Skip to content

What Are Pop-Up Ads? (And How to Block Them)

Chances are you‘ve encountered an annoying pop-up ad while browsing the internet. You‘re reading an article, and suddenly a flashy new window opens up displaying an advertisement. While pop-up ads can be harmless at times, other ones spread malware or try to scam users.

In this comprehensive web browsing guide, I‘ll walk through everything you need to know about pop-up ads, including:

  • What exactly are pop-up ads and how do they work?
  • The history and evolution of pop-up ads
  • Different types of pop-up ads to be aware of
  • Pros and cons for marketers using pop-ups
  • How to identify dangerous pop-up ads
  • Simple ways to block pop-ups on desktop and mobile
  • Recommended pop-up blocker extensions for extra protection
  • FAQs on common pop-up blocking questions

By the end, you‘ll have expert knowledge to stop annoying pop-up interruptions while browsing once and for all. Let‘s get started!

What Are Pop-Up Ads?

First, what exactly are pop-up ads?

A pop-up ad is an advertisement that automatically spawns a new web browser window. The ad pops up and overlays on top of the current website content you‘re viewing.

Pop-up ads first emerged in the late 1990s as online advertising grew in popularity. Marketers realized they could force web visitors to view ads by having them open unexpectedly.

While users find them disruptive, pop-up ads can succeed at grabbing attention. Studies show pop-up ads result in higher click-through rates compared to static banner ads.

According to statistics from WordStream, pop-up ads see conversion rates around 3% on average compared to a 0.35% conversion rate for banner ads.

Pop-ups function using JavaScript code that web developers embed on pages. When you perform certain actions like moving your mouse or scrolling, it triggers the code to launch the pop-up window.

The new window is generated by the site you‘re currently visiting, not the advertiser. The advertiser supplies the ad creative and the website serves the actual pop-up.

Next, let‘s look at how pop-up ads have evolved over the decades.

The History and Evolution of Pop-Up Ads

Pop-up ads have been annoying internet users for decades. Here‘s a quick history of how pop-up ads came to be:

  • 1990s – Simple pop-up ads emerge as online advertising picks up steam. They are mostly harmless promotion of websites.

  • Late 1990s – Pop-under ads appear where new browser windows open behind the current window you‘re viewing. More deceptive but avoidable.

  • Early 2000s – Pop-up ads explode in usage across the web. The term "pop-up ad" enters the lexicon as users complain.

  • Mid 2000s – Browsers integrate pop-up blocking to counter the onslaught. Advertisers adjust tactics.

  • 2010s – Mobile pop-up ads emerge aimed at smartphone users. Video pop-ups also become popular.

  • Today – Pop-ups are less common but still used widely by reputable and disreputable marketers alike. Users have learned to identify and block malicious pop-ups.

Pop-up ads may seem antiquated today. But as you can see, they‘ve evolved across decades as an enduring online advertising strategy.

Next, let‘s explore the different types of pop-up ads you‘ll encounter.

Types of Pop-Up Ads

While they all may seem alike initially, many varieties of pop-up ads exist. Each aims to target users in different ways when browsing:

  • Entry pop-ups – Appear instantly when landing on a webpage, sometimes obscuring content.

  • Exit pop-ups – Display when mouse leaves the page, attempting to grab your attention.

  • Scroll pop-ups – Trigger after scrolling through a certain percentage of a page.

  • Click pop-ups – Activate when clicking page elements like images or links.

  • Timed pop-ups – Emerge after a set time spent on a webpage. Targets invested users.

  • Map pop-ups – Ads on location-based services like Google Maps when searching local businesses.

  • Pop-unders – Sneakier pop-up style opening behind your current browser window.

  • Mobile pop-ups – Designed for smartphones and tablets, utilizing touches instead of hovers.

  • Video pop-ups – Ads play video content, which can increase engagement compared to static images.

  • Wallpaper pop-ups – Full page background ads on mobile that you can‘t completely close.


