Why can't I see CAPTCHA words?

Written by michael roennevig Google
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Why can't I see CAPTCHA words?
You may need to grab your glasses to read a CAPTCHA puzzle. (Getty Thinkstock)

CAPTCHAs are used by websites to ensure humans are accessing online services and content. Some 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved around the world every day, according to Google's reCAPTCHA service. The average Web user takes around 10 seconds to solve a CAPTCHA puzzle, but if you can't see the word or number you're supposed to be deciphering, getting past a CAPTCHA will probably take up a great deal more of your time.

Settings and plug-ins

Your browser settings could be the root of your CAPTCHA woes if you can't see any letters or numbers at all. CAPTCHA puzzles typically display as images or animations, so tinkering under the hood of the software you're using to view the website could solve your problem. Ensure JavaScript is enabled, check that your browser is set to display images and disable any plug-ins such as ad blockers that could be suppressing CAPTCHA images. Check your browser's help section or online user notes to find out how to carry out these tasks. You should also check that you're running the latest version of Flash in case your CAPTCHA puzzle is animated.


If you can see that something's displaying where you'd expect a CAPTCHA to be but it's completely illegible, hit the "Refresh" button next to the words or numbers you've been tasked with decoding to get a new puzzle. Some CAPTCHAs are distorted through the use of blurring or wiggly lines to such a degree that the characters displayed are completely unreadable. You'll typically be able to refresh your puzzle as many times as you like, but CAPTCHA programs that go to great lengths to make their puzzles indecipherable to robots tend to do so consistently, so it may take you a while to find one you can make out.


Hit the "Audio" button next to your CAPTCHA if repeated refreshes have failed to throw up a readable puzzle. You'll be played an audio file of a robotic voice reeling off numbers or letters for you to enter into your CAPTCHA answer box. Audio CAPTCHAs are distorted to make them unreadable to voice recognition software, so you could struggle to make them out if you're a little hard of hearing or are using a device with poor quality audio playback.

Alternative browser

If you can't get a CAPTCHA image to load at all, try the webpage you're on in an alternative browser. Make sure you're using a browser recommended for use with the site you're visiting where possible. Download the latest version of said browser, enable JavaScript and images, disable potentially problematic add-ons and update any animation software. If you're consistently unable to make out CAPTCHAs you're presented with, contact the administrator of the site you're using.

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