How to: Block Flash ads in Internet Explorer (no add-on/plugin needed!)

It seems that I and 64 other dotTechies use a version of IE.  YAY us. Now the rest of you dotTechies can read this article but I can’t say it will be very useful.

Now while I agree in principle with Ashraf about Ads but at the same time I just can’t stand some!  The ones I don’t like are the Flash based ones that make sounds or expand when your mouse goes over them.  Now being a big fan of using what I’ve got on my system to do what I want, so I found a way to do it using just IE’s own settings.  It’s done using IE’s Zones, which are ways to give trusted site more access then normal sites or not trusted sites less.  What I’ll show you how to do is make it so that not trusted sites can’t run Flash and then I’ll give you a list of sites I found to be serving Flash ads.

First open up Internet Options; either from IE its self or from the Control Panel (I only show from IE).


Once that opens go to the Security Tab.

Options 1

Then select the Restricted sites Zone and click the Custom level button.

Options 2

In the settings, make sure that the following settings are set to disable:

  • Allow Previously unused ActiveX controls to run without promotion
  • Allow Scriptlets
  • Automatic prompting for ActiveX controls
  • Binary and script behaviors
  • Download signed ActiveX controls
  • Download unsigned ActiveX controls
  • Initialize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe for scripting
  • Run ActiveX controls and plug-ins
  • Script ActiveX control marked as safe for scripting

Set 1

Set 2

Set 3

Now whatever sites we add to the Restricted Zone can’t run Flash. To add sites to the Zone Click on the Sites button on the Restricted sites options

Options 3


The sites I found and blocked are (A ‘*.’ before one of them means that any sub servers are also blocked):

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *

You can add your own to the list but remember that you’re really blocking all Flash on that server, not just Flash ads. So be careful not to block a site that also gives you Flash you want.

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  • @Jeff: Thanks for finding the spelling error. I’ll get it fixed as fast as I can. As to my solution sucking, two things:
    1) This isn’t meant to be used for security reasons. For blocking ads adding the domains I list will cover 99% of them.
    2) If you do want to do a white-list system you can easily to so. If you set the settings I list for the internet Zone then by default Flash will be blocked. To allow a site all you need to do is add it to the Trusted Zone.

  • Jeff

    Actually, your solution sucks! It completely depends upon “knowing” what sites you want to block. Do you realize how utterly idiotic that is?

    In cases like recent mega-holes in flash (or any time, to be honest), you would want to block ALL flash, except any site you’ve ‘white-listed.’ Our users may visit 100 different sites per day, times 400 users. That’s FORTY-THOUSAND DIFFERENT SITES! How can anybody “know” the sites that have flash ads that need to be blocked. Bottom line: your solution is useless; and backwards. Sure, if you and your users only visit about 50 sites total, then maybe you can black-list the 25 or so sites that have flash ads but, in general, your solution is impractical. Hope you don’t take offense. Thanks.

  • Jeff

    Would be nice if you could spell “programming.” Two “m’s.” Please correct that.

  • Kamagra-Deutschland

    Thanks a lot quite a lot intended for revealing this kind of operating individuals you actually understand what you happen to be conversing close to! Book-marked. I implore you to also check out this site Means). We might use a weblink alternate understanding between all of us

  • [@Dave] The reason I wouldn’t use this trick on other types of adds is that putting a site in the Restricted category in IE only prevents the page from loading Flash, not from rendering. So text adds and Image based adds would still work. Adding those other ad sites to the list would limit what they can do so there may be some gain but it would be much more limited.

  • Dave

    Now correct me if wrong, but could we not also use this method to add sites which inject OTHER types of ads into the web pages which we plan to view – that is of course IF we know the name of the ad host sites, and if there are not too many of them ?

  • @Stephen: Easier? Maybe. The main advantages this has are that:
    A) Less likely to mess up your computer if you do something wrong.
    B) Most users are more comfortable in IE Settings then the HOST file.

