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Do VPNs Block Ads?

Headshot of Top10VPN.com Site Editor Callum Tennent

Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society. Read full bio

Our Verdict

VPN services do not block ads by default, but some VPNs include ad blockers designed to stop annoying ads and block trackers. However, based on our testing, even the best VPN ad blockers do not block 100% of ads.

For this guide, we’ve tested every VPN ad blocker and we reveal which work the best.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your web traffic and hides your IP address, but does it also block ads?

We’ve tested every genuine VPN ad blocker to see which ones actually work.

In this guide, we explain our ad block results and rank each VPN ad blockers from best to worst. You’ll find out if VPNs can really block ads, how effective they are, and how to reliably block ads with a VPN.

SUMMARY: PIA’s MACE is the best VPN ad blocker we’ve tested, blocking over 90% of ads and trackers in total. Try PIA VPN risk-free for 30 days today!

Can VPNs Block Ads?

Not all VPNs can block ads. By default, a VPN is designed to change your IP address and encrypt your web traffic, not block ads.

However, because ad blockers are associated with online protection, many VPN services now claim ad blocking capabilities as part of a larger internet security package.

In other words, the answer is: with the right VPN subscription, you can also block ads using a VPN.

We’ve identified 16 VPNs that have genuine, working ad blockers. In the table below contains a complete list of these VPNs along with information about their device compatibility:

We used an objective ad block checker to test the performance of every VPN ad blocker and find out which ones can actually block ads. Here are our results:

vpn-ad-blocker-overall-performance-bar-chart

Of the 16 VPN ad blockers we tested, 13 blocked over 50% of ads and trackers. PIA MACE, Atlas VPN Safebrowse Plus, and IVPN AntiTracker performed the best, blocking over 90% of all ads and trackers.

The most effective VPN ad and tracker blocker overall is PIA Mace. It blocked over 80% of ads, 66% of social trackers, and 100% of analytic trackers over the course of three tests, spread over a week.

IVPN AntiTracker blocked the most ads, preventing 100% of intrusive ads when used in ‘Hardcore Mode’. It also scored higher than PIA Mace for social trackers, but less when it came to analytic trackers.

However, IVPN’s Hardcore Mode blocks some legitimate sites entirely, including Google and YouTube.

You can see IVPN’s AntiTracker working in the video below:

IVPN's AntiTracker Hardcore Mode blocked 94% of all ads and trackers.

PIA, IVPN, and Atlas VPN performed better than NordVPN’s Threat Protection (formerly CyberSec), which only blocked 60% of ads, 66% of analytic trackers, and 33% of analytic trackers.

You should avoid VPN ad blockers from VPNArea, Perfect Privacy, and Hotspot Shield. These performed the worst in our tests. Perfect Privacy failed to block any ads whatsoever.

Here’s a table summarizing how effective each VPN ad blocker was in our tests, along with the percentage of each ad type blocked:

Can a VPN Block YouTube, Spotify & Google Ads?

SUMMARY: VPN ad blockers are good at blocking banner ads and some video ads. However, our tests show that VPN ad blockers are limited in what types of ads they can block – particularly embedded ad content. They cannot block YouTube or Twitch intro video ads, Facebook sponsored ads, or Spotify premium ads. They do block Google ads well, though.

VPN ad blockers are unable to block all types of ads on Google, Spotify, Twitch, YouTube, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, VPN ad blockers can block banner and video ads on sites like YouTube, Twitch, and Spotify, as well as Google search result ads.

We tested all of the VPN ad blockers on five popular websites and apps that run annoying or intrusive ads. Here are the results:

We found that VPNs are completely unable to block Facebook ads, which are hardcoded into the website.

No VPN was able to block ads on all the popular websites we tested. Astrill VPN, Atlas VPN, and NordVPN were all able to block ads on three out of five websites we tested. TorGuard, Perfect Privacy, and Hotspot Shield performed the worst, failing to block any ads.

