Ads can be annoying. Whether they’re banners, videos, or pop-up ads. They detract from your online experience and, in the quest to show you personalized ads, advertisers often violate your privacy.
Ad blockers create a much-needed barrier to keep ads and trackers away. Here is a quick rundown of some of the best ad blockers available today.
AdBlocker Ultimate: Best overall ad blocker
AdBlock: Best free ad blocker
Total Adblock: Best paid browser extension
AdBlock Plus: Effective, but lets some ads through
Ghostery: AI-powered ad and tracker blocker
Privacy Badger: Best tool to block invisible trackers
AdLock: Best ad blocker app
uBlock Origin: Wide-spectrum content blocker
uMatrix: Best ad blocker for advanced users
However, an ad blocker isn’t enough to protect your privacy. Some ads may slip through the cracks. And no matter how good an ad blocker is, it won’t hide your IP address from prying eyes.
We recommend using a VPN to complement the protection afforded by an ad blocker and to ensure your private data stays private. NordVPN is our top-rated VPN, and it comes with a built-in ad and tracker blocker.
Continue reading the article for more information about the best ad blockers.
We all try to avoid advertisements whenever we can. In the years before the Internet became popular, the commercial break on TV was the perfect moment to take a quick trip to the bathroom, get some snacks, or take the dog for a short walk.
Of course, since then, adverts have evolved, and advertisers have come up with new, crafty ways to reach consumers. You can’t ignore pop-ups and banner ads on websites by walking the dog. And there’s the ever-present threat of adware and third-party trackers that could compromise your privacy.
Are you looking for an effective way to block all those annoying ads? Consider getting an ad blocker.
Keep reading to learn about the importance of ad blockers and see our take on the best ad blockers available today.
What is an Ad Blocker?
An ad blocker is a program that blocks advertisements online.
The online advertising industry is massive — valued at about $360 billion in 2020. Advertising online allows companies to reach more people and easily measure the effectiveness of their ad campaigns. It’s also relatively affordable.
But being bombarded with ads can quickly become annoying. Not just because they distract from your browsing experience, some companies use tracking methods, like third-party cookies, to monitor your online behavior and deliver personalized ads. While tailored ads have their perks, tracking users raises fundamental questions about privacy in the age of big data.
Ad blockers may seem like a recent invention, but they have been around since the early days of online ads in the 90s.
Over the years, ad blockers have become more sophisticated. Today, ad blockers work on various devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones — most ad blockers are available as an app and browser extension. You can even whitelist specific sites and pause ad blocking.
Why Do You Need an Ad Blocker?
Millions of people worldwide use ad blockers, and it’s not surprising. Being inundated with ads every moment of every day can be irritating. And the intrusive schemes of advertisers to gather information about consumers often violate our privacy.
The amount of information online companies gather about their users daily is scary. Using an ad blocker is an excellent way to stop those pesky ads and protect your privacy.
Important: Google Will Limit Ad Blockers in 2023
From January 2023, Google will change its Manifest API from V2 to V3. Simply put, adblockers will be much less effective under Manifest V3.
Manifest V3 only allows adblockers to block individual HTTP addresses that want to serve you ads. Under Manifest V2, adblockers were able to block entire categories of HTTP addresses instead.
Adblockers will still be able to block a lot of these addresses: a maximum of 30,000. However, this is not nearly enough to be effective. After all, an average ad blocker requires about 300,000 “rules” to properly do its job.
Google will experiment with implementing Manifest V3 in January 2023. From June onwards, they will begin to phase out Manifest V2. It’s likely they will stop supporting V2 entirely in January 2024. So how do we deal with this adblocking challenge?
Use a non-Chromium browser like Firefox. The first and probably best solution to deal with Manifest V3 is to switch browsers. However, most browsers nowadays are Chromium-based. As such, they’ll face the same adblocking restrictions as Google Chrome. You’re much better off using a non-Chromium browser like Mozilla Firefox or Brave.
Pick a good Manifest V3 ad blocker. Another solution is to use a Manifest V3-compliant ad blocker. We are not sure yet how many of these blockers will appear over the coming months but for now, uBlock Origin Lite is probably the best choice.
