How to Limit Adobe Flash to Run Only When Needed

How to Limit Adobe Flash to Run Only When Needed

Adobe Flash is one of those necessary evils. The plugin is constantly being hit by security vulnerabilities, requiring frequent updates. It’s not the most stable kid on the block, often freezing or crashing. Yet it’s still used by many websites to run videos, animations, and similar content despite a decided move toward HTML5 as an alternative. But you don’t have to live with Flash on a permanent basis. You can disable it in your browser and run it only on an as-needed basis. Let’s see how to do this with the three major browsers: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox.

Internet Explorer

In Internet Explorer, click on the Tools menu and then click on the command for Manage add-ons.

Make sure that under Add-on types, the first category for Toolbars and Extensions is highlighted. On the right pane, look for and double-click on the setting for Shockwave Flash Object.

In the More information window, click on the button to Remove all sites and then click Close and then Close again. That move blocks the Flash plugin from running on all websites unless you specifically okay it for each individual site.

Google Chrome

In Chrome, type chrome://settings/ in the address field to open the browser’s settings.

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link to “Show advanced settings…” Scroll to the Privacy section and click on the button for “Content Settings…”


In the Flash Settings window, you can select whether you want Flash to run, if only important Flash content should run, or whether you want to block it entirely.


Mozilla Firefox

In Firefox, click on the Tools menu and then click on Add-ons.

Peruse the list of add-ons until you see the one for Shockwave Flash. At the far right of the entry for Flash, click on the drop-down menu and change the setting to Ask to Activate. Then close the tab for the Add-ons Manager.

Browser Tests

Now it’s time to put the browsers to the test by surfing to a page with Flash content. In each of the three browsers, jump to the webpage, which contains Flash content at the top.

In Internet Explorer, you’ll receive a message at the bottom of the browser saying that “This webpage wants to run the following add-on: ‘Adobe Flash Player.'” If you wish to run Flash, then click on the Allow button at the far right of the message. If you don’t want to run Flash on this particular page, then click on the X to the right of the Allow button.

In Chrome, those who selected to block all Flash content will see the message: “Right-click to run Adobe Flash Player” where the Flash content is supposed to play. To allow the Flash content, right-click on the spot and then click on “Run this plugin” from the pop-up menu. To keep Flash from running, simply leave the Flash content area alone. Those who opted to run important Flash content will see it populate here automatically.

And in Firefox, you’ll see a link to “Activate Adobe Flash” where the Flash content is supposed to appear. If you wish to see the content, click on the link and then click on the button for “Allow Now” or for “Allow and Remember.” The “Allow Now” option enables Flash just for this one instance, while the “Allow and Remember” option enables Flash anytime you visit this particular website. To keep Flash under the covers, simply do nothing.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 1:45 p.m. ET to correct details about Chrome.


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