Apps We Love: AdGuard (In-Depth Review) 2020-08-23T01:10:30+00:00

Project Description

Apps We Love: AdGuard (In-Depth Review)

Reviews • Aug. 22, 2020

Adverts are everywhere these days, and they intrude into our online browsing with annoying regularity. It’s not just irritating ads that follow us around online, though. There’s other, more threatening stuff like phishing, tracking, and fraudulent behavior that can do us real harm.

How can we browse in peace? The good news is that you can install an ad blocker to stop those pop-up adverts.

AdGuard for Mac is a standalone ad blocker program that isn’t a browser extension – it’s far more powerful than that. It’s also available as part of the Setapp suite of Mac apps. Setapp contains over 190 useful apps, all packaged neatly in one place so you never have to go searching for the app you need. AdGuard claims that installing the app will give you:

  • Efficient ad blocking – Blocks pop-ups, video adverts, banners, etc.
  • Safe web surfing – Protection from phishing and fraudulent websites
  • Privacy protection – Protects from all trackers and analytical systems that spy on you
  • Filtering inside apps – has an option to filter the ads on any app installed on your Mac
  • Works with all browsers – compatible with all browsers from the common ones like Safari and Chrome, to the most obscure ones
  • 3-in-1 – You don’t need extra apps or browser extensions

Those are some big claims, but does AdGuard live up to them? We’re going to look at the pros and cons, how to use AdGuard, how much it costs, and answer some frequently asked questions about AdGuard.

AdGuard: Pros

There’s a lot to like in this app, and here’s why:

  • It’s an actual standalone app, so is more effective than just browser extension ad blockers.
  • We got to choose our privacy protection level to suit our browsing habits.
  • AdGuard works well with Safari and Chrome browsers, which should suit most Mac users, but the app works with all browsers as well.
  • Works brilliantly on YouTube (where constant ads are a pain in the butt) with Safari to block ads.
  • There’s also an AdGuard iPhone or an Android app for extra versatility when browsing on different devices.
  • We were able to disable AdGuard on websites we chose by whitelisting the site, and we liked the option to stop AdGuard from blocking subscription windows.
  • We found AdGuard easy to use, which is always a must-have!

AdGuard: Cons

In a perfect world, AdGuard would be a perfect app. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world, and there are a couple of minor issues with AdGuard, but definitely not enough to put us off using it:

  • AdGuard teamed with Safari works very well, but sometimes a little too well – on sites like Reddit, it didn’t just block the ads, but parts of the page as well!
  • AdGuard consumes up to 120MB of RAM, which is twice as much as the Safari ad blocker extension does. However, we didn’t have any noticeable slowing down of our system while using it.

How I used AdGuard to make my browsing experience better

Installation 

So, how does AdGuard work in everyday life? Before I downloaded and installed it I admit I was skeptical about how well it would work and how much of a difference it would actually make to browsing. As I have Setapp, it was easy to find and install AdGuard. If you don’t have Setapp, you can download AdGuard directly from the AdGuard website.

You’ll need to make sure your macOS has the following before downloading:

  • Operating system – OS X 10.10 (64 bit) or higher
  • At least 2GB RAM
  • Compatible browsers – Safari, Chrome, Opera, Yandex.Browser, Mozilla Firefox or any other Mac compatible browser
  • 120MB free disk space

Click Download on the AdGuard page, and wait for Adguardinstaller.dmg to download.

Double click the icon in the list of downloads on the Dock panel, and the AdGuard icon will appear on your screen. Click to open the installation, then double-click on the AdGuard icon in the installation window.

When you launch AdGuard for the first time, your OS will have a panic attack and warn you that you’ve just downloaded an app from the internet.

Click on Open, then click Install. The installer will download the files, and to use the app you’ll need the admin password for your macOS account.

Once you’ve done that, there’s a cheery-looking installation wizard that will let you configure AdGuard to suit you.

That’s it – done and dusted! Now to put AdGuard through its paces.

Using AdGuard to Remove ads on a Mac

The first thing you see is a screen with a big On/Off switch on starting AdGuard up. This screen shows the main stats, but I don’t have any yet as it’s the first time I’ve ever used it. AdGuard features four main modules:

Ad Blocker

This module claims to remove all ad banners and annoying messages from web pages by using a set of filtering rules.

Browsing Security

This module offers protection from malware and phishing websites. It will stop you from installing malware and protect you from fraudulent activity.

