15 Downloads That Will Block Annoying Ads and Pop-Ups
If you surf the Web, you've seen every type of ad imaginable, from pop-ups and pop-unders to noisy banner ads to the now-ubiquitous fly-ins and slide-ins. Fight back with blockers that promise to eliminate most, if not all, of these pesky Web ads. And for some real fun, test your current ad blocker against some of the toughest pop-ups I've seen at the Pop-Up Test site or the Pop-Up Killer site.
Most of these ad and pop-up blockers are freebies or have free trials, so give one a go. If its performance isn't up to your standards, uninstall it and try others until you find one that's a perfect fit with the way you browse.
Want my secret weapon for blocking ads? It's Ad Muncher, one of the most effective (and just as important, simple-to-use) ad and pop-up blockers I've ever encountered. Granted, Ad Muncher will set you back $30 (it has a 30-day trial), but I promise that it blocks 98 percent of banner, Flash, floating, pop-up, inline, and text ads. Ad Muncher has other useful features, too, such as an anonymous proxy server to disguise yourself while surfing.
If a Web site doesn't work correctly, or if you want a site's pop-up to pop up, the fix is easy. Just right-click Ad Muncher's icon in the system tray, choose the My Filters tab, click New, cut and paste the address into the Keyword field, choose No Filtering in the Filter Category, and click Close. And if you have any trouble, right-click on the offending page to have the program send the developers a detailed report. Better yet, use Ad Muncher's live chat feature: Chances are good that you'll get answers directly from the guy who programmed Ad Muncher.
For more about Ad Muncher, browse to "Ad Muncher: The Only Way to Block Ads."
Price: $30 (30-day free trial)
PopUp Ad SmasheR
PopUp Ad SmasheR has a weird name, but it stops most of the typical browsing annoyances in Internet Explorer. You can configure it to stop pop-up and pop-under ads, animated and floating ads, Flash ads, timer ads (which can prevent you from accessing a Web page), deceiving dialog box ads, and message box ads.
In my tests it worked well, though it allowed a couple of static ads to slip through. Its "Smart Pop-Up" feature permitted some pop-ups to appear, too, until I tweaked the settings. The Ad Control feature gave me a way to allow, or block, specific pop-ups and ads--or to block everything on a site. Unfortunately, applying the rules, even through the wizard, is a little kludgy and takes multiple steps.
The program also keeps browser helper objects from downloading, removes Web bugs, and automatically cleans your Temp folder. You can configure any of the settings to meet your security needs.
Ad SmashR is free to try and only $20 to keep. If you find IE's security settings and pop-up stopper lacking, this program is worth a try.
Price: $20 (15-day free trial)
Ad Annihilator is good--very good, in fact--at blocking pop-up ads, banner ads, Flash ads, and other distractions, including cookies. Once you've started blocking ads, the program's "suppression mechanism" (which sounds like an antibiotic) recognizes and kills similar banners and pop-up windows. If you identify a keyword or character string that often appears in ads, you can add it to the program's Web content filtering and blocking feature.
The application also gives you options to block specific ads and pop-ups from the right-click menu in Internet Explorer.
A warning, however: Unlike other, set-and-forget ad blockers, Ad Annihilator is a geeky tool. You'll need some spare time to configure it perfectly. Ad Annihilator works with any version of Windows, but only with Internet Explorer (5.0 and newer). After the 15-day trial, you'll have to pony up $30 to keep using Ad Annihilator.
Price: $30 (15-day free trial)
AdBarricade is a network-based ad-blocking service that supplies you with new DNS (Domain Name System) numbers; as a result, ads are blocked before they get near your PC. You have nothing to install, and the service works with every browser and operating system.
To make the change, you'll need to reset your PC's DNS numbers; if you're running Windows XP, use AdBarricade's downloadable program to handle the task. (If other people are on your network and want to use AdBarricade, you'll have to make the change manually through the router.) Be sure to download AdBarricade's small autoremove tool, as well, just in case the new DNS settings prevent you from accessing the Internet.
AdBarricade does a terrific job of killing banner ads, and a reasonable job of blocking most Flash ads. Unfortunately, in my tests the service had no effect on pop-ups, pop-unders, or fly-ins, so you'll still need to use a free pop-up blocker. You can give AdBarricade a workout for seven days; if you like its performance, it'll cost you $20 per year.
If you're interested in speeding up your Internet connection, consider changing your PC's DNS settings. You can read about how to do it, and the service that can help you do it, in "25 Web Sites to Watch" (scroll to OpenDNS).
Price: $20 per year
Super Ad Blocker
Super Ad Blocker tackles even the most annoying ads, including pop-ups, banners, and the distracting fly-in and slide-in types. It works nicely on all counts; if you're curious about how well it does, you can obtain detailed logs for all the blocked ads. Super Ad Blocker comes with a comprehensive configuration panel showing you its options for stopping ads, including those that annoy you while you're using instant messaging programs.
The program is smart, too, in that it lets you stop images from animating and allow pop-ups from secure sites, such as Microsoft. For an extra level of security, Super Ad Blocker includes cookie- and history-cleaning tools, plus an antispyware scanner. Take the program for a spin in either Firefox or Internet Explorer for 15 days; if you decide that it's a keeper, it will cost you $30.
