Annoyed by online adverts and want to get rid of them? You’ve come to the right place. In this article we explain how to easily block adverts, popups, trackers and more on your Mac, using a variety of free and paid-for tools in the Safari and Chrome web browsers.
We have a separate guide if you specifically wish to block autoplay videos on Mac. And another for those who wish to block ads on iPhone or iPad.
Before we proceed, please bear in mind that the site whose adverts you’re blocking probably relies on revenue from advertising. That may not worry you, and we know that some of the online advertising out there really does cross a line in terms of intrusiveness. Just don’t complain if a site you love suddenly closes, or starts to charge visitors, because people refused to view its adverts.
Adblock in Safari
We’ll start with how to block adverts using Apple’s web browser, Safari. IN this article we have details of some third-party ad blockers that work with Safari but you don’t actually have to install a third party ad blocker to not see adverts in Safari – you can just set up Safari to block ads for you, here’s how:
Block ads in Safari using Reader mode
Strictly speaking, if you want to block adverts in Safari on the Mac you’ll need to install third-party ad-blocking software – and we’ll talk about that in a moment. But a far simpler approach is to use Safari’s built-in Reader mode, which is practically as good.
Reader isn’t quite an ad blocker, because it blocks a bunch of other visual distractions too: sidebars, mastheads, comments, social elements, videos. (It’s the same principle as the ‘Read later’ services we discuss at the end of this article.) You just get the text and the pictures, which can be a far calmer experience than some of the more visually ‘busy’ sites.
As a general rule, you can activate Reader mode at any time, although it’s not really possible on Home pages of sites that feature multiple stories and links.
There are a few different ways to enable the Reader mode. Here’s how to enable Reader mode in Safari:
- Go to the menu bar at the top of the screen and select View > Show Reader
- Hit Shift-Command-R.
- Click the Reader button (the one with three and a half horizontal lines) next to the URL bar.
This will then strip the page down to its bare bones, leaving only the content behind.
From Safari 11 onwards it’s been possible to be more sophisticated and tell the browser to always open article pages from particular domains in Reader mode – or even to use Reader by default all the time.
Here’s how to set reader mode up for certain websites:
When you’re on a site you want to give this treatment, go to Safari > Settings for This Website (or you can right-click the URL box and choose Settings for This Website).
- Under the heading ‘When visiting this website’, put a tick next to ‘Use Reader when available’.
- You can also remove domains from, and add them to, the Reader list in Safari’s Preferences page. Click on Safari > Preferences.
- Click on the Websites pane.
- Select Reader in the left-hand column.
- You’ll see a list of all the websites currently open and any you have configured to use Reader. Select the website you want to default to Reader mode and click the menu to the right of it and select On (or Off if you don’t want it to use Reader mode).
How to use Reader mode all the time on Safari
You can actually set Reader mode to be the default option on any website that supports it! Here’s how:
- As above go to Safari > Preferences and choose Reader.
- At the bottom of this page you’ll see the option: ‘When visiting other websites’. Set this to On and Reader will be activated by default on all compatible web pages.
Note that if you have a website that is already defaulting to Off then you won’t see it in Reader mode.
How to block popup adverts in Safari
If popup ads are driving you mad then you can quickly put a stop to them. Since Safari 11 it’s been possible to block pop-up windows via Safari Preferences.
In Safari 12 and 13 here’s what you need to do:
- Go to Preferences.
- Select the Websites tab.
- Click on the Pop-up Windows option in the left-hand column.
- Now you can either make a rule for the website you’re currently visiting by clicking on the drop down menu to the right of its name, or go to the bottom of the window and click on the drop-down menu next to ‘When visiting other websites’.
- Then select either Block and Notify, Block, or Allow.
Best ad blocker for Safari
Reader mode is a great solution, but if you want to block the adverts but leave the rest of the visual elements intact, you need to install a third-party ad blocker. There are lots of them out there, plenty of which are free, but tread carefully.
Our top recommendation is be the donation-ware Safari extension AdBlock, which deals with graphical ads, text ads and even ads in YouTube videos.
AdBlock also lets you whitelist pages on sites whose adverts you do want to see, to support them or because the ads may be useful. To whitelist the whole site you’ll need to upgrade to the AdBlock Gold level that costs £4.99/$4.99.
You can download AdBlock here.
If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, we recommend AdGuard. It comes in two forms: a free-to-use Safari extension and a £29/$30 app with a 14-day free trial. While the Safari extension is decent and acts in a similar way to AdBlock, the desktop app provides advanced features across macOS, not dependent on a particular browser.
As well as blocking ads and pop-ups from websites, you’re able to block tracking from most online sources and even be warned of malicious websites that you might stumble across online. It provides granular control over your ad blocking settings, allowing you to whitelist sites and self-promoting ads, and is incredibly simple to use.
You can download AdGuard here.
Best ad tracker blockers
Another pest online: trackers that follow your movements around the web to serve up ads. This is why you’ll be looking at a product on one site, then an ad for it magically appears when you visit another site.
To stop this intrusive (and frankly creepy) behaviour follow these steps:
Open up Safari and go to Preferences > Privacy and enable the ‘Prevent cross-site tracking’ option.
Block ads in Chrome on the Mac
Google’s Chrome browser is a popular alternative for Mac users, and even though Google is a full paid-up member of the advertising fan club, it allows plenty of scope for ad-blocking.
How to block Popups in Chrome
Let’s start by disabling popups, something which can be done from Chrome’s own settings – no need to install any extensions.
- In Chrome select Chrome > Preferences.
- Scroll down and click Advanced.
- Below the heading ‘Privacy and security’, click the option Content settings.
- Now scroll down again and look for the Pop-ups and redirects. Click this and then ensure that the top option reads ‘Blocked (recommended)’ and that the switch is turned off.
Best Chrome ad blockers on the Mac
As with Safari, Chrome won’t actually block adverts for you – and there isn’t an easily accessed equivalent of Reader mode. (Google has publicly discussed something similar called Distill Mode, but there’s no straightforward way for Mac users to turn this on without recourse to extensions.)
Many well known ad blockers are browser-agnostic, fortunately. The two suggested above – AdBlock and AdGuard – are both able to deal with adverts in Chrome.
‘Read later’ services
If you decide you don’t want to install an ad blocker, an alternative solution is to use a read-later service. These are simple systems that let you easily save an article in a form that strips out the adverts; you can then read if later (or right away, for that matter) without being troubled by all the visual tomfoolery.
Our favourite such service is Pocket. Sign up to the service and you’ll be able to create a ‘Read later’ button as a bookmark in Safari, Chrome or whichever other browser you like.
Open an article, click the button and it’ll save to your account. You can then read the ad-free version online (from any machine) or, best of all in our experience, offline using the iPhone app.