime license.
Best Ad Blocker for Opera: Ghostery
Browser support: Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Cliqz, Internet Explorer
Platforms: Windows, macOS
Ghostery is more than just an ad blocker because it blocks not only annoying ads but also all types of tracking systems that might pose a risk to your device. Its goal is to provide a faster, cleaner, and safer browsing experience for its users.
Ghostery is a web browser extension that can be downloaded for major browsers, and it works well with Opera’s built-in ad-blocking functions. Aside from Opera, it is also available for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Cliqz, and Internet Explorer. It is also available for Windows and macOS devices. There is no app available for Android and iOS devices, but you can download the Ghostery Privacy browser instead.
After installing Ghostery, you need to configure the settings according to your preferences. Its Smart Blocking technology optimizes the performance of the webpage for a faster loading speed. Ghostery provides several options for users depending on how strict they want the ad blocker to be. You can block all ads, block ads only on specific websites, block other advertising elements on a website, block or unblock trackers, or use anti-tracking to protect your privacy.
Best Android Ad Blocker: AdLock
Cost: $1 per month for the monthly subscription, $0.63 per month for the yearly subscription, $0.41 per month for the 5-year subscription
Browser support: Google Chrome
Platforms: Windows, Android
Android devices need more than just a browser extension to defend against adware. What you need is a full app that would protect and prevent ads from appearing not just on websites but on all other apps on your Android device. And AdLock does just that.
Its ad-blocking function is based on popularly used advertising filters, such as EasyList technology. This set of filters helps prevent ads from showing up on any website that you visit. To do this, AdLock automatically checks all requests from the website to the server, then applies the filters based on the predefined set of rules. Then the ad blocker adjusts the layout of the webpage so that you don’t see blank ad spaces where the ads were supposed to be positioned.
AdLock blocks all pop-ups, banners, video ads, and cryptocurrency mining ads. It also helps in protecting your online privacy by hiding your data, checking potentially dangerous links, and tracing spyware. If you have a trusted website or app that you want to exclude from the filtering, you can add it to the whitelist.
Aside from the mobile app for Android, AdLock is also available for Windows and it also has a browser extension for Chrome. For only $1 per month (or $0.63 per month for the annual subscription), AdLock provides comprehensive ad-blocking services for your whole device.
Best Ad Blocker for iOS: 1Blocker X
Cost: Free, with in-app purchases
Browser support: Safari
Platforms: macOS, iOS
1Blocker used to be one of the best ad blockers on iOS when Apple launched that functionality on iPhones and iPads. 1Blocker X, the successor of 1Blocker, is the overhauled version of the ad blocker that has been optimized for Safari.
1Blocker X was designed to make internet surfing faster and safer by preventing ads, pop-ups, trackers, and other adware from showing up. Instead of blocking the content of a downloaded webpage, 1Blocker works with Safari’s built-in content blocker function to tell the browser what content to block in advance.
This ad blocker uses more than 115,000 rules to block ads and trackers, so the filtering process is very rigorous. It also features regional rules according to your location. Aside from these predefined rules, you can also add your own custom rules or whitelist websites that you trust. 1Blocker X blocks not only ads but other annoyances as well, including social media buttons, cookie notifications, share widgets, and crypto miners.
Best Social Media Ad Blocker: StopAd
Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and Microsoft Edge
Platforms: macOS, iOS, TVs
StopAd is one of the most effective ad blockers for social media apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even Skype. It is also considered the best YouTube ad blocker because it can stop all types of ads. StopAd is a multi-platform solution and not just a browser extension. Although it works with Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and Microsoft Edge,
StopAd works best as an app because it can provide protection for your other apps as well, not just your browser. You can get the app for your Mac, for your iOS device, or for your Android TV, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick and Android TV Devices. StopAd is perfect for those who want to block all ads.
After installing the app, you’ll notice that there is no more clutter on your device. When you open YouTube, for example, you won’t see any auto-play commercials or video ads. There are also no pop-ups or banner ads on other apps. StopAd is equipped with a robust menu of features to protect your online data and activities. Aside from ad blocking, StopAd also prevents malware, data tracking, cryptojacking, and crypto mining.
StopAd is one of the best free ad blockers that provide head-to-toe protection for the websites you visit and apps that you use.
Best Ad Blocker Browsers
Aside from standalone apps and extensions, there are also browsers that have built-in ad blocker functions. Here are some of the popular browsers with effective ad blockers:
Platforms: Windows, Android
We are all familiar with the Tor network and how it helps anonymize your online activities by bouncing your data, both incoming and outgoing, through a randomly distributed network of routers all over the world. This makes it difficult for third parties who use traffic analysis to figure out what websites you visit and who you are communicating with.
The Tor Browser is a complete package that has everything you need to browse the internet using the Tor network. This package includes a modified version of Firefox complete with privacy features such as NoScript and an automatic setup tool to help you easily connect to and create new Tor circuits.
The Tor Browser was initially available as an app for Windows, but the app for Android has been released recently. This new Tor Browser for Android has now replaced the OrBot + OrFox combination used previously for using Tor on Android.
For iOS users who want to browse using the Tor anonymity network, the Onion Browser is a huge help. This browser allows you to browse online without ISPs, website admins, spyware, hackers, and other third parties monitoring or identifying you. When you browse on your iOS device using the Onion Browser, your real IP address will be automatically hidden as your traffic goes through the TOR network.
The Onion Browser used to be a premium app but has since switched to donation mode to provide access to everyone who wants to use or download the app. However, channeling your traffic through the Tor network comes with a price — you’ll have a slower browsing experience as your traffic goes through the network. This drop in performance is quite noticeable when you stream videos or share large files. But despite this drawback, the Onion Browser is still a popular choice for iPhone and iPad users.
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android
If you want a comprehensive ad-blocking experience without needing to install apps or plugins, the Opera browser should be perfect for you. Opera is one of the fastest, most efficient, and most well-built browsers today, and it comes with something extra — it is one of the first few web browsers to have a built-in ad blocker.
Compared to other web browsers that also have ad-blocking features, Opera’s ad blocker actually works. And it works really well. You need to switch the feature on in the Settings menu since it is disabled by default. Once turned on, you’ll notice that it blocks almost every ad you encounter.
The Opera browser is free to download and is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android devices.
Sitting through a 30-second video ad or clicking the tiny (x) button, which is often hidden, on pop-up ads is not just a test of patience but a waste of time as well. This is why a lot of users are turning to ad blockers to get rid of these pesky, and sometimes dangerous, ads. The question is, which ad blocker should you download?
When you Google “ad blocker,” you’ll surely be overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices available to you. But before you decide, determine first what device or browser you often use, how much protection you need, and whether you’re willing to pay for the service. Once you’ve figured out your preferences, it will be a lot easier to choose. Or you can simply refer to our list above for guidance.