The Best Ad Blockers: A Summary
In the quest to find the best ad blocker, we considered several options, and these are the top ten ad blockers that made it to our list.
Affordable pricing plans
Available as an app and browser extension
Advanced ad blocking capabilities
Allows you to whitelist sites
It helps to combat phishing
Available as an app and browser extension
Most popular ad blocker
You can whitelist trusted sites and YouTube channels
Has malware protection
Has a premium VPN service
Free and cheap premium plans
Available as a browser extension and customizable app
Blocks third-party trackers
Allows you to whitelist sites
Speeds up your browser
Available as a browser, app, and browser extension
You can whitelist sites
Allows some non-disruptive ads based on the Acceptable Ads Initiative
Free and relatively affordable premium plans
Available as a browser extension
Uses AI anti-tracking technology
Blocks ads and third-party trackers
Makes most websites load faster
Available as a browser extension
Only blocks tracker ads
Blocks invisible trackers
Adapts to your internet use
Free 14-day trial
Available as a mobile app, desktop app, and browser extension
Uses ad filters based on EasyList technology
Blocks ads outside of your browser, such as in mobile games
Not available on the App Store or Google Play
Available as a browser extension
Gets regular updates
You can whitelist sites
Many extra options
Available as a browser extension
Blocks malicious scripts
Anti-cross site scripting (XSS) protection
Available as a browser extension
For advanced users
Blocks malicious scripts, cookies, plugins, and more
1. AdBlocker Ultimate
AdBlocker Ultimate prides itself on not letting any ads go through its defenses. It provides complete protection against all ads — from display ads to pop-ups and video commercials. You can create a list of whitelisted sites.
AdBlocker Ultimate also protects you from malware by blocking sites with malicious domains.
You can get AdBlocker Ultimate as a browser extension on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Opera. It’s also available as an Android, Windows, and iOS app.
AdBlocker Ultimate allows you to escape ads on all of your devices. The free version of this tool does an excellent job of keeping those nettling ads away. However, for premium support, customizable ad blocking, and advanced anti-tracker features, you must opt for the premium version.
The premium version of AdBlocker Ultimate costs $2.49/month for three devices and $4.99/month for ten devices.
AdBlock is arguably the most popular ad blocker, with over 65 million users. It’s one of the best ad blockers.
AdBlock ensures you don’t have to deal with annoying online advertisements, including YouTube ads.
You can customize it to your liking by adding or removing filters. For example, while it automatically blocks pop-ups and pop-unders, you can tweak the settings to allow pop-ups and pop-unders that aren’t ads.
AdBlock’s malware protection filter is active by default, protecting your device from malicious software like adware and cryptocurrency mining malware.
You can whitelist particular pages and YouTube channels to allow ads. This way, you can support your favorite content creators who depend on advertising revenue.
AdBlock is available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. You can also install the AdBlock app on Android and Apple devices. What we love most about AdBlock is that you don’t have to provide any personal information to use the service.
The free version of AdBlock does an excellent job of blocking ads. However, if you subscribe to AdBlock Premium, you can customize the features of the extension. To access the Adblock app for Mac, you need to opt for the Gold Upgrade.
AdBlock offers a virtual private network (VPN) that complements its ad blocker for added protection. This service costs $3.99 monthly. AdBlock VPN comes with AES 256-bit encryption and unlimited bandwidth. The company also has a no-logs policy.
Note: Do not confuse AdBlock with AdBlock Plus. Although the names are very similar, they are different. Scroll down to learn more about AdBlock Plus.
3. Total Adblock
Total Adblock can get rid of those irksome pop-ups and banners. It also blocks video and audio ads.
Total Adblock protects your privacy by restricting third-party trackers from keeping tabs on your activities online. By blocking ads and trackers, Total Adblock inadvertently speeds up your browser. According to the company, it can speed up page loading time by 57 percent and reduce data usage by 36 percent.
Total Adblock allows you to whitelist specific websites. This ad blocker is compatible with Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera browsers. It is also available as an app for iOS and Android devices.
