This simple trick disables ads in Gmail – but there’s a catch


email illustration

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Gmail is my go-to email service for communicating with clients and other professional endeavors. For the most part, I’ve been happy with the service for almost two decades. But one feature of Gmail has always bothered me — ads.

If you have a paid version of Google Workspaces, you won’t see these tiny nuisances. For those who use the free version, on the other hand, the ads will appear in Gmail.

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Now, Gmail at least does ads in a rather non-intrusive manner and I would rarely find more than a few ads waiting to be deleted. Over the years, I’ve not once clicked on an ad presented to me by Gmail, so clearly the service isn’t impacting me as Google — or the businesses that pay for the ads — expected.  

If you comb through the Gmail Settings, you won’t find a method for disabling ads. It’s just not there. However, I have found a trick I believe prevents ads from appearing in Gmail. This trick works for those who use the tabbed Gmail interface. 

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A word of warning: this trick won’t be ideal for everyone. If you depend on tabs to keep order in your inbox, this trick isn’t for you. Everyone else, however, will be happy to get rid of those tabs in favor of losing ads.

Let me show you how it’s done.

How to get rid of Gmail ads

What you’ll need: The only things you’ll need for this is a valid Google account (a free Google Workspaces account) and a web browser.

The first thing to do is to log in to your Gmail account. Once you’ve logged in, click the Gear icon and then click See all settings from the drop-down menu.

The Gmail gear icon drop-down.

You’ll find some common settings in the drop-down, but you’ll want to access the full scope of settings for this task.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

In the Settings window, click the Inbox tab.

The main Gmail Settings window.

There’s a vast array of settings to be found here.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

In the Inbox section, you should find a listing of the available tabs. You should also see that Primary is permanently enabled, and Promotions, Social, Updates, and Forums are also enabled. 

To skirt around the ads, you must disable the Promotions, Social, and Forums tabs. That’s where it gets a bit tricky. If you depend on the Social tab to keep you updated on your various social networking feeds, you’ll want to keep that enabled, but doing so will not prevent ads from showing up.

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In other words, if you need any of those three tabs, you can’t avoid ads. If, however, you do not need those tabs, disable them, and you won’t see ads.

Once you’ve unchecked those three tabs, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click Save Changes.

The Gmail tabs listing.

You’ll want to disable everything but Primary, which you can’t disable, and Updates.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Fret not — just because you deleted those tabs doesn’t mean you won’t receive the emails that would normally be visible there. Anything that would have gone into Promotions, Social, or Forums will wind up in the Primary tab — with the exception of Google-generated ads.

Also: How to optimize your Gmail inbox layout

And that’s all there is to it. Once you’ve disabled those three tabs, your Gmail account should be free of advertisements. And, if you find that this tradeoff is not worth it to you, you can always re-enable those tabs anytime.

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