Astrill, NordVPN, PIA, and Windscribe are all able to block Google ads. In the video below, we show you how easy it is to block Google ads using NordVPN’s Threat Protection.

NordVPN's Threat Protection easily blocks ads from appearing on Google search results

When it comes to Spotify, the best a VPN ad blocker can do is stop banner and video ads. However, you cannot remove advertisements for Spotify premium.

VPNs are also hit and miss when it comes to blocking Twitch ads. We found that connecting to a non-US IP address would greatly reduce the chance of seeing ads, but only a handful of VPNs were able to stop pre-roll and mid-roll video ads from appearing.

VPN ad blockers can prevent ads on YouTube, but only certain types. Many VPN ad blockers can stop banner ads appearing over the top of the YouTube video you’re watching, but they cannot stop pre-roll ads.

Ad Blocker vs VPN: Do I Need an Ad Blocker If I Have a VPN?

SUMMARY: Some VPNs offer ad blockers, but VPNs do not specialize in blocking ads. VPNs are most effective at blocking malicious websites and third-party trackers. For this reason, it’s well worth getting a reliable ad blocking extension that prevents ad content on top of your VPN. This way you combine anti-tracker and ad blocker technology for maximum protection.

You might still need an ad blocker even if your VPN has an ad blocker included. As our test results show, even the best VPN ad blocker does not block 100% of ads.

The only one that does is IVPN when used in ‘Hardcore Mode’. But we don’t recommend it as you cannot even access Google or other legitimate sites when turned on.

The second best is Atlas VPN, which blocks 87% of ads on average.

What many VPN services call ‘ad blockers’ are actually closer to DNS site filters and anti-trackers. VPN ad blockers work as malicious site blockers and tracker blockers, but are rarely the same as ad blockers, even if some VPNs conflate them.

Malicious site blocking, or DNS filtering, uses blacklists to prevent you from landing on a website which is known to host malware, adware, or spam.

Anti-trackers prevent third-party network connection requests, making it harder for third parties (like advertisers and data brokers) to gather data from the websites you visit and build a profile of your online behavior.

ivpn-antitracker-settings

Most VPN ‘ad blockers’ work as anti-trackers and malicious site filters

This is how most VPN ad blockers work. DNS blocking and tracker blocking are called ad blockers because they prevent adware and discourage targeted digital ads. They also have privacy benefits, and encourage a consent-based approach to online browsing.

But they do not block ads in the way an ad blocker like uBlock Origin does. Compared to a VPN, a traditional ad blocker works by analyzing the web page for ad codes. If it detects ad code, it blocks ad content from appearing. You can see an example of how this works in our tests for NordVPN’s CyberSec ad blocker.

The truth is that most VPN ‘ad blockers’ are effective at anti-tracking and avoiding malicious sites, but less effective at blocking ads. For example, ExpressVPN has a Threat Manager feature to block trackers and malicious sites, but ExpressVPN does not have an ad blocker.

expressvpn-threat-manager

ExpressVPN blocks trackers and malicious websites but not ads

Other VPNs like IVPN, Norton Secure VPN, and SurfEasy have what appears to be an ad blocker but are actually tracker blockers. When we asked Surfshark VPN how it’s CleanWeb ad blocker worked, they replied:

“It is a DNS-based ad blocking solution (blocking tracked and malicious websites as well).”

This is helpful, but it won’t stop ad content from appearing on the websites you’re visiting.

VPNs that don’t have any type of ad or tracker blocker include:

  • Hide.me
  • IPVanish
  • PrivateVPN
  • PureVPN
  • StrongVPN
  • VPN.ac

Even VPNs with listed ad blockers play down their usefulness. Take our exchange with a representative from Astrill VPN:

“It can or may block ads but it is not 100% that it will block all ads”

astrill-live-chat-ad-block-conversation

Astrill VPN denied having an ad blocker before playing it down.