  • Stephen

    Would it be simpler just to add these sites to your HOSTS file, or is this bypassed by Flash?

  • @Neville: I congratulate you on getting my challenge right! Now I must change my description. Don’t know what you get bonus points is though :S

  • Neville


    Bill Gates II is funny because the Bill Gates we all know and love is Bill Gates Jr, which is equivalent to Bill Gates II. If Bill Gates (of Microsoft) grandfather had been who he was named after he would have been the “II”nd instead of Junior.

  • @Kev93: Maybe, but there are add-ons that make it real easy, so easy a cave man could do it (sorry couldn’t resist).

  • Kev93

    @Samuel: Not for these users. most of them don’t know what a file is (literally). They couldn’t ‘hack’ themselves out of a paper bag.

  • J. L.

    Anyone uses Windows 7 and turned off the Windows Feature IE? You don’t even need it to browse the Windows Update site anymore, now its part of your control panel.

  • Jeanjean

    My parameters are already correct (if I remember well, it was on the councils of my IP).
    Thank you in any case Samuel.

  • @Kev93:
    You do realize that blocking based on the User-Agent is not that great of idea, being as it’s very easy make a browser send a different one?

  • Kev93

    @Alan: You do that too? I setup my company’s network and ‘banned’ anything with the IE user-agent.
    Except for MS update of course.

  • @Dae Powell: Besides to stop using AOL? Well, you should still have Internet Options in your Control Panel. From there you can access all the same settings, so if you make the changes there it should work.

  • Well, I use AOL’s IE-based browser. Snicker if you will, but most of my online friends use AOL.

    I would be interested in using this method on AOL. Any help here?

    Happy Dae

  • @Ashraf: Yup!

    @Wheezer: Thanks!

    @Roger-u: That’s an interesting add-on, but from what I can tell, I turns off all flash on the page you are viewing. This trick only turns off Flash from the sites giving ads (or sites you don’t want to see Flash from)

    @Ozzie: Thanks! I can’t say for sure, but it probably does. It does block Flash ads in IE’s RSS reader.

    @Alan: That’s you call, and I did say this article was for me and 64 other dotTechies.

  • Alan

    I detest I.E. for its security vulnerabilities.
    I detest Active X for its security vulnerabilities.
    I detest M.$. for foisting these abominations upon me.

    My solution :-
    I removed all trace of Adobe rubbish;
    I used Firefox to obtain from Adobe the 5 MByte NON-Active’X version of Flash;
    I will NEVER allow I.E. to get the corresponding Active’X version.

    Results :-
    I previously warned other users on my P.C. not to use I.E.,
    Now they can only use Firefox if they want FLASH.

    Supplementary :-
    I have now set my Firewall to block ALL Internet access for I.E. in recognition of the latest security patches dealing with the STUPIDITY of M.$ allowing installation of rogue fonts – the latest patches have the smell of panic and inadequate testing.
    Think I will wait for the next Patch Tuesday before deciding if I will let I.E. back on the Internet.



    Does this also apply to other software with IE-based displays, such as Windows Live Mail? Its RSS reader uses IE to display content, and feeds often have ads.

  • Ozzie

    @ Samuel: Brilliant!

    @ Ashraf: Brilliant minds think alike (or something to that effect)!

  • Roger-u

    i use this: With a click on a system tray icon you can enable/disable Flash at will (you do then have to refresh the webpage)

  • Wheezer

    Thanks for writing that Samuel.

    I’m currently trying Firefox but still have IE on my computer. I’m not sure I’m gonna use Firefox full time yet. It’s good to know there is an option if I end up deciding to stick with IE.

  • Ashraf

    @Samuel: Semantics!

  • @Ashraf: True, but IE doesnt even need an add-on :D

  • Ashraf

    @Samuel: The better browsers have addons to do this =P.

  • Thanks Ashraf. I supose that other browsers might have simular abilities but I don’t know.

  • Ashraf

    I don’t even use Internet Explorer but I must say: brilliant! (I think I stole Ozzie’s catch phrase there.)