Today we’re going to talk about VPNs that have ad blockers built into them. In many cases, using a VPN with ad blocker features is an excellent strategy that offers many advantages over traditional ad blockers.
Here’s how an ad blocker VPN compares to other approaches to killing pesky ads and trackers:
Ad blocking browser extensions are a great solution, but they only work within certain browsers and can be slow and inefficient. Also, some of the most popular ad blocker extensions are known to accept payments to show their users “Acceptable Ads.”
Installing an ad blocker on your router protects everything on your network, but this can be difficult to set up and can be a real problem if the ad blocker conflicts with sites or services you need to access.
A VPN with ad blocking can efficiently protect everything on your operating system (all browsers and apps) through the VPN itself. Of course, this means you need to have the VPN connected, or whitelist certain apps or websites that you want to route outside of the encrypted tunnel.
Finding a quality VPN with a built-in ad blocker can be a time-consuming and annoying task. So we did the work for you.
First, we’ll give you a quick overview of each VPN, with particular emphasis on their ability to block ads. We’ll also include links to our in-depth review of each VPN if you want to learn more before investing your money.
Here are the best VPN ad blockers:
NordVPN – The best VPN with built-in ad blocking
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
NordVPN is currently the best VPN for blocking ads. They do everything you would expect of a great VPN, and are always hard at work implementing the latest in VPN technology. Most recently, they rolled out a custom VPN protocol (NordLynx) that provides full support for the super-fast, and extra-secure WireGuard VPN protocol. In our testing with NordLynx, we found NordVPN to be the fastest VPN with speeds up to 445 Mbps. It outperforms many other leading VPN services, as you can see in the NordVPN vs IPVanish comparison.
CyberSec, NordVPN’s ‘old’ ad blocker
One of the best features of NordVPN, however, is CyberSec. CyberSec goes beyond just blocking ads. It also blocks trackers, malware, and phishing domains that could infect your device. When your browser queries the NordVPN DNS servers, CyberSec consults a list of the IP addresses of websites (domains) known to host ads, malware, spyware, and trackers, and then filters (blocks) them from loading on your device in a fast and efficient manner.
When you visit a website that may be hosting questionable domains, such as ads and trackers, these domains will be automatically blocked from loading, without breaking the regular website you are visiting. CyberSec is extremely easy to enable and disable, which you can do directly in the NordVPN settings area of the VPN app:
Threat Protection, NordVPN’s ‘new’ ad blocker
NordVPN is now in the process of converting from CyberSec to Threat Protection. Threat Protection builds on CyberSec, adding protection from file malware to its repertoire. It scans files automatically as you download them, and deletes the file if it contains malware. You can also enable the deep scan feature. If Threat Protection cannot determine whether a downloaded file is safe, the app can upload the file to the cloud where an advanced malware detection system does a deep scan looking for trouble.
Even more impressive, Threat Protection keeps blocking website ads (and all the rest) even when you are not connected to a VPN server. Once you configure and enable Threat Protection, it will always be in the background protecting you whether you connect to a VPN server or not.
Now that we have covered how Nord VPN blocks ads, let’s examine some other features of this leading VPN service. Here are some of NordVPN’s best privacy and security features that we haven’t already covered:
- Double VPN server configurations, which pass traffic through two servers for additional security
- Tor-over-VPN servers that add an extra layer of protection through Tor’s anonymity
- Obfuscated servers, which make your VPN traffic look like HTTPS traffic to avoid notice by censors. (This is a great feature if you need a VPN for China and anywhere else that blocks VPNs.)
- 100% RAM-disk servers, to enhance your security by ensuring no user data is available on any VPN server.
- P2P servers, which are specifically optimized for torrenting and P2P filesharing. (NordVPN is a top choice if you need the best VPN for torrenting.)
- Leak-free and secure VPN apps, thanks to built-in leak protection with a VPN kill switch.
NordVPN has conducted independent audits of their security and their compliance with their published no-logs policy. NordVPN’s encryption is very strong, featuring an AES-256-GCM cipher and DHE-4096 key exchange for Perfect Forward Secrecy.
NordVPN is the best VPN for streaming content from major services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer. Their large worldwide server network connects you to streaming services, regardless of location. You can use the NordVPN app if you need a VPN for Firestick, TV boxes, or Smart TVs, or any other streaming device.
NordVPN has over 5,500 servers in 60 countries. They give you 24/7 live chat Customer Support, a very low price, and a 30 day money-back guarantee on all plans.