Businesses use a wide array of pop-up types trying to grab your attention. However, not all pop-ups are ads. Some legitimate sites use simple pop-up windows for notices without being disruptive.

Now let‘s examine some pros and cons of pop-ups for marketers.

Pros and Cons of Pop-Up Ads for Marketers

Pop-up ads can be an effective marketing tactic but also have downsides for businesses using them.

Pros of Pop-Up Ads:

  • Capture visitor attention easily
  • Good for promotions or special offers
  • Higher conversion rates than banner ads
  • Allow including more content than small banners
  • Versatile with many format options

Cons of Pop-Up Ads:

  • Considered disruptive and annoying by many users
  • Increased use of pop-up blockers
  • Can appear unprofessional or spammy if overused
  • Buggy pop-ups frustrate visitors if not designed properly
  • Limited placement options compared to banners
  • High abandonment rates if site content is obscured

When used judiciously, pop-ups can drive conversions and get important messages in front of web visitors. But excess pop-ups will primarily annoy users, leading to negative brand perception and lower traffic as people avoid your site.

Now let‘s shift gears and see how you can identify dangerous pop-up ads.

How to Spot Malicious Pop-Up Ads

While most pop-ups are harmless promotions, some contain malicious links or downloads. Here are tricks to recognize risky pop-up ads:

⛔️ Poor grammar/spelling errors – Scam pop-ups tend to be riddled with typos and grammar mistakes.

⛔️ Flashing graphics/siren emojis – Pop-ups using shocking graphics or flashing "Warning!" are typical scareware tactics.

⛔️ Asks for personal/financial info – No legitimate ad will ask directly for sensitive information upfront.

⛔️ Downloads files automatically – Pop-ups that instantly download anything are dangerous threats.

⛔️ Advertises fake software – Beware pop-ups peddling fake "virus scanners" or "system cleaners".

⛔️ Appears repeatedly – Persistent reappearing pop-ups likely point to malware or phishing.

⛔️ Disables the close button – Scam pop-ups sometimes remove the ability to close them intentionally.

⛔️ Mimics system warnings – Devious pop-ups impersonate OS alerts to trick you into thinking it‘s real.

⛔️ "You‘re infected!" claims – Pop-ups announcing urgent viruses or infections are false scare tactics.

These red flags indicate the pop-up‘s true intent is to infect your device or steal personal data, not actually advertise legitimate software or offers.

If you spot any suspicious behavior, close the pop-up immediately using your browser‘s task manager if needed, rather than clicking anything inside it.

Now that you know how to identify shady pop-ups, let‘s explore ways to block them for good.

How to Block Pop-Up Ads

If you want to stop pop-ups for good, the easiest method is adjusting your web browser settings. All major browsers now include built-in options to block pop-ups by default.

However, some pop-ups still bypass browser-level blocking. Installing a third party pop-up blocker provides another layer of protection by stopping ads before they reach your browser.

Let‘s go through how to block pop-ups on both desktop and mobile:

Block Pop-Ups in Chrome

Google Chrome enables you to block pop-ups through the desktop browser settings:

  1. Click the 3-dot menu button in the top right and select Settings.
  2. Choose Privacy and security in the left column.
  3. Scroll down to Site Settings and open it.
  4. Under Content, locate the Pop-ups and redirects setting.
  5. Toggle the switch to the Blocked position.

This will prevent any pop-ups from interrupting your browsing when using Chrome.


Block Pop-Ups in Firefox

Firefox also enables you to easily block pop-up ads:

  1. Click the 3-line Firefox menu icon and choose Preferences.
  2. Select the Privacy & Security preferences tab.
  3. Under Permissions, check the box for Block pop-up windows.

With this single toggle, Firefox will stop any future pop-up ads from interrupting your web browsing.

Block Pop-Ups in Safari

For Mac users, Safari allows managing pop-up blocking like so:

  1. Go to the top menu bar and click Safari > Preferences.
  2. Select the Websites tab.
  3. Scroll down to the Pop-up Windows section.
  4. Check the Block and Notify or Block options.

