Even in a world that's as focused on privacy as never before, the best ad blockers and privacy extensions are still necessary for optimizing your web experience. Whether it's zapping pop-up ads cluttering up your browser or making sure your online activity isn't tracked, a good ad blocker can add a layer of security to your online life.
Companies are taking note of our desire to browse the web in peace. Apple added the ability to block specific mobile apps from tracking you in this year's iOS 14.5 update and more privacy boosters are on the way with iOS 15, currently in beta. Android 12, also in beta, is taking privacy seriously, too.
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Those moves, while important, only go so far. In addition to protecting your mobile activity, you'll also want to consider the best ad blockers for your browser as well as other privacy minded apps that keep your activity away from prying eyes. You could even say that a good ad blocker is as important as having the best VPN and best password manager on hand.
Even the best ad blockers have their downsides. For starters, they take away revenue from free sites that are supported by ads (like this one). But if you're willing to justify that trade-off, you can find plenty of extensions and apps that let you browse the web in piece, wither you're doing it from a mobile device or computer.
What are the best ad blockers?
We've split our guide into four sections, with our best ad blocker picks depending on the way you're surfing the web. You'll find selections for the best ad blocking browser extension, standalone apps that offer ad blocking, mobile apps and other privacy-related tools.
AdBlock Plus is available across multiple platforms — desktop browsers as well as Android and iOS — so it's likely going to be the first stop for lots of people. For blocking ads on a desktop browser, try either AdBlock or Ghostery, which work with a wide variety of browsers.
AdGuard and AdLock are the best ad blockers among standalone apps, while mobile users should check out either AdAway for Android or 1Blocker X for iOS. Additional tools for the privacy-minded included the Opera web browser and Privacy Badger.
The best ad blockers you can get today
1. AdBlock Plus (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, Safari, Android, iOS)
AdBlock Plus (ABP) is among the most popular ad blockers, with extensions available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Edge and Opera. ABP features a quick setup, loading preset filter lists that allow users to quickly block most ads, as well as the option to filter malware and social media buttons.
Savvy users can chose additional block lists as well as set custom filters or whitelist their favorite sites to keep their ad revenue in the black. AdBlock Plus allows what it calls "non-intrusive advertising" through filters; that may irk some users, though this feature can be disabled in settings.
On Android, the AdBlock Browser provides a Firefox-based browser that blocks incoming advertising, while on iOS, the AdBlock Plus app integrates with the content blocker system to seamlessly block advertising on Safari with minimal setup.
2. AdBlock (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge)
AdBlock (no relation to AdBlock Plus) is the other best ad-blocking browser extension of note, available for users of Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari. AdBlock uses a series of filter lists to automatically block ad content coming from known ad servers and providers. Users can stick with the default block lists, subscribe to additional ones, or even create their own, as well as whitelist their favorite websites.
As one of the most downloaded Chrome and Safari extensions, AdBlock has the trust of many users worldwide.
3. Poper Blocker (Chrome)
Rather than be an all-in one blocking solution, Poper Blocker (aka Pop Up Blocker For Chrome), is designed to complement other adblockers.
In this case, Poper Blocker focuses on blocking pop-ups, pop-unders, overlays, timed and scroll pop-ups, and other varieties that might slip past other ad-blocking extensions. Small notifications tell you when pop-ups are blocked. You also can view your blocking stats, but otherwise, you can generally just keep Poper Blocker running in the background with minimal impact alongside other adblocker extensions.
Download Poper Blocker: Chrome
4. Stands Fair AdBlocker (Chrome)
For a fast and light ad-blocking plugin, Chrome users can turn to Stands Fair AdBlocker. The extension does precisely what it promises, blocking ads and pop-ups from cluttering up your browser view while also preventing any tracking from going on.
Stand's Fair AdBlocker gives you control over the type of ads you can block, specifying everything from autoplay video ads, YouTube ads, expanding ads and more. It can even block Facebook ads if you want.