The solution is to combine your VPN’s anti-tracker technology with a reliable ad blocker extension like uBlock Origin, which analyzes code for ad content and then blocks it.

Using a more private browser alongside this will provide maximum protection against ad tracking, dangerous websites, and ad content.

How to Block Ads with a VPN

With a working VPN ad blocker, it’s very easy to block website ads. In the video below, we show how to block ads on Forbes using Atlas VPN.

VPNs can block ads on websites like Forbes.

Here’s how to block ads with a VPN:

  1. If you want to block ads with your VPN, you first need a VPN that actually has an ad blocker. We recommend Private Internet Access.
  2. Once you’ve downloaded the VPN, you’ll need to activate its ad block feature. They go by different names, but are usually found under the Preferences or Settings menu. Using Private Internet Access as an example, first head to Settings.
  3. Then, from the menu, select Privacy and toggle on PIA MACE.
  4. With the ad blocker now switched on, you need to connect to a VPN server to start blocking ads (and any other trackers or malware included as part of the VPN’s security suite).
  5. Now use an ad block tester to see if it’s working. For YouTube you can use a video test.

The Best VPN Ad Blockers: Tested & Ranked

We’ve developed a comprehensive testing criteria for assessing the best VPN ad blockers.

Based on ad blocker test performance, manual site tests, and the number of devices/browsers the ad blocker can be used across (macOS, Windows, iPhone, Android, Chrome, and Firefox), here are the VPN ad blockers ranked best to worst:

The five best paid and free VPN ad blockers are:

1. PIA MACE: Blocks 80% of Ads Across All Devices

PIA MACE ad blocker works against ads, trackers, and malware across all popular devices.

PROS CONS
  • Blocks 80% of online ads
  • Stops Google and Spotify ads
  • Blocks 100% of analytics
  • Easy to use ad, tracker, and malware blocker
  • Works on all devices and browsers
  • Affordable premium pricing
  • No ad block customization
  • Doesn’t block Twitch or YouTube ads
  • Cannot whitelist domains
  • Not available on iOS

PIA MACE is the best VPN ad blocker according to our testing criteria. It blocks a large majority of ads, all analytic trackers, and most social trackers. It stops Google and Spotify ads, it’s available across devices and browsers, and it’s extremely easy to use.

Here’s a breakdown of its ad and tracker blocking performance:

 

pia-mace-ad-blocker-performance-bar-chart

PIA MACE scores well in ad block tests.

Like all VPN ad blockers, MACE isn’t perfect. It won’t work to block Facebook, Twitch, or YouTube ads. There also aren’t any customization options. MACE Is an on/off feature, and there’s no ability to whitelist certain domains.

PIA says its ad blocker works like this:

MACE returns IP addresses of unwanted domain names as an address that’s not routable on the public internet.

pia-mace-ad-blocker

Private Internet Access comes with a toggle on ad, tracker, and malware blocker.

PIA uses publicly available blocklists and updates its list of malicious websites once a month, ensuring nothing slips through. It doesn’t whitelist its own ads or any of its commercial partners, or only block those of its competitors.

MACE won’t block all ads, but as it’s such a simple, toggle-on feature, it’s worth using if you’re already a PIA user. MACE might even speed up page loading times as it’s preventing most ads from showing up.

PIA MACE isn’t free, but a subscription only costs $2.19. This makes it one of the cheapest VPNs, but it’s also one of the best VPNs. As a VPN, PIA is fast, no logs, and comes with a large server network.

2. NordVPN Threat Protection: Blocks Majority of Ads

Threat Protection (CyberSec) blocks most ads and analytic trackers across all devices and browsers, including Windows, Android, macOS, and iPhone.

