Autoplay videos are a frustrating element of the modern web experience. You open a web page and just as you start reading the article, noise starts blaring out of your speakers; or, if the site is comparatively merciful, the sound is muted, but there's still a distracting video (frequently an advert) playing off to one side of the page. Sometimes the autoplaying video is hard to find, or the button to stop it playing doesn't seem to work.
Macworld itself has hosted autoplaying videos (it's possible, through a grand cosmic irony, that a video is autoplaying on this article at this very moment...) so we are not going to try to take the moral high ground; and we of course appreciate that free sites need to be funded. But at the same time we understand browsers' pain.
In this article we show how to stop autoplay videos in the Safari browser on your Mac and make your own browsing experience less annoying.
We've split this tutorial into sections, based on the browser you're using. We cover Safari, Apple's own browser, and the popular alternatives Google Chrome and Firefox. And we also look separately at the updated version of Safari in High Sierra, Apple's latest version of macOS, which adds a far simpler anti-autoplay tool. Finally we show how to kill autoplaying videos on Facebook. If you want to kill this feature on Netflix, see How to turn off Netflix autoplay.
Safari 11 (High Sierra, Sierra and El Capitan)
If you're using Safari 11, which has now been released for macOS Sierra and El Capitan as well as for High Sierra, autoplaying video that has audio will (usually) be blocked automatically.
In our tests we've found that Safari doesn't do a brilliant job of telling you what's happened and why: one autoplay video with a 'pre-roll' advert just hung on the page and didn't start playing. The message 'Your video begins in 20 seconds' remained there permanently, which could be confusing if you didn't know what Safari was up to.
Note that many autoplay video adverts are set up - supposedly for the sake of the user - to play with sound muted by default, and these will open and play normally unless you take other action.
If Safari hasn't updated to version 11 automatically, open the Mac App Store and look under the Updates tab - you should see Safari listed there. Install the update, then reopen Safari and you should find that the new features (which include more customisable content blockers, performance tweaks and more, as well as the autoplay blocker) have taken effect.
Also, read our comparison of all the web browsers available for Mac here: Best Mac Web Browser.
Safari (macOS High Sierra)
A new feature in macOS 10.13 'High Sierra' makes it very easy to selectively block autoplay videos in Safari.
When on a website that has autoplayed videos (it doesn't need to be autoplaying one right this second), click Safari in the top menu bar, and then select 'Settings for This Website'. Alternatively, you can right-click the URL box and, again, select 'Settings for This Website'.
However you access this option, a dialogue box will pop up below the URL box. Hover your cursor over Auto-Play, the last option on the list, and it will turn into a menu with three choices: you can choose to 'Allow All Auto-Play', 'Stop Media with Sound' or 'Never Auto-Play'.
Once you've made your choice, click elsewhere to make the box disappear. (If you have a change of heart you can go back at any time and change your settings for the site.)
Note that you'll still be able to watch videos on the chosen site - they'll just have a play button now, instead of playing spontaneously. For more advice of this kind, read our roundup of Safari tips for Mac.
Safari (Sierra and earlier)
Safari has a debug menu that can be used to stop autoplaying video, but first we need to activate the debug menu using Terminal.
Quit Safari (hit Cmd + Q, or click Safari > Quit Safari), and then open the Terminal app (you'll find it in Applications > Utilities). Enter the following text, then hit return.
defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeInternalDebugMenu 1
Close Terminal, and reopen Safari. You'll see a new option at the righthand end of the top menu bar: Debug. Click this, then select Media Flags > Disallow Inline Video.
That's it! (If you want to get rid of that Debug menu option, go back to Terminal and enter
defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeInternalDebugMenu 0
Perhaps because its business model is advertising-based, Google currently appears less inclined than Apple to help you block autoplay videos in Chrome. Fortunately, the company's customisation-friendly approach means it's fairly easy to install a third-party tool to do the same thing.
Your best bet is probably to install a free Chrome extension called Disable HTML5 Autoplay. Click ADD TO CHROME, then when the dialogue box asks "Add Disable HTML5 Autoplay?", click 'Add extension'.
You'll see a small icon (a red octagon with a white triangle in it) appear to the right of your URL/search bar. Click this, and from the resultant dropdown menu select 'Disable autoplay' so that it turns green. The icon should now be a darker red, showing
(We found it awkward at dealing with currently open tabs - we activated the blocker in one tab but then had to go through other and repeat the process. However, new tabs were set to block autoplay. If you want autoplay blocked in multiple tabs we recommend closing down Chrome and restarting, remembering to set the first one to block.)
How to disable flash video in Chrome
Because the extension deals with HTML 5, flash-based video may still be able to autoplay - this is particularly likely to be the case with Facebook videos, which at time of writing are still flash-based. (Note that we discuss specific settings to disable autoplay videos in Facebook in its own section later in this article.)
If you find the problem persists, you may wish to disable flash in Chrome settings.
In the top menu, click Chrome > Preferences to open the Settings menu. Scroll down and click Advanced at the bottom, then under 'Privacy and security', select Content Settings, and then Flash.
In this section you can click the top option and 'Block sites from running Flash', which should put paid to any remaining autoplay videos - but may wipe out some stuff you would like to access, and even videos that you'd like to play when you're good and ready. For finer control you can add sites to specifically black- or whitelist.
Here's how to block autoplaying HTML5 videos in Firefox:
- Type about:config in the browser's address bar. Hit enter, then click 'I accept the risk!' if you get the warning.
- Using the field at the top, search for media.autoplay.enabled.
- When you find that preference, double-click it and the entry for Value will change from true to false. Double-click again to change it back.
One of the places where you see autoplaying videos the most is on Facebook: it's been designed in such a way that videos start playing (silently, in the past, although Facebook is apparently starting to change that) as soon as you scroll past them. If you want to disable these, you can do so easily in your account settings.
Click the downward-pointing arrow on the far right of the site's top menu bar, and from the dropdown menu that appears, click Settings. Select Videos (the bottom option on the left) and next to 'Autoplay Videos', change the option to Off.
Note that, as the settings page warns, this applies only to when you view Facebook online. To disable autoplaying videos in the iOS app, tap the 'hamburger' icon at the bottom right of the screen, then go down to Settings > Account Settings > Videos and Photos > Auto-play. You can choose On Mobile Data and Wi-Fi Connections, On Wi-Fi Connections Only or Never Autoplay Videos.