The "Fair" part of AdBlocker comes into play by giving you the ability to allow certain types of ads or even whitelist ad-supported websites you don't want to shortchange of badly needed revenue. This is one ad blocker that doesn't take a scorched earth approach to its stated purpose.
Download Stands Fair AdBlocker: Chrome
5. uBlock Origin (Chrome, Firefox)
Ublock Origin is a browser-based ad blocker that focuses on simple, efficient blocking with a low resource overhead. The extension comes loaded with a number of filter lists for known advertising and malware sources, with extra filter lists available and the option to read and create your own custom filters from hosts files.
6. Ghostery (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge)
Like the other extensions on our list of the best ad blockers, Ghostery can remove ads from webpages, so you can focus on content and browse more efficiently. But the real value in Ghostery lies in its privacy protection features. You can use Ghostery to view trackers, which lets you see who's trying to collect data on you. With Ghostery, you can also stop that tracking from taking place. If you really want to safeguard your privacy, you can turn to Ghostery's Enhanced Anti Tracking to anonymize your data.
Ghostery's a free download that offers basic web protection. More advanced protection starts at $4.99 a month and the $11.99 monthly tier comes with a built-in VPN. There are also versions of Ghostery that work with Android and iOS devices.
The best ad-blocking stand-alone applications
1. AdGuard (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS)
Uses looking for a more robust experience can try out the subscription-based AdGuard, which provides desktop and mobile options to reduce the ads you see when surfing online.
AdGuard on Windows and Mac covers popular browsers, with highly configurable options for ads, content, and tracker blocking, as well as a parental controls module for restricting adult content. AdGuard for Android is a no-root ad-blocker that blocks advertising on apps and games, though you’ll have to install it from AdGuard’s site instead of through Google Play. AdGuard for iOS works with Safari to effectively filter ads on the default browser.
2. AdLock (Windows, $22 per year; Android, $11 per year)
AdLock avoids the browser-based route, instead opting to run as a separate program to be able to block not only browser-based ads, but also advertising in other programs like Skype or games.
The app runs in the background, using filters to block ads, popups, and autoplaying videos, speeding up loading times and applying Safe Browsing features to automatically block sites that are known to be unsafe.
For obvious reasons, the mobile version is unavailable on the Google Play Store, so you'll need to sideload the app if you want to get AdLock into your Android device.
3. Wipr (macOS, iOS; $1.99)
If you’re a Safari fan, Wipr may be the best ad blocker for both your Mac and iPhone. The app is available for both iOS and macOS — costing $1.99 from either Apple App Store — and it promises to work with Safari as well as apps that use Safari for displaying web pages.
You’ll find a full array of features with Wipr, which not only blocks apps and trackers, but cryptocurrency miners, EU cookie and GDPR notices and anything else that gets in your way of surfing the web. Its blocklist gets updated twice a week, and there’s little configuration; the idea is that you load Wipr and forget that it’s there while it does its job in the background.
With Wipr, pages should load faster in Safari, which will be particularly welcome if you’re surfing from an iPhone, where ads and trackers can bog down your browser’s speed.
Ad-blocking mobile apps
1. AdAway (Android)
Android users with a rooted device can check out AdAway, a free and open source ad-blocker that works on the host's file level. That way, when an app or webpage makes a request to a particular ad provider, it instead goes to a blank IP address (127.0.0.1), saving your bandwidth and keeping you from being spammed by advertising.
AdAway lets you use hosts files from a variety of sources, or one of your making, with options to blacklist or whitelist particular addresses and add your own redirects.
You will need to allow installing third party apps (or download AdAway through the F-Droid app), as AdAway isn't available in the Google Play store.
Download AdAway: Android
2. 1Blocker X (iOS)
1Blocker was one of the first really good ad blockers on iOS when Apple opened up that functionality on iPhones and iPads, and 1Blocker X is an overhaul optimized for Safari.
The app is designed to make browsing faster and more secure by blocking ads, popups, trackers and other online cruft. Rather than blocking content of a downloaded page, 1Blocker works with Safari's content blocker API to tell the browser what to block in advance, saving time and resources.