PROS CONS
  • Blocks majority of ads across the web
  • Effective ad blocker for Google and Twitch
  • Customizable ad blocker
  • Includes anti-tracker, anti-malware, and file scans
  • Real time data
  • Works on all devices and browsers
  • Blocks less ads on average than PIA and Atlas VPN
  • Can’t stop Spotify ads
  • Occasionally blocks legitimate sites
  • Doesn’t stop majority of social trackers

NordVPN’s Threat Protection (formerly CyberSec) is one of the most popular VPN ad blockers and it scores very well in our ad blocker tests. It’s available across all popular devices and browsers, it’s customizable, and includes real-time data about ads and trackers blocked.

Here’s a breakdown of its ad blocker test performance:

 

NordVPN blocks the majority of ads and analytic trackers.

You can read more about how well NordVPN blocks ads in our detailed analysis of Threat Protection’s ad blocking performance.

3. Atlas VPN Safebrowse Plus: Blocks 87% of Ads for macOS & Android

Safebrowse Plus works well against the vast majority of ads and trackers but is only available on macOS and Android.

PROS CONS
  • Highest average ad block success (87%)
  • Blocks majority of analytic and social trackers
  • Blocks Spotify, Twitch & YouTube ads
  • One of the cheapest VPNs
  • Real time data
  • Very easy to use
  • Only available on macOS & Android
  • Doesn’t block Google ads
  • No whitelister feature
  • Free version doesn’t include ad blocker

Atlas VPN’s Safebrowse Plus blocks the largest number of ads on average, but it’s let down by the limited number of devices you can use it on. Atlas VPN’s ad blocker isn’t available on Windows or iOS. Here’s a breakdown of its average performance on macOS and Android:

 

Atlas VPN blocks the most number of ads.

In our own manual tests we found that Atlas VPN worked to block some YouTube, Spotify, and Twitch ads. But, as with all VPN ad blockers, it won’t block everything, such as pre-roll ads. It was particularly disappointing that Safebrowse Plus failed to block Google ads.

We like how easy Safebrowse Plus is to use – it’s a toggle on/off feature. But this comes at the cost of customization. Like with PIA MACE, you cannot whitelist certain sites.

Safebrowse Plus is a simple on/off ad blocker.

Atlas VPN has a free version, but Safebrowse Plus is reserved for premium subscribers. That’s disappointing if you want a free VPN ad blocker. But it only costs $1.99, making it one of the cheapest VPNs.

It’s not worth subscribing to Atlas VPN for Safebrowse Plus alone. It’s not effective 100% of the time, and it won’t stop embedded ad content from appearing, but it can help against malware, trackers, and pop up banners. Atlas also scores well in our VPN testing, making it a viable VPN generally.

How to Use Atlas VPN’s Safebrowse Plus Ad Blocker

In the short video below you can see how easy it is to use Atlas VPN’s ad blocker, Safebrowse Plus. It is included as part of the paid version of Atlas VPN and automatically connects you to a VPN server when toggled on.

Atlas VPN's Safebrowse Plus is an easy to use, toggle-on ad blocker.

The Best Free VPN Ad Blocker Services

1. Windscribe Ad Crusher: The Best Free VPN Ad Blocker

Ad Crusher is the best free ad blocker, and comes with a cookie blocker. But it’s only available as a browser extension.

PROS CONS
  • Excellent free VPN ad blocker
  • Blocks ads even when not connected to a server
  • Blocks 100% of analytic trackers
  • Customization options
  • Includes cookie blocker & malware evader
  • Stops Google and some YouTube ads
  • Chrome and Firefox extension only

Windscribe has the best free VPN ad blocker. It blocks ads without being connected to a VPN server, stops all analytic trackers, and has extensive customizable options.

The problem is that it’s not included as part of the full VPN app (this is reserved for premium Windscribe users). It’s a browser extension only, so can only be used on Chrome and Firefox.

Windscribe Ad Crusher Extension

Windscribe’s Ad Crusher is an effective free ad blocker.