NordVPN’s one drawback
The main drawback of NordVPN:
- The discounted prices are only available with a multi-year subscription.
See our NordVPN review for more test results and analysis.
Surfshark – High-performance VPN with strong ad blocker and a low price
|Based in||The Netherlands|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
Despite being one of the newer VPNs (launched in 2018), Surfshark has become a premium VPN service. It has all the features you expect from a top-rated VPN service: tons of servers, high-end security, a solid no-logs policy, automatic leak protection, the ability to unblock major streaming services, and a variety of specialized servers and advanced capabilities.
And did we mention that Surfshark is really inexpensive and one of the only VPNs around to support an unlimited number of simultaneous connections, 24/7 live chat customer support, and a 30 day money-back guarantee?
CleanWeb, Surfshark’s whitelist equipped ad blocker
Now let’s examine how this VPN blocks ads with the CleanWeb feature, which is similar to NordVPN’s CyberSec.
Like CyberSec, CleanWeb maintains a huge list of websites (domains) known to be malicious, invasive (trackers), or simply to be serving ads. When your device makes a DNS query, CleanWeb checks to see if the domain’s IP address is on the naughty list. If so, it blocks content from that site. Unless you mark the domain as safe in Surfshark’s WhiteLister.
To enable CleanWeb, simply dip into the Features section of the Surfshark client and turn CleanWeb on. You can see this below in the Surfshark app that we used for testing:
In addition to blocking ads and malware with CleanWeb, Surfshark keeps your connection secure by using the strong AES-256-GCM cipher and your choice of the OpenVPN, IKEv2, or WireGuard VPN protocols.
Speaking of clients, Surfshark recently released a very nice new Linux VPN app. It is sharp looking and works well, freeing users from messing around with the command line simply to change servers, or adjust settings.
And Surfshark is one of the fastest ad blocker VPNs. In our tests for the Surfshark vs NordVPN comparison, speeds were similar with Surfshark approaching 400 Mbps on some servers. That’s far more than you would need for streaming HD content or any other high-bandwidth activity.
Speaking of streaming, Surfshark does a great job unblocking all types of media websites. It is one of the best VPNs for Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and many other streaming sites.
As of today, Surfshark has over 3,200 servers spread between 95 countries. And like we noted in our NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison, Surfshark also runs all servers in RAM-disk mode to ensure no data is ever available.
Like our other best VPN ad blocker picks, Surfshark provides 24/7 live chat support and a full 30 day money-back guarantee with all subscription plans.
Here are the drawbacks we found with Surfshark VPN:
- Limited support for VPN routers (but can still be used with most router firmware)
- Short-term subscriptions are expensive
See our Surfshark review for more test results and analysis.
Perfect Privacy – Extra intense security, privacy, and ad blocking protection
If the highest levels of privacy and security are your goal, Perfect Privacy merits consideration. Like NordVPN and Surfshark, Perfect Privacy has a strict no-logs policy, a kill switch, strong encryption, and several specialized features, including the intriguing NeuroRouting feature.
TrackStop, Perfect Privacy’s highly customizable ad blocker
But what we are really interested in right now is TrackStop, the Perfect Privacy VPN ad blocker that can also filter out many other undesirable domains. TrackStop works like the other VPNs that block ads in that it checks for malicious sites and advertising domains when anything on your device makes a DNS query. But as you can see below, it does a lot more than just blocking ads:
But TrackStop goes even further, with built-in Parental Controls, and customizable filters so you can decide which filters you want active on your device. While each of our featured VPNs blocks ads and malware, TrackStop gives you more control over what exactly you want to block.
No white-listing feature – One drawback with Perfect Privacy is that there’s no white-listing feature. This means that if TrackStop is blocking access to a website you want to access, you will need to turn off the VPN, which can affect your online privacy and security. Conversely, NordVPN and Surfshark have white-listing options for both desktop and mobile apps. This means that you can simply white-list a website or application if it is conflicting with your ad blocker instead of disabling your VPN.
Beyond blocking ads, Perfect Privacy offers full support for IPv6. While most VPN services still don’t support IPv6 at all, Perfect Privacy has been doing so for years. IPv6 is the wave of the future as the number of internet connected devices explodes. When IPv6 becomes urgent, Perfect Privacy users will be ready.
If you are looking for specialized servers, Perfect Privacy offers Stealth VPN, which disguises VPN traffic as normal HTTPS traffic, and Multi-hop VPN, which passes your traffic through up to FOUR (4) servers for massive encryption. (But we also find these features with NordVPN and Surfshark.)
