Gaining Control of Pop Ups with Google Chrome

Chances are many of you block pop-ups in your web browser. After all, most are intrusive and interfere with reading. However, sometimes you need pop-ups. This happened to me when I was going through an online course. Fortunately, Google has ways to both allow pop-ups or block pop-ups.

The problem started when I went to take an online JavaScript test. This course offers a written component and an online test area. Sure enough, when I went to the web page, I saw the error below.

Blocked pop-up warning.
Blocked pop-up warning

I figured there were two possibilities for this alert.

  • My Ghostery extension acted as a popup blocker.
  • It was my Google Chrome settings.

I quickly ruled out Ghostery, which left my Chrome settings. As it turns out, blocking pop-ups is a recommended setting in Chrome.

How to Check Chrome’s Pop-Up Blocker Settings

  1. Type chrome://settings/content/popups in Chrome’s address bar. This is a shortcut that is faster than navigating the Chrome menu and drop-down menu settings.
  2. A new dialog appears with 3 main settings.
  3. Pop-up panel with sections itemized
    Pop-ups and redirects panel

    [1] Global toggle that either allows or blocks all pop-ups. Think of this as an “all or nothing switch” going forward. It will not affect any exception sites.

    [2] A section where you can block or turn off specific sites. Typically, you would use this section if you allowed all pop-ups, but wanted to manage exceptions. If you’ve added any sites they will show underneath.

    [3] A section where you can allow specific sites to display pop-ups. In this example, I previously added the Hubspot.com domain.

    Note: If you have Chrome set up to Sync everything in your settings, your changes will be copied to other shared devices.

How to Allow Pop Ups for Current Site

The good news is that the process to allow a specific popup is easy if you’re on the web page. Although I was prompted by the vendor, my Chrome browser also provided a clue in the address bar.

Example of blocked pop-up indicator on browser toolbar.

In the screen snap above, you’ll see a small red square with an X overlaid on the lower right corner of the icon. That red mark indicates Chrome is blocking something. And for a brief moment, the browser would show “pop up blocked”.

  1. If you click that browser icon you’ll get a small window with more details.
  2. Details on blocked pop-up.
  3. I can create an exception for this domain If I select the radio button to Always allow pop-ups and click the Done button.
  4. Under the Allow section, you’ll see the new domain listed. Chrome will automatically append a colon and port number to the URL. Port 80 pages use http whereas https pages use port 443.
  5. Two allowed pop-up exceptions.
    Note port number at end
  6. If you just wanted to see that blocked pop-up again without changing your settings, you could click the blue hyperlink. However, if you see a reference to about:blank, you’ll probably not see the original item but a placeholder.
Highlight showing url of blocked item.

How to Block Popups for Specific Sites

The process for blocking pop-ups using an exception list takes a couple of extra steps but is still easy. The main difference is you have to know the web domains to block such as unitedwidgets.com. You would use this process if your global setting allowed all popups.

  1. In Chrome’s address bar type chrome://settings/content/popups. This is a shortcut to bypass some advanced settings and get you to the correct browser settings faster.
  2. Adding a new blocked domain.
  3. Click the Add button. A small window appears prefilled with an entry for example.com. The [*.] before the site or domain name is to declare a wildcard. This saves you from messing around with protocols (http/https) or subdomains (www).
  4. add a site text box.
  5. Replace the example entry with the one you wish to block. For example, [*.]unitedwidgets.com. Sadly, Chrome doesn’t really provide any error checking.

If you’re unsure what to enter, I’d suggest blocking all sites and going to the site in question. Chrome should block the pop-up and you can use the method outlined in How to Allow Popups for Current Site. Once the site is added go back and change your global setting to allow pop-ups again.

How to Change a Site’s Setting

Sometimes, mistakes happen and you might need to make a change to a previous setting. For example, you might have selected to allow a popup when you actually wanted to block it.

  1. In Chrome’s address bar type chrome://settings/content/popups.
  2. Scroll down to the desired section such as Block or Allow.
  3. Click the More icon (3 vertical dots) to the right of the site. You should then see a drop-down menu with additional actions. The choices will depend if you had blocked or allowed the site.

    Drop-down menu showing site options.
  4. Click the make your new selection.

What to Do if Pop Ups Still Appear

If Chrome pop up blocker is not working, there are three scenarios to explore:

  • Try to determine if the issue is for one site or all sites. If it’s for one site, you most likely mistyped the domain when adding it to your exceptions list or maybe you set it using an Incognito session. If it’s all sites then perhaps you global setting got flipped.
  • If you’re using Microsoft Windows and Chrome is having multiple problems in addition to pop-ups, try Google’s Chrome Cleanup tool
  • You have malware.

The bottom line is whether you want to show pop-ups or block certain sites, Google Chrome has a number of ways to assist you.