Advertising is not only annoying, it can also seriously undermine your privacy and security.
But how do you find the best ad blocker for your unique situation? In this guide, we’ll look at different ad blocker options – from browser extensions to dedicated applications and hardware solutions.
But first, why should you block online advertising?
Privacy – From a privacy perspective, online advertising is very bad. Ads are usually provided through third-party domain names (ad networks) and contain complex tracking. Tracking software embedded in ads is used to build intimate user profiles to include your interests, browsing activity, location, age, family members, friends, and more. Based on your user profile, you’ll place targeted ads through the ad network on the websites you visit. Advertising is basically a digital surveillance camera that constantly abuses your privacy.
Security – The growth of malvertising ( malicious advertising ) is really worrying, because you can infect your device by simply loading a webpage containing ads – no clicks! Ads can be used to provide malicious payloads that exploit security vulnerabilities, and may even take over your device in exchange for payment ( ransomware ). Malicious ads have even affected major websites such as the BBC and the New York Times .
Performance – Advertising also has problems with bandwidth usage and CPU churn, especially for mobile devices. A study by Enders Analysis found that ads can consume up to 79% of mobile bandwidth! Using a versatile lightweight ad blocker can greatly increase page load speed.
Now that you’ve decided to block ads, we’ll detail the different ad blocker options below. (This list is not in any ranking order.)
Browser ad blocker extension
One of the most popular ad blocker options is to use a free browser extension – but choose carefully!
Like the free VPN service, many free ad blocking browser extensions also make money through data collection and advertising :
Adblock Plus does not block all ads, but instead operates a so-called “acceptable ads” program where ads that match their criteria (such as placement, size, and difference) are “whitelisted” — that is, If the company shows that the ad is willing to separate the revenue from the Adblock Plus whitelist.
Another popular ad blocker, Ghostery, operates in different modes. As a user, you don’t see ads and won’t be tracked by annoying data trackers. However, the company makes money by collecting anonymous data about these trackers. It repackages this data and forwards it to publishers, websites and other companies that can use this information to help improve the speed, privacy and performance of the site.
In other words, many of these “ad-interceptors” are not a good choice for privacy-conscious users – recurring issues with “free” products.
While I don’t recommend using Adblock Plus or Ghostery, you may want to consider some browser-based ad blockers, filters, and script interceptors due to privacy issues:
- uBlock Origin – uBlock Origin is an efficient and lightweight “universal interceptor” that filters ads and tracking. It’s free, open source, for Firefox, Safari, Edge and Chromium browsers. uBlock Origin is also very customizable and can be used with different filter lists.
- Privacy 獾 – Privacy 不同 is different from a typical ad blocker in that it “learns” when you use it, rather than using a filter list. It will block spy ads and trackers and can be used in Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers.
- NoScript – NoScript is an extension for advanced users that blocks scripts, including ad serving, by default. This will require a lot of customization and time, because by default NoScript breaks many websites.
Another option is to simply use the Brave browser , which blocks ads and tracking by default. Based on Chromium, Brave is well-configured to provide out-of-the-box privacy and security.
Disadvantages of ad blocker extensions :
- Ads may still be loading and consuming your bandwidth and resources, even if they are not being displayed.
- Even if the ad isn’t showing on the site you’re visiting, the ad network may collect your data and analyze it.
- Some ad blocker extensions still collect your data and/or provide you with “approved” ads.
Ad blocker application
You can also use a variety of dedicated ad blocking apps to use different devices.
A good (paid) option seems to be AdGuard . AdGuard provides a dedicated ad blocker application for Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS devices. They also provide browser extensions for all major browsers. From their FAQ page :
In general, we do not want to rely solely on the features provided by the browser. That’s why our flagship product is a standalone program that allows ads and trackers to be blocked system-wide.
There are other ad blocking apps available, but AdGuard seems to be one of the best options I’ve tested for this type of ad blocker.
Disadvantages : The dedicated ad blocker application will consume resources.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) with ad blocking
Another option is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) with a built-in ad blocker . Some VPN services basically have three ways to block ads:
- Through the server network (see Perfect Privacy and TrackStop Features)
- Via VPN client (see NordVPN )
- Extend via browser (see Windscribe )
The effectiveness of various VPN ad blockers can indeed vary. I tested the different options of the VPN Ad Blocker Guide, and Perfect Privacy is by far the best option. The Perfect Privacy TrackStop filter uses a very large list of filters that can be enabled by the user to block advertisements, tracking and malware domains at the VPN server level.
