The 9 Hidden Chrome Settings You Should Change Right Now

Chrome settings

Chrome is designed to be easy to use, but also to give you lots of options if you want them. And you don’t need to be a developer or even all that techy to change Chrome to suit your preferences.

Below are nine Chrome settings you can change right now to get the best out of your browser. We’ll also include how to open Chrome’s experimental settings, known as Flags, and how to reset Chrome to default so you can start over.

Finding Chrome Settings

To find Chrome settings, go to the Chrome menu (the three dots next to your profile picture) and select Settings, or type chrome://settings into the omnibar.

Here, you’ll find a centralized set of controls that manages tabs, search engines, privacy, how content is displayed, how cookies and site data are stored and used, and a host of other aspects of Chrome’s function.

And here are the Chrome settings you might not have noticed or bothered with yet—but they’re more useful than you think.

1. (Almost) no more notification requests

Chrome notifications can be useful, but they can also create too much noise. Since nearly every piece of dot-whatever real estate on the web now supports Chrome notifications, you’re likely to get a whole lot more requests than you’re ever going to want to say yes to, and constantly clicking no can get distracting.

The good news is, you can turn them off at the circuit breaker in your Chrome settings.

Start here: chrome://settings/content/notifications

notifications chrome setting

You’ll see a list of websites with their associated permissions. Right at the top is a toggle switch. By default, it’s set to Ask before sending, which means you’ll see the “site.com wants to send you notifications” popup on websites.

Toggle that switch over to Blocked and you shouldn’t see any notification requests. (Some still do get through, but not nearly as many.)

2. Block ad blocker blocking

Don’t worry—it isn’t as confusing as it sounds.

Some websites will detect that you’re using a Chrome ad blocker to save on bandwidth, speed up browsing, and generally get all those poorly targeted reminders of something you bought on a whim a month ago off your screen. Then they’ll ask you to turn the ad blocker off just for them because they need the ad money to survive.

Maybe they do, but maybe you still want the option to block ads. Well, here’s how to put that power back in your hands. All you have to do is disable the JavaScript code the sites are using to detect ad blockers, and it’s very simple.

Go here: chrome://settings/content/javascript

javascript chrome setting

The default setting is Allowed for all sites. You can block JavaScript for all sites, or add sites to a block list, cutting off JavaScript just for those sites while leaving it running across the rest of the internet.

If you block it across all sites, pretty much the whole internet will stop working, so it’s best to do it on a site-by-site basis.

3. Font and sizing

Sometimes extensions can mess with the default fonts that Chrome uses to display content. Other times you might just prefer a larger font or a clearer one. Maybe you wish everything was in Comic Sans. No judgment here. A little, maybe.

Whatever your reasons, you can easily adjust fonts across Chrome in Settings.

Start here: chrome://settings/fonts

customize fonts chrome setting

You can adjust normal and minimum font sizes as well as customizing the font itself.

4. See your passwords

If you’re using Chrome Password Manager, you’re probably accumulating a massive pile of auto-remembered, auto-generated passwords. That’s better than using the same password for everything (looking at you, Password1234) but it comes with some issues too.

One is that you could lose them if you reset Chrome to its default settings, though there are recovery options. Another is that anyone who sits down at a device with a synced Chrome account on it can see all its passwords this easily:

chrome://settings/passwords

This is a good opportunity to go back to old passwords and check if they’re secure. If they’re not, consider letting Chrome auto-generate a better one. (Or getting a more secure password manager.)

You can also see your usernames for sites where you have accounts. If you’re seeing that old Hotmail or AOL email you haven’t used in years, maybe it’s time to update those too.

5. Customize your startup pages

By default, Chrome opens a new, blank search page when you start up the browser. But you can set it to open on any page (or pages) you like. That way, if you need the same sites open when you sit down to work, you can set Chrome to display them automatically every time you relaunch the browser.