Price: $30 (15-day free trial)
ZeroAds tries to remove all types of ads, but it's most proficient at blocking simple banners and pop-ups; it didn't touch most of the Flash ads on the sites I tried. The program includes a cookie remover and an active antispyware module. The 15-day trial will help you decide how well the $30 product works at blocking ads on the sites you visit.
Price: $30 (15-day free trial)
The free KillAd adequately removes pop-ups and tries its best to eliminate banners and other ads, such as Flash, but it's not always effective. It has no standard installation process, either: You'll need to unzip KillAd, move it to a folder, and manually add it to your startup group.
Popup Free is a small, no-frills tool that stops pop-up, banner, and Flash ads, and loads into the system tray when Internet Explorer launches. It halts most banners and some Flash ads reasonably well, yet has trouble stopping slide-in and fly-across ads. If Popup Free nails a legitimate pop-up window, you can add the item to your whitelist to let it through in the future. The tool is free, but to continue using it, you'll need to obtain a free registration code within 14 days.
Browser Add-Ons and Extensions
Take it from Firefox fanatics: If you want to stop ads, use Adblock Plus, one of the most popular Firefox extensions around. Installation is a snap--just download Adblock Plus, and while you're in Firefox, click Install Now. Once the free extension is installed, it blocks pesky online ads based on their source URLs, so if you're not interested in fiddling, you can just let Adblock Plus do its thing. Undoubtedly you'll run into an ad that wasn't blocked (or an image that was but shouldn't have been). Just right-click on the ad, select Adblock Image from the context menu, and blast the ad into the bit bucket. And if you're a tweaker, you can bring up Adblock's Preferences (also from the context menu) and create your own filter rules.
For more on lots of cool Firefox (and Internet Explorer) add-ons, check out our "Build the Perfect Browser" feature. Then turn to "15 Undocumented Firefox Tips" and learn how to customize your browser.
Google Toolbar Pop-Up Blocker
You probably know the Google Toolbar as a terrific search tool for Internet Explorer or Firefox. But it also comes with a free pop-up blocker that works as well as some of the pricey ones do; it's amazingly accurate at diagnosing and blocking pop-ups that I don't want to see while letting "good" pop-ups appear. The toolbar supports Web-based bookmarking, and throws in a spelling checker and an automatic form-filling feature.
You say you're using Firefox? No sweat: A version of Google Toolbar is available for you, too.
Google's toolbar has plenty more to offer, and you can read about it in "First Look: Google--The Toolbar You'll Keep" (the article is a tad old, but the info is still current).
Yahoo's free Toolbar fits snugly into your browser, right under the address field, and protects you from pesky pop-ups.
Unfortunately, it doesn't do anything about the other annoyances, namely banner and Flash ads. If you don't find those bothersome, however, Yahoo's customizable Toolbar might be the choice for you. It's loaded with other features, too, including competent Web searches, the ability to check Yahoo Mail, and free Norton antivirus and antispyware scans. The Yahoo Toolbar also lets you create Web-based bookmarks that are separate from your system-based bookmarks, ideal if your other browsers also have the Yahoo Toolbar installed.
IE AdBlock is a small, unobtrusive, set-and-forget freebie that removes many but not all pop-ups, banner ads, and other annoyances. Unfortunately, the tool doesn't know how to handle Flash ads, and it doesn't give you a way to modify the blocking filters.
If you want a smart, free add-on for Internet Explorer, download IE7Pro. The free tool has tons of ways to make IE easier to use, and you can access everything via one button in the Status bar.
IE7Pro stomps on banner and Flash ads (it successfully removed most ads of that type from the sites I visited), but it has a tougher time removing pop-up ads; in my tests, most pop-ups passed through like water through a sieve. But IE7Pro isn't just about ad blocking.
The tool provides helpful functions that plain IE doesn't, such as Super Drag Drop, a way to drag a link to any spot on the page to open a new tab, and Mouse Gestures, a cool feature that lets you scroll, open, close, and navigate through open tabs. It also has a built-in spelling checker and a handy recovery feature just in case IE takes a nosedive and crashes.
Quero Toolbar 4
Quero Toolbar 4 is a free toolbar for Internet Explorer that blocks pop-ups, banners, Flash ads, framed ads, layered ads, and even Google text ads; it's also a great search helper with access to 18 search tools. In addition, Quero has an array of other useful features, including a means to change IE's windows into prearranged sizes, modify the size of the text on a page, and guard against phishing expeditions.
One nice touch is that you can add plenty of other search-engine choices to the 18 engines that Quero already has in its search box. What's more, you can separate the collection of search engines into categories, such as "shopping" or "help sites."
Another cool feature: You can use Quero to bring the more familiar look of Internet Explorer 6 to the IE 7 interface. For instance, after installing the toolbar, choose Hide standard address/navigation bar under the Appearance option, and then move the menu bar back up top. Quero Toolbar 4 works with any version of Windows, but only with Internet Explorer (5.0 and newer).
Whether you use Quero or not, you can save yourself some Web surfing grief by reading "Thwart the Three Biggest Internet Threats of 2007."
sQusi is an IE add-on and Firefox extension freebie that blocks ads, stops Flash and pop-ups, and nails Google's inline IntelliTXT. The program also automatically blocks cookies, stops embedded music players, and halts advertisers' Web beacons. It blocks ads embedded in Windows Messenger Live and Yahoo IM applications, too. The program lets you blacklist or whitelist entire sites and clean both Firefox and Internet Explorer cache folders, as well as remove cookies.