Of course, you can also use a VPN ad blocker with a browser-based ad blocker for a higher level of protection.
I tested the VPN using blocking/filtering:
- NordVPN ( visit website )
- Perfect privacy ( visiting the website )
- Private internet access ( visiting website )
- Cyber Ghost (Ad Blocker only runs on non-encrypted websites via traffic operations – not recommended)
- VyprVPN (provides malicious website filtering, but does not block ads; visit website )
- VPNArea (provides ad blocking DNS; visit website )
VPN ad blocker on the router
Another way to use a VPN ad blocker is through your router.
I tested this and created a guide to using Perfect Privacy on my ASUS router, everything worked fine and setup was simple. For more information, see this guide: Ad Blocker VPN Router . This setting provides all the benefits of ad blocking and VPN for every device you connect to on your home network. Your router counts only one device you subscribe to, and you don’t need to download additional software for each device.
Blocking ads has additional hardware and router options, which we’ll discuss further below.
VPN ad blocker on VPS
Another option is to use an ad blocking DNS to run a VPN on your own Virtual Private Server (VPS). This is often referred to as “scrolling your own VPN” and provides security and performance, but it also has privacy trade-offs because your traffic is not mixed with other users (and VPS companies have your personal information). It may also be a bit technical.
Disadvantages of VPN ad blockers :
- Only valid when connecting to a VPN (but you will be protected on any device and network connected to the internet)
- Need to purchase a VPN subscription
Other ad blocker options for the router
Blocking ads across the entire home network has some unique benefits:
- You don’t need to set up an ad blocker on each device.
- Devices that do not support ad blockers will still be protected (smart TVs, game consoles, etc.).
Let us now look at some good options.
Ad blocking on the router
AdGuard provides free ad blocking DNS that can be used on routers. This setup page gives you a description (choose a router). Simply enter the AdGuard DNS server under the DNS option in the router settings.
AB-Solution is also an excellent choice for ASUS routers running Merlin firmware.
Finally, some router firmware options may support ad blocking, such as DD-WRT and Tomato firmware.
Pi-hole is a fast and efficient network-wide ad blocker that can be used as a DNS server for your network. It is completely free and open source and can run on Raspberry Pi or other devices.
You can also run Pi-hole and VPN simultaneously on the Raspberry Pi. PiVPN is an OpenVPN setup designed for Raspberry Pis. One big drawback here is that it doesn’t provide any privacy, because traffic is not encrypted to your ISP, and the Raspberry Pi is the endpoint.
What is the best ad blocker?
The best ad blocker for you depends on your unique situation and needs. In other words, there is no one for everyone.
Many people prefer browser-based ad blockers, especially since they are usually free. While browser ad blocker extensions may be popular, they also have some notable drawbacks:
- Ads may still consume bandwidth and resources (even if they are not shown).
- You may still be tracked by a third-party ad network.
If you’re connecting a large number of devices to your home network, consider using one of the web ad blocking solutions.
Because I always connect to the VPN , I like to use Perfect Privacy’s TrackStop filter , which blocks all ads, tracking and malicious domains at the VPN server level. By activating TrackStop on the server side, it can be used with any device I use with VPN (with or without a VPN application). This setting is fast, efficient, and resource efficient because it doesn’t require any additional ad blocking software or forces the browser to parse through the filter list.
A dedicated ad blocking application (such as AdGuard) on your operating system may also be a good idea – but it also consumes resources.
Ad blocker conclusion
Using good ad blockers is a basic digital self-defense , especially considering how invasive and dangerous online advertising is becoming more and more
In addition to privacy and security, effectively blocking ads will also:
- Help website load faster
- Consume less bandwidth, which can make a big difference for mobile devices
- Improve your overall online experience without the confusing and distracting annoying ads
A significant disadvantage of some of these solutions is cost and/or setup requirements. But considering the risks and annoyances of advertising, whenever you are online, using a good ad blocker is definitely worth it.