Everything You Need to Know: Survive Without Flash on Your Mac

Adobe's Flash Internet Browser plug-in has had so many security issues over the years that many are calling for it to fade into the sunset. For example:

Flash is an Exploit-pallooza, It’s Time to Give it Up

Another major Flash security flaw was uncovered this week prompting Adobe to release an emergency patch. The exploit, along with the story behind its uncovering, is a perfect example of why it's time to abandon Flash once and for all.

Facebook’s Internet Challenge: Let’s Kill Flash

...Firefox now blocks Flash content automatically, and the latest nail in the coffin is coming from Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos is calling for a kill date where all Web browsers drop support for the multimedia platform at the same time.

Here at TMO several of us have put our heads together and collected some useful information, an FAQ, on how to check the version you have, uninstall Flash and/or otherwise mitigate Adobe's Flash's security impact on your Mac.

1. How do I know which version of Adobe Flash is installed?

In a Web browser, go to Adobe's Flash Player page. It shows the latest version of Flash for each Platform in a table. It will also echo back to you the version of Flash you have installed.

2. I have to use Flash for certain sites. How do I keep it updated?

When you install Adobe Flash, a Preference Pane is placed in OS X System Preferences called Flash Player. If you click on it, then the Updates tab, there are options on how to keep Flash updated. If this process fails, as determined by the information in Question #1 above, you'll need to download the latest installer and manually upgrade.

The download link above will place a .dmg file to your downloads folder, and it contains the installer. Quit your browser before you install.

Page 2 - Managing Flash in your Chrome, Firefox, Safari browser ... or just deleting Flash for good.

Page 2 - Managing Flash in Your Browser and How to Uninstall Flash 

3. How can I restrict which sites use Flash in Safari?

If Flash is installed and you can't live without it, you can at least control when it runs in Safari on your Mac. Safari's security settings give site-by-site settings for running or blocking Flash content, and it's easy to set up. Here's how:

Launch Safari on your Mac, the choose Safari > Preferences.

  • Click the Security tab.
  • Select Adobe Flash Player from the extensions list.
  • Use the pop-up menus in the Currently Open Websites list to set indvidual sites to Allow, Block, or Ask.

You can set a default action for sites that aren't on your list, too, via the When visiting other websites pop-up menu. Ask is a good choice here.

4. How can I restrict when Flash is used in Firefox?

Firefox users can control their Flash settings so they see a prompt allowing them to choose when Flash content runs.

  • Launch Firefox on your Mac, then click the Open Menu icon at the far right of the tool bar.
  • Choose Add-ons from the drop-down menu.
  • Click Plugins in the vertical tabs on the left.
  • Set Shockwave Flash to "Ask to Activate" from the pop-up menu at the right side of the plugin list.

Like Google Chrome, Firefox is now blocking Flash content by default because of the serious nature of current security flaws.

5. How do I uninstall Adobe Flash for good?

There are two ways. First, you can use the OS X Finder and navigate to Macintosh HD/Library/Internet Plug-ins. You'll see two files there.

  1. flashplayer.xpt
  2. Flash Player.plugin

As an OS X administrator, move theses two files somewhere else for safe keeping or, optionally, just delete them. (It's easy to reinstall later.) Then restart your browser. Now you are Flash free.

A second way is to download the uninstaller from Adobe. Again, this is a .dmg file. Double-click it to mount, then run the uninstaller it contains. It will ask for an administrator password. Basically, it does the same job removing files described above.

6. Okay, Flash is gone from my Mac. Every once in awhile, I need to look at a site that uses Flash. Do I need to reinstall it?

Actually, you don't need to. If some of the Websites you can't live without require Flash, but you really don't want it installed, Google's Chrome browser may be what you're looking for.

Chrome includes its own built-in version of Flash that's sandboxed, uses a more modern plug-in protocol, shuts itself down when it isn't in use, can pause Flash playback for site content that isn't necessary for pages to display. And when Chrome isn't running, Flash isn't loaded. Chrome also keeps its Flash version automatically updated.

You can also control Flash on a site-by-site basis in Chrome's settings. Here's how:

  • Launch Google Chrome on your Mac, then choose Chrome > Preferences.
  • Click Settings.
  • Click Show advanced settings at the bottom of the Chrome window.
  • Click Content settings under the Privacy section.
  • Click Manage exceptions under the Plugins section.
  • Enter the URL for the site you want to explicitly control, then choose Allow, Detect content, or Block from the Behavior pop-up menu.
  • Click Done after you're finished entering sites.

Google Chrome isn't, however, the be-all-end-all solution for displaying Flash content. In light of recently uncovered security flaws, Google has disabled Flash playback in Chrome while we wait for Adobe to sort out some of Flash's bigger issues.