Bugs & Fixes: Solving Flash problems on a Mac

With all the controversy in recent weeks regarding Apple’s criticisms of Flash, I decided to take a look at what problems Mac users are having running Flash in Safari. To get an idea, I went to the Safari section of Apple’s Discussions Boards and searched on the keyword “Flash.”

On the day I did the search, it yielded 78 hits over the last 90 days. Some of the hits were “duplicates,” citing separate messages for the same thread. On the other hand, I discovered a few relevant threads on my own that did not show up anywhere in the search results. Still, using what the search uncovered as a rough approximation, there was less than one hit per day over the previous three months. This is not exactly a tsunami of complaints.

Further, for many of the postings, Flash turned out not to be the root cause of the symptom. For example, an inability to play Flash videos on the KTUU Web page was resolved by disabling Safari’s Block Pop-Up Windows option (located in the Safari menu). Another supposed Flash problem was fixed by moving the Safari application back to the Applications folder. Yet another issue was resolved by reinstalling the latest version of Mac OS X via the “combo” updater. Several instances of potential Flash conflicts turned out to be due instead to third-party input managers or “enhancers”—something that Apple specifically warns about. As a final extreme example, one user oddly lamented: “I can’t figure out why my Safari, running 64-bit for several months now, is having no problems with Flash.”

This doesn’t mean that there are not genuine problems with Flash. I have certainly had instances where a Flash video would not play or did so only at an annoyingly slow pace. But such issues may be less frequent than often assumed.

For Flash hassles that remained unresolved in the Discussions postings, such as an inability to play YouTube videos or Flash-related crashes, the general recommendation is to try the advice given in an Adobe TechNote. It’s not a panacea, but it’s worth a look. The most useful tip contained in the document is to uninstall and reinstall Flash Player, making sure to follow the separate uninstall instructions. As to the article’s other suggestions, I would add the following:

  • The suggestion to repair permissions is not likely to fix anything. The permissions problem appears restricted to Flash Player 9.x. You should be using a 10.x version of Flash Player.
  • Although it’s always possible that reinstalling the latest version of Safari could help, I could not find one instance where anyone found this to be so. Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time trying this.
  • While the Adobe Flash Player page correctly lists the latest release version as 10.0.45.2, you may be using the even newer Gala preview beta (currently at version 10.1.81.24).

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