Safari offers the most custom controls, letting you specify rules on a per-website basis.

Block Pop-Ups on iPhone and iPad

On iOS devices, you can easily block pop-ups in Settings:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Safari.
  3. Scroll down and toggle Block Pop-ups on.

This prevents disruptive pop-up ads when browsing sites in Safari on your iPhone or iPad.


Block Pop-Ups on Android

For Android, you can disable pop-ups in Chrome:

  1. Open Chrome and tap the 3-dot menu button.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Tap on Site Settings.
  4. Scroll down and open Pop-ups and redirects.
  5. Flip the switch left to the Off position.

With that quick change, Chrome will block all pop-up ads on your Android device going forward.

These simple browser tweaks eliminate most pop-up ads during regular browsing sessions. But I recommend complementing them with a dedicated pop-up blocking extension for full protection.

Let‘s look at the top options next.

Recommended Pop-Up Blocking Extensions

Pop-up blocking browser extensions provide enhanced protection that stops ads missed by your browser settings alone.

Here are the best pop-up blockers available across Chrome, Firefox, and more:

Pop-Up Blocker Key Features
Poper Blocker Top-rated ad blocker trusted by over 40 million users. Blocks pop-ups, malvertising and in-page pop-ups.
uBlock Origin Open source blocking extension for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera. Efficiently blocks all ads including pop-ups.
AdBlock Popular ad blocker with over 200 million downloads. Removes pop-ups, banners, and video ads.
AdBlock Plus Customizable ad blocker that removes pop-ups, trackers, malware, and more.
PopUpOFF Lightweight dedicated pop-up blocker specialized in removing pop-ups and pop-unders.

I recommend using both Poper Blocker and uBlock Origin together for robust pop-up and ad blocking across all your browsers and devices.

Now let‘s answer some frequently asked questions about blocking pop-up ads.

FAQs about Blocking Pop-Up Ads

Here are answers to common questions around stopping pop-up interruptions while browsing:

Are pop-up blockers bad for websites?

Pop-up blockers do prevent sites from showing ads, which can reduce potential revenue for ad-supported sites. But improving the user experience is more important from an individual perspective.

What happens if you click on a pop-up ad?

Clicking a legitimate pop-up will redirect your browser to the advertised product site, offer page, etc. But malicious pop-ups could redirect to phishing sites or download malware if engaged with.

Do pop-up blockers slow browsing speeds?

Minimally. Well-designed ad blockers have little impact on memory and CPU usage. You may notice slightly faster page load times after removing ads/trackers. Some let you whitelist trusted sites.

Can I whitelist certain pop-ups?

Yes, most ad blockers let you customize whitelists to allow acceptable pop-ups from specific sites. This ensures important pop-ups like login prompts or chat boxes aren‘t blocked.

How do I remove malicious pop-up malware?

If a pop-up ad infected your computer, run a full system scan with reputable antivirus software like Malwarebytes or Bitdefender to remove all traces of the malware.

Why do pop-ups keep appearing on my phone?

Frequent pop-ups on your phone likely point to an adware infection. Run a mobile antivirus app to remove it. Also avoid clicking questionable links in emails, messages, or dubious websites.

Are pop-up ads illegal to use?

No, pop-up ads themselves are legal, though highly annoying. As long as you own the device, you have full rights to block any unwanted content with tools like pop-up blockers.


Hopefully now you have extensive knowledge around what pop-up ads are, how they evolved, and why some can be dangerous – as well as many techniques to stop them for good.

To quickly recap:

  • Adjust your browser settings to enable pop-up blocking
  • Install trusted pop-up blocking extensions for enhanced protection
  • Use caution with suspicious pop-ups and never click dubious links/downloads
  • Run frequent antivirus scans to catch any potential malware from malicious pop-ups

With these tips, you can regain a peaceful, interruption-free browsing experience and eliminate frustrating pop-up distractions.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to help explain more about pop-up ad blocking.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.