There are filters on the Total Adblock mobile app that you can turn on and off. You can also whitelist particular websites on the Total Adblock Acceptable Ads section. Simply enter the name of the website to disable adblocking.
Total Adblock is a premium service, but it has a seven-day free trial to allow you to test it. Total Adblock subscription typically costs about $100 annually, but you can get around 70 to 80 percent off the price as part of its Special Introductory Discount.
4. Adblock Plus
Adblock Plus is a well-known browser extension with over 100 million downloads.
This free, open-source tool blocks all types of ads, including banners, pop-ups, and video ads. It also stops trackers and “malvertising.” You can customize the tool according to your personal preferences.
By default, Adblock Plus allows certain ads without third-party trackers to go through its filter. This is part of its Acceptable Ads initiative to enable websites to make money. According to Adblock Plus, Acceptable Ads “are ads that comply with Do Not Track, and/or ads which are served by a domain owned by the same company.”
Companies can get their website on Adblock Plus’ Acceptable Ads list if they meet the requirements and pay a fee. Adblock Plus is free, and the company says its Acceptable Ads initiative is its primary source of income. However, this ironically means that this tool, which is supposed to block ads, makes money through ads.
Adblock Plus allows users to block all ads, even those whitelisted under its Acceptable Ads initiative.
The Adblock Plus extension is available for different browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, Safari, Yandex Browser, Edge, and Maxthon. It is also compatible with the Samsung browser and Apple’s Safari on iOS devices.
Adblock Plus’ claim to being the best ad blocker is strengthened by the fact that it has its own browser (available for Android and Apple devices) and an app that works with the Samsung Internet Browser as well as Apple’s Safari browser on iOS.
Ghostery is a privacy suite with various useful tools, including an ad blocker.
This ad and tracker blocker comes with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, which means it is constantly learning and analyzing patterns to uncover the sneaky techniques of advertisers.
Ghostery claims it has the largest database of trackers, totaling over 2000. The company has a page on its website where users can submit trackers its system may have missed or misidentified.
Ghostery blocks trackers and different ads, including pop-ups. It reveals which tracking cookies are active on a website and allows you to block them. This makes “personalized” ads a thing of the past.
By blocking ads and trackers, Ghostery also makes pages load faster. The Ghostery extension is available for different browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, and Opera.
6. Privacy Badger
Privacy Badger is a smart, free ad blocker from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that automatically blocks ads and invisible trackers.
The extension uses “algorithmic methods” to identify trackers. It is an excellent option for people who aren’t tech-savvy or don’t want to go through the hassle of tweaking the settings of an ad blocker. Once the extension is installed, it starts monitoring trackers on every website you visit.
Privacy Badger mainly focuses on blocking third-party cookies and browser fingerprinting. It doesn’t block ads unless they come with trackers.
Once it identifies trackers, Privacy Badger may respond in different ways. It can block them or restrict their access. You can change the settings to control how the extension deals with trackers.
This ad blocker is unique and will probably get better over time.
Privacy Badger currently works on Opera, Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. On Android devices, this extension only works on Firefox.
AdLock takes ad blocking to the next level. It doesn’t only block ads in your browser but on virtually every app on your device.
This tool blocks all ads, including video ads, pop-ups, trackers, and even crypto-mining ads.
AdLock is designed to protect your privacy. It shields your device from spyware and blocks potentially malicious websites. This is an excellent tool for blocking ads on games and other apps.
AdLock can help you save data and conserve your device’s battery power by blocking all trackers and third-party scripts. It can also speed up the loading time of your device.
AdLock is a lightweight app; it doesn’t add any additional load to your system. You can install it on iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows devices. It is also available as a browser extension for Chrome and Safari.
Note: If you opt for the AdLock browser extension, its functionality will be limited to the browser. You’ll get the most out of AdLock if you install it on your laptop/desktop or smartphone.
While AdLock is available on Apple’s App Store, you won’t find it on Google Play Store. The best place to get this app is directly from the AdLock website.
The AdLock browser extension is completely free. However, the app is not free. You must subscribe to get it.
