Download.com
  • Navigation
  • open search
Close

PLATFORMS

POPULAR LINKS

CATEGORIES

HELP & SETTINGS

Guides

The Download guide to the best Windows and Mac Web browsers

According to our research, more than 50% of Internet users worldwide are on Google Chrome, and this number hasn't varied much since 2012. But as Internet Explorer showed us, market dominance doesn't necessarily mean that the product excels. Since all major desktop browsers are free, it doesn't hurt to explore your options. Let's show you the major factors to consider.


Windows and Mac Web browsers FAQ

  • What about browser add-on support?
    Even a lightning-fast browser will be held back if doesn't have extensions for password managers, ad blockers, and tools to enhance the functionality of popular websites such as Reddit, Amazon ( Android, iOS), and Steam (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac). Google Chrome (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac) leads the pack thanks to offline Google Docs functionality, but Mozilla Firefox (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac) isn't far behind, and the Opera Browser (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac) covers a lot of bases. Microsoft Edge trails behind with a couple dozen extensions; it gets the major ones but lacks variety. Apple's Safari browser does not fare much better.
  • Do pages load fast and scroll smoothly?
    When you're on a tight deadline or just trying to explore a large media-rich website, chuggy page loading and chunky scrolling can be downright stress-inducing. In our experience, Chrome and Opera run neck-and-neck in this department (partly because Opera shares Chrome's "Blink" page rendering engine). Microsoft Edge (the browser exclusive to Windows 10 that is designed to replace Internet Explorer) is also quite respectable, but its minimal add-on support and lack of multi-platform presence makes it difficult to recommend. Unfortunately, Firefox frequently lags, though Mozilla is working to restore some horsepower. Safari is in the middle of the pack, but it's handy for watching a streamed Apple presentation, which Apple limits to its own browser and Microsoft Edge.
  • How important are security and privacy?
    If you worry about people snooping on your online activities, then you might want to look beyond the popular browsers. Instead, we'd recommend the Tor browser ( Android, Windows, Mac) which has built-in support for the Tor network, a constellation of volunteer-run servers around the world through which your connection to the Internet is bounced and encrypted to help anonymize you. The Tor browser is based on Firefox, albeit a version or two behind (because it takes time to certify the browser for use with Tor, and the project relies on volunteers). Alternatively, you can use your preferred browser and just disable any settings that send personally identifiable data while running your connection through a VPN (virtual private network) which operates similarly to Tor. But unfortunately, trustworthy VPNs generally aren't free.

The best Web browser for Windows and Macs

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.