1Blocker X features more than 115,000 blocker rules, custom regional adblocking settings, and easy-to-use custom rules settings. The app is a free download, with premium features available as in-app purchases.
Download 1Blocker X: iOS
3. Firefox Focus (Android, iOS)
Firefox Focus is another addition to Mozilla's family of browsers. This one's a privacy-oriented version of Firefox that bakes in ad-blocking and anti-tracking into a light and functional package. Firefox Focus blocks ads and speeds up browsing, while also working in privacy-friendly features like automatic history and cookie clearing.
Users can selectively block ads, analytics, content and social trackers with easy toggles, turn on a "stealth" mode, and set a default search engine.
Our look at the best Android browsers has more on the various flavors of Firefox.
Other privacy-focused extensions and apps
1. Opera (Desktop, Android, iOS)
The Opera browser bakes in ad-blocking features into the browser without the need for an extra add-on, while also offering privacy-friendly tools such as an unlimited, built-in VPN service, incognito mode, fraud and malware warnings for suspicious links and pages, and more. In addition, you can further customize Opera's capabilities with a wide array of extensions.
Mobile users need not fret, as the Android version comes with just about everything the desktop version has but built for touch-screen interfaces. On iOS, the mobile version of Opera is listed in Apple's App Store as Opera Touch.
2. Privacy Badger (Chrome, Firefox, Opera)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Privacy Badger browser extension was born from the EFF's concerns about the business models of some privacy tools and ad blockers.
Privacy Badger functions similarly to extensions like AdBlock Plus (on which it was based), observing the various tracking tools that advertisers and other third parties might use to track your online activities and selectively blocking them from executing. Built-in learning algorithms adapt to the sites you visit and take any new tracking tools discovered into account.
While not explicitly an ad blocker, Privacy Badger does also block some advertising, depending on how aggressively the ads track you across websites.
3. Tor Browser (Desktop, Android)
The Tor network helps anonymize your internet activity by bouncing the data you send and receive through a distributed anonymous network of routers to foil a common online surveillance technique called traffic analysis, which can reveal the sites you visit or who you're communicating with.
The Tor Browser is an all-in-one package that includes everything you need to surf the net through the Tor network in an easy-to-install portable package. The package includes a modified version of Firefox with privacy aids such as NoScript baked in, and an automatic setup aid that makes it easy to connect to and create new Tor circuits.
On the desktop, you can grab a version of Tor Browser for Windows, macOS or Linux. There's also a version of Tor Browser for Android, which replaces the previous OrBot + OrFox combination recommended for browsing Tor on Android.
4. Onion Browser (iOS)
iOS users aren’t left out when it comes to browsing the Tor anonymizer network, with the Onion Browser among the more popular options on Apple’s mobile OS.
Previously a premium app, Onion Browser has since moved to a donation model, opening up access to everyone who wants to download the app, without compromising security or features. The usual caveats apply: Browsing through Tor will slow down the web experience, and some features, like video streams and video files won’t work in order to preserve anonymity.
Download Onion Browser: iOS
How to choose the best ad blocker for you
Many of the best ad blockers are available for free, either as extensions or as standalone apps, though a few, like AdLock, charge a fee. Determine if the free services provide enough ad-blocking to meet your needs or whether a paid app delivers more for your money. You should also figure out if a browser extension will take care of your ad-blocking needs or whether you should consider switching browsers to one with more built-in privacy features.
You can narrow down your choice in ad blockers by deciding specifically what you're looking to accomplish with such an app or extension. Do you just want to stop annoying pop-up ads from appearing or do you want the full range of services, including privacy features and an end to ad-tracking? Grab the ad blocker that ticks off all the boxes on your wishlist.
Some ad blockers, such as AdBlock Plus include filters and the ability to let in non-obtrusive advertising. Others, like AdBlocker Ultimate, take a more aggressive approach. Find out which one best suits your needs and comfort level.