The subscription rate is quite affordable. The cheapest plan — the five-year plan — costs $1.05 monthly. You get a 14-day free trial to check out the service, and AdLock offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
While AdLock does an excellent job of blocking ads, keeping you safe online, and reducing your data usage, we got a “false positive” during our tests.
8. uBlock Origin
uBlock Origin is a highly rated open-source ad blocker. According to its website, this tool is not just an ad blocker; it’s a “wide-spectrum content blocker.”
uBlock Origin blocks all types of ads and trackers, coin miners, and malicious URLs. You can customize the tool by adding more filter lists to block other types of content.
uBlock Origin is completely free. The browser extension is available for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera browsers.
This tool receives frequent updates. Raymond Hill, the creator of uBlock Origin, is primarily responsible for updating and maintaining the ad blocker.
Note: uBlock Origin is different from uBlock.org, although they have similar names.
As a result, it blocks malicious ads, harmful scripts, and other insidious attempts to compromise your device. You can mark certain websites as “safe,” giving them permission to run Java, Flash, and other plugins on your browser.
NoScript offers more comprehensive protection than most ad blockers. It protects you against several vulnerabilities, even some unknown ones. NoScript is available as an add-on security component on the Tor Browser.
The NoScript browser extension is compatible with Mozilla Firefox, Seamonkey, and other Mozilla browsers. It’s also compatible with Chrome, Brave, and Edge, among others. The main downside of NoScript is that there’s a bit of a learning curve before you can figure out how it works.
NoScript has been endorsed by Edward Snowden and other top security experts.
uMatrix was created by Raymond Hill, who also developed uBlock Origin. This open-source browser extension allows you to block elements on a website, including third-party cookies and scripts.
uMatrix is best suited for advanced users. Instead of working with “blacklists” to block specific websites, uMatrix blocks all third-party scripts by default.
You need to whitelist pages and websites to allow them to run on your browser. Due to this, web pages that use external scripts may look slightly different after you have installed uMatrix, and may not work the same.
uMatrix is free and is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. You can install it on other browsers, but it has to be installed manually.
uMatrix blocks cookies, advertisements, images, plugins, scripts, and other elements. You can view everything that has been blocked and whitelist or blacklist these applications. uMatrix also comes with different settings to protect your privacy.
We only recommend uMatrix if you know your way around a website.
VPNs With In-Built Ad Blocker: A Comprehensive Privacy Solution
Using an ad blocker only provides partial protection from trackers and snooping eyes. A virtual private network (VPN) ensures hackers, the government, your internet service provider (ISP), and anyone with access to your traffic data can’t keep tabs on your online activities. A VPNsafeguards your privacy better than even the best ad blockers available today.
With that said, a VPN can’t replace an ad blocker; they serve completely different purposes. So, even if you have an ad blocker, you also need a VPN and vice versa. Thankfully, some VPNs come with ad-blocking capabilities.
We’ll briefly review three of the best VPNs that can block ads.
NordVPN is one of the best VPN providers available today. It has the typical features you’d expect from a top-rated VPN, including high-speed servers — over 5500 servers in 59 countries (including obfuscated servers) — 256-bit AES encryption, no logging, a kill switch, and so much more.
Some other features that make NordVPN stand out are private DNS, split tunneling, dark web monitoring, dedicated IPs, threat protection, and CyberSec.
NordVPN’s CyberSec and Threat Protection work hand-in-hand to block ads and trackers. They block potentially malicious sites, make pages load much faster, and generally safeguard your privacy.
Save big with 68% off a two-year subscription plus 3 months free!
Surfshark is a top option for many people thanks to its cutting-edge features and affordable price tag. This VPN offers blazing-fast speeds, AES-256-GCM encryption, thousands of servers, no-logging, a kill switch, DNS and leak protection, and so much more.
Apart from the standard features, Surfshark also offers some unique features like CleanWeb. This tool is designed to block ads and malware, and protect you from phishing attacks. CleanWeb works on browsers and all the apps on your device.