Windscribe’s ad blocker is impressive for the sheer number of customization options and for the fact it’s completely free. You can select to block ads, trackers, evaders, and even cookies. Premium VPN ad blockers from Proton VPN, Surfshark, and Atlas VPN don’t offer the same level of control.

But this is limited to browser users only. Windscribe’s free ad crusher isn’t included as part of the full VPN app. Only Chrome and Firefox users can reap the benefits of ad crusher.

If you are a Windscribe subscriber, you can activate the ad and malware blocker via R.O.B.E.R.T on your account page and use it on all Windscribe apps.

Windscribe ad crusher will block Google ads and some YouTube ads. Ad block checkers show that, on average, Windscribe will block 80% of all online ads.

2. TunnelBear Blocker: Blocks 87% of Ads

Free ad blocker extension stops the majority of ads and comes with extensive customization options.

PROS CONS
  • Completely free ad blocker
  • Blocks majority of ads and trackers
  • Plenty of customization options
  • Blocks Twitch & YouTube banner ads
  • Real time data
  • Pleasant design and easy to use
  • Browser extension only
  • Not a VPN: won’t change your IP address

TunnelBear Blocker isn’t technically a VPN ad blocker as there is no VPN component to the browser extension. You cannot change your IP address using it. However, it is considered an add-on to the main TunnelBear VPN product.

TunnelBear Block Extension

TunnelBear Blocker is a free-to-install browser extension.

TunnelBear Blocker makes the list because it’s super easy to install and use, it’s nicely designed, and it comes with useful customization options and real time information about the ads being blocked.

For a free blocker, it performed very well in our ad block tests. TunnelBear Blocker blocked 87% of ads – joint highest with Atlas VPN – and 94% of all analytic trackers.

You can tell TunnelBear Blocker to block ads, pixel tracking, social buttons, and even your microphone. It doesn’t have Windscribe’s cookie blocker but it’s still an impressive collection of customizable options.

tunnelbear-blocker-settings-menu

TunnelBear Blocker comes with a number of blocker options.

But the fact is that there are better free ad blocker extensions out there, like uBlock Origin, meaning there’s no real reason to install TunnelBear Blocker.

Methodology: How We Test VPN Ad Blockers

To figure out the best VPN ad blockers, we first identified all the major VPN services that offer legitimate ad blockers. Many VPNs advertise ad blockers that are, in actual fact, more like malware blockers or tracker blockers. We excluded those that don’t include ad blockers.

Once these genuine VPN ad blockers were identified, we tested the efficacy of each ad blocker by running them through an objective ad blocker test. Because results do not always replicate, we ran each ad blocker through the tester on three separate occasions and worked out an average performance. This testing made up 50% of our overall score.

We then tested each ad blocker on five major, specific websites that people want effective ad blockers for: Google, YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, and Twitch. How well each ad blocker performed here made up 30% of its overall score.

However, many ads on these websites and services cannot be blocked. We evaluate performance here based only on ads that it is only possible to block, such as banners and pop ups. That excludes Spotify premium ads and Facebook feed ads, for example.

Finally, we gave higher scores to the VPN ad blockers that can be used across a wide range of devices, including macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android. If the VPN ad blocker is exclusive to browsers, it would score lower to those that work on a device basis. This made up 20% of the overall ad blocker score.

VPN Ad Block FAQ

How Do I Stop Ads on a VPN?

There are hundreds of free VPNs available, and almost all of them use ads. There’s no way to get around this: pushing ads is one way for a free VPN service to make money and the ads are hardcoded into the app.

The way to stop ads from appearing on your VPN is to subscribe to a premium VPN service. Buying a VPN means you won’t experience pop-up ads and annoying requests to upgrade. It also means you can avoid the dangers of free VPNs.

If cost is an issue, you can still get a quality VPN at a cheap price.

About the Author


  • Headshot of Top10VPN.com Site Editor Callum Tennent

    Callum Tennent

    Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society. Read full bio