Annoyed by adverts online and want to get rid of them? You've come to the right place. In this article we explain how to block adverts on your Mac, using a variety of free and paid-for tools on the Safari and Chrome web browsers.
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.
We'll start with blocking adverts in the Mac version of Apple's own web browser, Safari.
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.
As a general rule, you can activate Reader mode at any time: depending on the version of Safari you'll need to click the Reader button next to the URL bar, select View > Show Reader or hit Shift-Command-R. (Some pages won't open in this form, however: home pages, for example, tend not to.)
But in Safari 11, the version that comes with macOS High Sierra, you can be more sophisticated and tell Safari to always open article pages from particular domains in Reader mode - or even to use Reader by default all the time.
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 remove domains from the Reader list in Safari's Preferences page. Go to the Websites pane and select Reader in the lefthand column. Select a website, click the menu to the right of it and select Off.
At the bottom of this page you'll see another option: 'When visiting other websites'. Set this to On and Reader will be activated by default on all compatible web pages.
A quick tip that will stop unwanted popups: go to Safari Preferences and select the Security tab. Now put a tick next to 'Block pop-up windows'.
Third-party ad blockers
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 recommendation would be the donation-ware Safari extension AdBlock, which deals with graphical ads, text ads and even ads in YouTube videos. It also lets you whitelist sites whose adverts you do want to see, to support them or because the ads may be useful.
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 $20 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.
Ad tracker blockers
There's a growing suspicion that Apple isn't overly fond of the advertising industry, and beyond the Reader mode discussed above we wouldn't be surprised if the company added full-on ad blocking features to Safari at some point in the future.
For the time being, however, it has only added the ability to block ad trackers to macOS (and iOS, for that matter). If you've got High Sierra, you can prevent advertisers from installing cookies that track your movements around the web - that apparently crucial strategy that allows products to 'follow' you from one site to another.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the feature, called Intelligent Tracking Prevention, requests that advertisers do not track you - but most major and reputable ad networks should honour this request.
Open Safari's preferences. (Click Safari > Preferences.)
Select the Privacy icon, and look in the 'Website tracking' section. Select the option 'Ask websites not to track me'.
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.
Let's start by disabling popups, something which can be done from Chrome's own settings - no need to install any extensions.
Open Chrome's settings by selecting Chrome > Preferences, or press Cmd and the command button. Scroll down and click 'Show advanced settings'.
Below the heading Privacy, click the button labelled 'Content settings'. Scroll down again and look for the heading Pop-ups. Choose 'Do not allow any site to show pop-ups (recommended)' - or select 'Manage exceptions' if you want to let some websites get away with it.
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.)
'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 Instapaper. 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.