It protects you from malware-laden sites, boosts your browsing speed, and reduces data usage. Surfshark CleanWeb is somewhat similar to AdLock in that regard. However, it comes with a powerful VPN.
Save 82% + 2 Months free and pay only $2.30 a month
Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
CyberGhost is known for its super-fast speeds, unlimited bandwidth, numerous servers, and advanced security features, including 256-bit AES encryption. It also has a no-logs policy and comes with a kill switch.
But that’s not all CyberGhost has to offer. CyberGhost added an ad and tracker blocker to its array of privacy features in 2015 to provide users with comprehensive protection online. CyberGhost’s ad blocker blocks malicious ads and third-party trackers.
Note: You must turn on CyberGhost’s ad and tracker blocker from the dashboard.
Using an ad blocker does not guarantee you won’t see any ads. However, it significantly reduces the number of adverts you’re likely to come across.
Advertising agencies worldwide have been fighting ad blockers for years, and their only weapon is their creativity. One way advertisers get past the ad blocker barrier is by letting you know that they know that you are using an ad blocker. In doing so, they momentarily get your attention and advertise their product or service.
Netflix’s advertising agency, for example, came up with a campaign specifically aimed at people who use ad blockers. When those users visited the tech news website The Next Web, for instance, they were greeted with an ad featuring an alarming message that said: “Hello Ad Blocker user. You cannot see the ad. But the ad can see you.”
While some companies fight ad blockers as Netflix did with its Black Mirror campaign, others look to exploit holes in an ad blocker’s defense.
Some advertisers promote their products on mobile applications, as these are still mostly beyond the reach of ad blockers. Some websites block access to users unless they temporarily disable their ad blocker. Usually, when you visit these websites, you’ll receive a notification telling you to turn off your ad blocker so you can view the page.
Platforms like YouTube and Spotify take a completely different approach. To escape ads, users have the choice to subscribe to a paid, ad-free version of their video/music platform.
Note: Some ad blockers can block video ads on YouTube.
Not every ad blocker is equally effective or reliable. Some ad blockers collaborate with advertisers behind the scenes and get paid to let certain ads creep through.
Be Careful With Google Chrome Extensions
It’s essential to choose Google Chrome extensions selectively, even if they are ad blocker extensions.
While ad blockers protect you from intrusive adverts, trackers, and cookies, Google collects data through them about your online behavior. The company uses this data for targeted advertising. You can learn more about the dangers of browser extensions and how to protect your privacy in our article on the privacy risks of browser extensions.
How can you navigate the web privately and safely? We recommend using a VPN that comes with a built-in ad blocker.
Staying Safe Online
Even with a VPN and an ad blocker, you’re still not 100% safe and anonymous online. Our article on how to browse the Internet anonymously contains some useful information on how to stay safe online.
Furthermore, you should know that these ad blockers also work on all popular browsers, including Safari and Chrome. You’ll also find useful information about staying safe and anonymous online in these articles below:
Do you have particular questions about ad blockers? Check out the FAQ section below. If we haven’t answered your question, leave a comment, and we’ll get back to you.
What is the best ad blocker?
AdBlocker Ultimate is arguably the best ad blocker. It is available as a browser extension and an app. Adblocker Ultimate does a good job of filtering all types of ads. It’s not free, though.
To learn more about it and check out other options, read our article on the best ad blockers.
What is the best free ad blocker?
AdBlock is the best free ad blocker. It’s a simple browser extension that you can install in a few minutes, and it will instantly improve your browsing experience. AdBlock is also available as an app, but only for Android devices.
Are ad blockers worth it?
Yes! Free ad blockers are great, but we generally recommend using premium ad blockers. They do not only block pop-ups and other annoying ads, but you never have to worry that the ad blocker will make deals with advertisers to allow ads through its filter or sell your data to generate income.
Is it illegal to use ad blockers?
Yes, ad blockers are legal for personal use. Their use could be illegal if a network provider or larger commercial body fiddles with someone else’s ads.
Sandra has many years of experience in the IT and tech sector as a communication specialist. For VPNOverview she follows relevant cybercrime and online privacy developments and she rigorously tests the quality of VPN services.