Here’s where to find the option: chrome://settings/onStartup

customize startup pages chrome setting

You can use an extension to control the New Tab page. But you can also set Chrome to:

  • Continue where you left off by reopening all the pages you had open when you shut down the browser, or
  • Open with a specific set of pages. You can choose these manually, or set Chrome to open on the pages you have open now.

6. Send a Do Not Track request

You can set Chrome to automatically send a request not to track you with your browsing data.

How much this actually reduces tracking is open to question—Google doesn’t provide information on which websites respect this request—and if privacy is a major concern you should look into privacy-positive extensions that actually do prevent tracking. Meanwhile, sending a request is better than nothing.

Find it here: chrome://settings/privacy

privacy security chrome setting

Enable Do Not Track, and click Confirm.

7. Set Flash to Ask first

By default, Flash player is blocked completely in Chrome. That’s because it’s an absolute security and privacy dumpster fire, which is why Chrome will deprecate support for it in 2020.

In the meantime (and, being realistic, no doubt for a while afterward) you might need it for some content you want to view. From a security perspective, you might want to make a judgment call based on how shady a website looks as to whether you want to let Flash run or not, and Chrome gives you that choice in Settings.

Start here: chrome://settings/content

flash chrome setting

Select Flash and toggle the switch to Ask first. There are also Block and Allow lists: if you always have to OK or nix Flash on the same sites, you can add them here.

8. Mic and camera

If you want to use video-calling tools like Skype, you’ll need to hand over control of your microphone and camera.

By default, Chrome sets camera and mic permissions to Ask before using, but just like in your other Chrome settings, there’s a Block list and an Allow list. Take a look through and you might find apps you forgot you gave permission to.

And the fewer apps you give automatic camera and mic permissions to, the better.

Go here: chrome://settings/content

Open Camera, then check that you recognize and are OK with all the apps that have camera access. Go back and do the same with Microphone. To remove an app from the Allow list, just click the trashcan next to it.

9. Send reports to Google

The Send reports to Google setting is off by default, but it makes sense to enable it. You’re not handing Google the keys to the kingdom by enabling this, but you are making it more likely that Chrome’s automated detection of suspicious websites will improve and eventually protect you better.

Enable it here: chrome://settings/syncSetup

google services chrome setting

While you’re in there, it also makes sense to enable Safe browsing. You can always disable it later if it seems to be getting in the way.

Bonus: Flags and extensions

There are other ways to access Chrome features than through the Settings menu. For instance, Chrome Flags allow you to control experimental features, some of which significantly alter the way Chrome works. The full list of Flags can be accessed at:

chrome://flags

Here, you’ll find tools to change the way Chrome looks, feels, interacts with websites, and more.

We especially love these:

  • Tab freeze and discard (#proactive-tab-freeze-and-discard), which keeps tabs open but stops them running, so they don’t use memory
  • Parallel downloading (#enable-parallel-downloading), which splits large files to accelerate downloads
  • Lazy image loading (#enable-lazy-image-loading) which speeds up browsing by forcing images on web pages to load only as you scroll down to them

Here’s a full list of Chrome Flags you should know about.

There’s also a huge library of Chrome extensions. Some replicate functionality Chrome already has, while others offer really useful additions to what Chrome can do.

We think you should take a look at:

  • Onetab, which turns all your open tabs into a web page of text links
  • BuiltWith, which shows you the technologies used to build the websites you visit
  • Ghostery, an adblocker with solid anti-tracking and privacy functions

And finally…

Resetting Chrome to default settings

Scroll to the bottom of settings and click Advanced. Then:

  • On Mac, Chromebook, or Linux: Under Reset Settings, click Restore settings to their original defaults > Reset Settings.
  • On Windows: Under Reset and cleanup, click Reset Settings > Reset Settings.

You can do this at any time if you change your mind about settings or if an app or extension you install changes settings on your behalf.

But this won’t do a complete reset. Settings like fonts and accessibility might stay the same. To start over completely, you can always create a new user profile in Chrome.