Privacy Protection

Privacy protection aims to protect your personal information being tracked by online statistics gatherers.

Extensions

AdGuard makes use of several browser extensions of its own:

  • AdGuard Assistant – quick and simple filtering control in your browser
  • AdGuard Popup Blocker – Blocks popup ads on web pages
  • Web of Trust – This rather dramatically named (but potentially useful) extension shows other internet users’ opinions about any website you may decide to visit.

You need to configure AdGuard before using it, and I dislike configuring anything so I hope it’s quick and simple. It turns out to be easy enough – click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the window and choose Preferences. The General Preferences window opens, and it’s from here that you can fine-tune the way you want AdGuard to work. You can also edit your Whitelist from here.

The Filters panel asks me to choose how I want to filter out the ads.  There are many options here including the Base filter, Annoyances filter, and EasyList filter.

The User Rules panel lets you add your own rules if you know how to code, but I leave this one well alone!

Stealth Mode I like. It says it will protect my privacy from websites that try to get information from my data, as well as ridding me of sneaky tracking parameters in my browser and those darn unwanted cookies.

Other panels include Browsing Security, Extensions, and Network, all of which are navigated using simple checkbox commands that cause me no problems (hey, if I find it easy to use, even your grandma will!) For those who need a little extra help, you can download AdGuard Assistant as an extension to help you change AdGuard settings.

Once installed and configured, I decided to take AdGuard on a visit through Safari to YouTube, home of some of the most annoying and persistent adverts online, including display ads, overlay ads, midroll ads, and bumper ads. Let’s be clear here though – the only 100% effective way to get rid of all YouTube ads is to pay for a YouTube Premium subscription. I don’t use the site enough to justify that, so I just want an effective ad blocker.

AdGuard performed pretty well on YouTube, and only let a couple of video adverts slip through. I can live with that! Reddit was a bit of a different story though – here AdGuard was a little overzealous and blocked some page elements as well as the ads. Facebook was an pleasantly ad-free experience, and even the Daily Mail news website (notorious for adverts!) loaded up without ads and also loaded quickly.

Overall, AdGuard did exactly what it promised to do, and was far more effective for me than using a browser extension adblocker. AdGuard does suck more system resources from your Mac than a browser extension adblocker does, but it didn’t slow down my browsing to a noticeable level.

Pricing and Availability

AdGuard pricing has different tiers for the number of devices you want to use it on,  but alternatively comes as part of the Setapp suite of over 190 Mac apps for a subscription of only $9.99 per month (plus VAT).

Setapp comes with a 7-day free trial, so you can try before you buy.

The AdGuard website offers options for Android, iOS, and Windows, as well as Mac, and they overhauled their licensing system so there’s now only Personal and Family licenses available:

  • Personal – Allows you to activate AdGuard on any three devices
  • Family – Allows you to activate AdGuard on any nine devices

One great feature of this is that it doesn’t matter what type of devices they are – you can have a mix of Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android versions of AdGuard. You can also choose between the Lifetime one-off payment, or Yearly subscription, and there are often deals to be had on the prices:

  • Lifetime – up to three devices: around $78
  • Lifetime – up to nine devices: around $182
  • Yearly – up to three devices: around $2.60 per year
  • Yearly – up to nine devices: around $5.88 per year

AdGuard can be bought on the AdGuard website, and is also available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android versions.

Is there a free version of AdGuard?

Unfortunately not. However, you can get a 14-day free trial. On the AdGuard website they also offer a free license key provided you assist them in some way, like providing a short written or video review.

Is AdGuard safe?

I have no issues with AdGuard, and it has 25 million happy users worldwide. AdGuard is available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store too. Many of the user reviews about AdGuard on the web are glowing – they do offer a free licence key for a short review, so keep that in mind when you’re reading them.

Will AdGuard slow down my Mac?

While it does take up a fair bit of system resources, I never noticed any real issues with the app slowing my Mac down.

Conclusion

AdGuard is a great tool for anyone who uses the internet – but especially those who use it a lot. It will zap all those annoying ads as well as protecting your data and security online by warning you about phishing and fraudulent websites.

The app is easy to download, install, and once set up can be left to happily run in the background until it detects an ad or a problem. The minor flaws are just that – minor – and if you’re looking for a powerful ad blocker then why not give AdGuard a try?