Perfect Privacy has a few drawbacks
While Perfect Privacy has many advantages that put it on this list, it does have a few drawbacks.
- No white-listing feature
- Above-average prices
- Does not work well for unblocking streaming media services, such as Netflix
- Their server network is relatively small but fast
- No 24/7 live chat support
- Only a 7 day money back guarantee
See the Perfect Privacy review for more test results and analysis.
VPN.ac – Fast, secure ad blocking at a low price
VPN.ac is a Romanian VPN service with some great features at a reasonable price. In addition to being one of the best VPNs with ad blocking, it has earned a place on our list of the best cheap VPNs. But before we get into the full range of what VPN.ac can do, let’s talk about their ability to block ads.
SecureDNS, VPN.ac’s ad blocker
The VPN.ac ad blocker feature is named SecureDNS. It too uses DNS filtering to decide which content to pass on to your devices and which to block. Using its list of known problem domains, SecureDNS blocks:
- Malware and phishing domains
While SecureDNS works well, it could use a couple of improvements. It would be helpful to have multiple filter lists to choose from, like you can with TrackStop. Both SecureDNS and TrackStop could use a white list that would allow access to sites you specify even if they show up on a filter list. Right now you need to deactivate the VPN to visit sites that are on the SecureDNS filter list.
Here are some other features of VPN.ac.
VPN.ac offers partial WireGuard support. At the time of this review, their network supported WireGuard, but not their apps. You needed to install a third-party WireGuard app and manually configure it to work with VPN.ac.
The VPN.ac server network is fast and very secure. But it is small with around 130 servers spread across 26 countries. The network features both Multi-hop (double VPN) servers and obfuscated servers.
The obfuscated servers are a strength of this service. They give you the choice of many protocols and ports, along with servers preconfigured to deal with specific obstacles, such as the Great Firewall of China.
VPN.ac has a few drawbacks
VPN.ac has many benefits, but has a few potential drawbacks too. They include:
- A small network with limited features
- No 24/7 live chat support
- A 7 day money back guarantee
See our VPN.ac review for more test results and analysis.
Some VPN ad blockers that I do not recommended
There are a few other ad blocker VPNs available, but I don’t recommend them. Here are two VPN services that claim to be ad blockers but that you should definitely avoid:
CyberGhost ad blocker (traffic manipulation)
CyberGhost is interesting, but for the wrong reasons. Instead of filtering ads and malicious content via DNS requests, they actually look inside the traffic and modify requests to certain domains so they display content from CyberGhost instead.
This is a problem. First, a trustworthy VPN should never manipulate your traffic like this. Second, their system only works with http. Https connections are encrypted and CyberGhost cannot (easily) access that content.
Back in 2016, CyberGhost made headlines because they were installing their own root certificate on a user’s computer, effectively doing a man-in-the-middle attack on all https traffic. Not only was the traffic processed locally, it was also sent back to a CyberGhost server that decided what to change.
Here’s an excerpt from when this controversy originally surfaced in 2016 [original source now appears to be offline]:
A VPN that installed a root certificate in your computer (like the [CyberGhost 5] version) will be able to attack all your SSL-encrypted traffic. This is otherwise known as a Man-in-the-Middle attack. CyberGhost can intercept and decrypt all of the data that goes through the encrypted link – even sensitive information such as email addresses, passwords, and bank account details. And it can re-encrypt the data and pass it to the website like nothing happened.
Today CyberGhost doesn’t install a root certificate. But because they are still using the same methods to filter traffic, that means their “ad blocker” does not effectively block ads on HTTPS websites. Basically, CyberGhost’s ad blocker is barely working, especially since it will be ineffective on all HTTPS websites. We cover this more in our CyberGhost review.
We also found both streaming and performance to be major problems. Despite advertising Netflix compatibility, we found CyberGhost to be blocked by Netflix servers in the US. And CyberGhost’s performance is weak too, as you can see in our CyberGhost vs NordVPN comparison.
PureVPN’s ad blocker (does it even exist?)
PureVPN promises an ad-blocker on their website:
PureVPN’s ad-blocker removes all kinds of ads and online litter while you’re browsing online. In doing so, it improves your browsing speeds by blocking images from consuming bandwidth, and analytics codes and scripts running in the background of the page you’re browsing online.
But when you open up the PureVPN app, you see that there are no specific settings for ad blocking.
Meanwhile, the website claims, “Every subscription plan includes PureVPN’s Content Filtering features without any extra cost.”
