Adobe Flash

Introduction

I used to do manual updates of Adobe Flash and had a nice little script for helping me out with this. However Adobe, in their wisdom, have changed this manual process so that now you need to download something via Internet Explorer and install it. This is not so easy as running my script and also means I run the risk of not un-checking the "Install Google Chrome" option. Don't get me wrong, I like Google Chrome but I run on the "dev" build, not really sure why I do that but it works and I like being more cutting edge. Anyway, this, kind of, explains why I use Automatic Updates.

Adobe Flash Installations

There are two different Adobe Flash installations for Microsoft Windows, there is the ActiveX control and the Plug-in. The ActiveX control is used by Internet Explorer and the Plug-in by Mozilla Firefox. Google took a different approach with their Chrome and embed Flash inside, in other words then run with a built-in Flash and hence the only way to update it is to update Chrome. Given that Google Chrome does a good job of updating itself we shall mostly ignore it. However if you follow the section "Adobe's Current Version", you will be able to confirm you are up to date. Starting with Internet Explorer 10, which comes with Windows 8 Microsoft have also decided to embed Adobe Flash and take responsibility for updating it. So on Windows 8 you cannot update the ActiveX control version of Flash, you have to rely on Microsoft supplying a patch. Again though checking "Adobe's Current Version" can still be done to reassure yourself.

Checking Your Installation

You can perform a basic check that flash is working and see which version you have by navigating to http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/. However, this does not tell you the full picture, there is a better place to go, which is the Flash Player support page at http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player.html. However even more information is available at http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/find-version-flash-player.html, Section 1 shows if Flash is installed, Section 2 shows the exact version you have and the OS/Browser detected and Section 5 shows your version, build and which capabilities are enabled. All in all a very useful page.

Identifying Current Version

There are two aspects to this, identifying what the current version you have installed is and also what the current version Adobe have.

Adobe's Current Version

Quite simply pick any browser and navigate to http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/. That page will tell you what the latest version of Adobe Flash is for each browser/platform. This includes the versions for Google Chrome and Windows 8. I suggest you write these numbers down on a piece of paper for all the browsers you have.

Your Current Version

Firstly, let's be clear here, I am talking about Windows, not Linux or MacOS, the principles should be similar but the detail will be different.

The best way to do this is to open the Flash Control Panel Applet. If you are more technically inclined then you can just run "FlashPlayerApp" which will be on your system path in Windows XP, however with Windows 7 you need to secify the path, which is either C:\Windows\System32 or C:\Windows\SysWOW64. Switch to the "Advanced" tab and you should see "ActiveX Version" and "Plug-in Version". I suggest you make a note of these as this is the latest version that is installed on your system.

Now, the final step is to see what versions your browsers are actually using. Surely this is overkill I hear you say? Er, no. I have noticed that since switching to automated updates all is not necessarily well. I believe the Flash Plug-in update ran while I had Mozilla Firefox running and Flash loaded on a webpage. This meant the updated could not replace the file and so Firefox did not see the change. So whilst Flash thought all was well, in reality it was not! So in each of your browsers navigate to http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/ and check what the page says for "Latest Version" and see if this matches what the Control Panel Applet said, if it does, all is well, if not then read on.

Windows 8

Interestingly Windows 8 does not behave as you might expect. So for example, when I look at http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/ I can see that the Installed Version is correct and matches the latest version. However the file system show Flash32_11_3_370_178.ocx but the version number of the filename is not what is running, I actually have 11.3.375.10, which seems odd. A little digging reveals that the file Flash32_11_3_370_178.ocx actually has embedded version information of 11.3.375.10, so in fact all is well but clearly the Microsoft Update for Flash decided to overwrite the file rather than drop a new version correctly. Hopefully Microsoft will fix this.

Note: this test was conducted on Windows 8 Release Preview and not the final relase version, however I have had the Flash update deploy.

Manual Updating

Possibly because a security update has come and you want it asap!

Updating on Windows

  • Start a Command Prompt
  • 32-bit change to C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash\
  • 64-bit change to C:\Windows\SysWOW64\Macromed\Flash\
  • Type the following: dir FlashU*.exe this will tell you if you have ActiveX, Plugin or Both installed
  • Note the latest version numbers you have installed and use them in the lines below
  • For ActiveX type: FlashUtil32_11_7_700_202_ActiveX.exe -update activex, follow any prompts etc
  • For Plugin type: FlashUtil32_11_7_700_202_Plugin.exe -update plugin, follow any prompts etc
  • Check you are on the latest versions, seee Your Current Version above

Fixing Update Issues

I have seen the automatic updates run and download the latest version so that the Control Panel Applet reports the latest version but because Mozilla Firefox was running at the time it could not do a complete update and so Firefox kept using the previous version. Restarting Fireofx was not enough to get the update applied and I don't think a reboot did it either, but I hate rebooting! So this is how you fix the problem....

Mozilla Firefox

Firstly it is worth noting the default/normal install folders for Adobe Flash, they are as follows:
  • 32-bit: C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash\
  • 64-bit: C:\Windows\SysWOW64\Macromed\Flash\

Note: On 64-bit windows you might find elements of Flash in the 32-bit folder but Firefox doesn't use that one.

So bearing this in mind, you should be able to browse to the folder above and find elements of the latest version as reported in the Control Panel applet and of the version currently in use.

Firefox can display exactly where it is loading plugins from. However websites can read this setting, so it should be turned on temporarily. So to check the full/exact path of the Flash Plugin do the following:

  • Load about:config in a new tab
  • Type "path" into the search filter and then locate "plugin.expose_full_path"
  • Double click on "plugin.expose_full_path" to change it's value to true
  • Navigate to about:plugins
  • Locate Flash (Ctrl+F can be used)
  • Observe the location, can be copied to the clipboard
  • Navigate back to about:config
  • Type "path" into the search filter and then locate "plugin.expose_full_path"
  • Double click on "plugin.expose_full_path" to change it's value to false

So having noted the file in use, for example: C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash\NPSWF32_11_4_402_278.dll you should find NPSWF32_11_4_402_287.dll there as well.

  • So close Mozilla Firefox, which will get the first DLL out of memory/use.
  • Then rename NPSWF32_11_4_402_278.dll to NPSWF32_11_4_402_278.XXX.
  • Load Mozilla Firefox, check in about:plugins and you should find the newest version is being used.
  • Also check http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/ which should confirm this.
  • Now all is well.

Installing Adobe Flash

It is strongly recommended that you always install the latest version of Adobe Flash and have Automatic Updates enabled (Allow Adobe to install updates). The installer is available from http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ which will give you the latest version for your operating system on the browser you are using at the time. If you have multiple browsers installed it is worth checking which version you have in each of them as described above.

So, what happens if you want to install an older version of Flash, whilst not recommended you can. You might also want an older Flash for your Android device. The answer to both these problems lies at http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html, however only do this if you understand what you are doing and the security issues.