When testing the PureVPN client on various news sites, all ads and tracking were getting through. There was no sign that it actually did block ads.
At this point, it was necessary to clarify with PureVPN what exactly was going on. Here is a transcript of the chat:
Visitor: Hello. I have a question about the ad-filter. Do i need to activate it, because it does not seem to be working
Visitor: for instance, i still see ads on theregister.co.uk and other sites
O’Brien: Well we do not provide add blocker with our service now
Visitor: huh? but it is advertised on your website? it says all plans include that
O’Brien: Could you please share with us the screen shot of that advertisement. It was offered in the past but not now
Visitor: sure one sec
O’Brien: Let me check – This is the content filtering and it does not
blocks any paid ad
Visitor: what does it block then?
O’Brien: This blocks the content which you don’t want to access.
It was clear that “O’Brien” was not going to provide any answers, so the chat was ended.
To follow-up on this pointless chat, the below questions were emailed to PureVPN support:
How do you define “Ads” in the context of your content filtering webpage?
What kind of content is being blocked, how is it determined?
How is the blocking of any content implemented technically?
PureVPN replied with a canned response and a random link that has absolutely nothing to do with ad blocking. PureVPN’s reply:
Thanks for contacting us. Ads can be quite annoying. Not only online popup advertisements ruin your browsing experience but they also end up leading you to malicious or spam URLs. Luckily, you can now block ads before they appear on your browser with PureVPN. Learn how to use content filtering and prevent ads.
The only conclusion I could reach is that PureVPN is not blocking ads and instead was carrying out false advertising. Of course, this is not their only questionable business practice. PureVPN also handed data logs to the FBI while claiming to be a “zero logs” VPN service. We discuss this more in our review of PureVPN.
Best VPNs with ad blockers – FAQ
Here are some Frequently-Asked Questions related to the best VPNs with built-in ad blocking:
Most ads today do two things: sell you something, and track your online activities. The first function is annoying (particularly those loud, flashing video ads), but not all bad. Ad revenue is the only source of income for many sites.
The “track your online activities” function is a real privacy threat. The online ads you see are usually accompanied by invisible bits of code called trackers. The trackers allow their creators to track where you go and what you do online.
Data like your IP address and browsing habits is gathered by tracking cookies then used to send you highly-targeted ads. hoping to get you to buy stuff. Both the advertiser and the website make money from those ads, propping up the entire privacy-invading system.
It isn’t actually the ads that track you; it is the tracker code that comes along with the ads. They use three main approaches to gather data about you: cookies, beacons, and fingerprinting.
Cookies are small files stored in your browser that help websites you visit identify you. Cookies can record data that helps you navigate a site, but they can also store data like your IP address.
Beacons are transparent images that get loaded when you load an ad. They are often 1 pixel by 1 pixel, making them unnoticeable to humans. Beacons can show a website how many times you loaded a page, and help advertisers find their ad impressions for monitoring the results of their ad campaigns.
Fingerprinting is done by recording information about your web browser and device settings. The ad company uses this information to identify you without even having to store anything on your device. (We have a guide on how to mitigate browser fingerprinting.)
No. An ad block VPN will only block video ads or text ads for anything that passes its data through the VPN “tunnel.” In addition, no ad blocking system is perfect, so some ads will always get through, even if all your traffic passes through the tunnel.
The best ad blocker VPNs protect your privacy by blocking ads from third-party ad domains that would install trackers on your device when they display their ads. By blocking the trackers, the VPN prevents the ad domains from collecting data about you.
An ad block VPN keeps you secure by preventing ad domains from installing trackers or malware on your device.
Conclusion: Combine a VPN with ad blocking for more privacy and security
The internet is getting clogged with annoying video ads, trackers, and junk of every type. Go to any major website and while you are looking at the content, your device will quietly be getting bombarded with junk of every type in the background. For example, I just popped over to CNN.com, where uBlock Origin reported that it blocked 33 ads or trackers trying to get into my computer.
A VPN with built in ad blocker is a powerful defense against the endless flood of junk that advertisers are trying to ram onto your device. It can protect everything connected to it at once. While no ad blocker is perfect, any of the VPNs we featured here make a great first line of defense. Add on a browser-based ad blocker like uBlock Origin, and together they will stop the vast majority of annoying ads and other junk being sent to your device.
VPN Ad Blocker Comparison Table
As a brief recap, here are the best VPNs with ad blockers that we have personally tested:
This VPN ad blocking guide was last updated on June 21, 2022.