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Should I Take the Flash Update I’ve Been Offered?

No, you should not take the update.

Or, rather, you should try really, really hard not to need to update Adobe Flash ever again.

And the way to do that is to never need it.

Flash is dead.

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Flash no more

Adobe Flash, a technology that used to be a critical component of many websites, has a long history of bugs and vulnerabilities. Even in its heyday, leveraging a Flash vulnerability was one of the primary ways scammers distributed malware.

Flash never really got any better. Bugs would be fixed and vulnerabilities patched, but it seemed like a never-ending stream of opportunities for malware authors.

Flash was cool. Flash was powerful. Flash was dangerous.

Malicious Flash “updates”

Even if Adobe Flash had been perfect, it needed to be updated periodically — and that update mechanism could be faked.

Malicious or compromised websites would display a fake Adobe Flash update message, encouraging you to download and install the latest update.

Unfortunately, what you were really downloading and installing was malware.

Don’t do that.

In part because of that, many browsers — most notably Google Chrome — actually incorporated1 Flash into the browser itself so no additional download was required.

If you’re offered a Flash update of some sort, it’s almost certainly malicious these days. You don’t need it, because the websites you’re visiting are unlikely to still require it — and if they do, it’s likely already built into your browser.

If not Flash, then what?

The world has moved on to HTML version 5, or HTML5 for short. It was designed to include most of the features and functionality for which website owners previously used Flash.

One common example is video hosting. Early on, Adobe Flash was commonly used to play videos on many websites — including YouTube.

Now there many more powerful and robust alternatives2, and HTML5 itself includes a simple mechanism to display a video.

All current browsers support HTML5. Most websites have migrated to HTML5 or something else to replace Adobe Flash.

Flash remains dangerous, and for the most part is now unnecessary.

If you think you need Flash

If you think you need Flash, I suggest you proceed with extreme caution You probably don’t need it at all.

That being said, there are older websites that have failed to move beyond Flash. They will, by and large, stop working once Flash is well and truly gone. But some persist in requiring Flash — mostly online games.

My advice is to find a different website that solves your problem or allows you to play your game, and doesn’t require Flash. It’s still best avoided.

Failing that, if you feel the need to install or update Flash, do so only from the official Adobe download page, and nowhere else.

Adobe Flash Download Site
Adobe Flash download site. (Click for larger image.)

Even then, be careful!

Note that there are “optional offers” present and checked by default. Uncheck those, and keep a close eye on the resulting installation process. Always choose Custom installation, and watch the options for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) that might be installed with Flash.

You probably don’t need Flash, but if you do, you almost certainly don’t need any of these optional offers.

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Footnotes & References

1: Though they’re removing it now, as it’s still not secure and generally shouldn’t be necessary.

2: Typically used when something more than a basic player is desired, or when consistency across different browsers is important.

24 comments on “Should I Take the Flash Update I’ve Been Offered?”

  1. I got this update this morning it installed with out any problems. I didn’t see any additional download, if there was any it was well hidden.

    After the install was finished i chose (Notify me when updates are available) The reason i do this is, i want to watch as stuff is downloading and installing, just to make sure nothing is going wrong or nothing weird is happening.

  2. Adobe used to have a warning to use the official Adobe uninstaller to remove the old version before trying to install the newest version. I might be wrong but I think the warning started with version 10.2. The official uninstaller can be obtained here:

    Is Adobe now saying a newer version can be installed over an older version without uninstalling first? Or would it still be prudent to take a few extra minutes to uninstall the old version?

    I’ve not used an uninstaller for some time. The automatic notifications from Adobe just update Flash without a problem.

  3. I have had an issue with Adobe Flash for some time.
    I would boot up my PC and be presented with a window basically saying “adobe flash has been updated, press yes to install”.
    The first time I pressed yes, the window thought about it for a while, then came back with “you are not connected to the internet”.
    Being mildly paranoid about such things (which has saved me from bad virus infections in the past) immediately started me thinking ‘how does it know there is an update if there is no connection to tell it?’ and ‘why tell me about an update in the past tense THEN try to download it?’
    Their communication skills seem sketchy at best, and missleading at worst – i’m not surprised they try piggy-backing other crap onto you as part of the update process.

  4. I find, much to my annoyance, that once flash has been updated, I have to reload the software for my HP flatbed scanner.

  5. I have the same question as Bob of April 3rd of 2012. I turn on my laptop and theres a notice that there is a update and I am not on line.

  6. The other items that you have to watch out for during installs is things like the Google or Ask tool bar turds which by default are ticked ON for installation. It always pays to read every screen during installations and not mindlessly click the NEXT button.

  7. Worse. I keep getting notices to update TO the same version that I’ve already updated to. Finally, I just got tired of being told to update to what I already have, and tell it no. It keeps trying, and I keep refusing.

    You might try explicitly uninstalling Flash in Control Panel, and then installing the latest directly from adobe.

  8. After experiencing problems with Flash interfering with other programs I follow a simple rule – I do not install Flash on my main PC, but instead I keep another “disposable” PC with Flash and any other dodgy software installed on it, so that I can use these products without risking the main PC. If the “disposable” PC crashes then its no big deal.

  9. Leo, your summary at the beginning of the article seems a bit scary. I read that bit from the email and thought, “Oh, no! What have I done?”

    I had to read your article and the one you link to, to put my mind at ease. I don’t remember if I was offered anything else, but I know I wouldn’t have let it install.

    Ever since I downloaded your recommendation, CCleaner, I haven’t found the need for any other system tool.

  10. Since the latest Flash update I am unable to view videos on National Geographic sites. All other sites seem to work fine. When I click on a National Geographic video I get a screen telling me I need to get the latest version of Flash. Then the video window goes blank green. This happens in both IE8 and Google Chrome browsers.
    I have the latest version of Flash. I have contacted National Geographic about the problem and they say they have recently upgraded their software but have no answer for my problem.
    Has anyone else had this problem?
    Does anyone have an answer?

  11. Leo,
    When I reboot, I always get an option to update. I choose ‘Remind me later’. Is there a way to get rid of this annoyance?

  12. A good way to avoid PUPs, if you really need Flash, is to install it through (it pulls directly from the source [], but automatically declines PUPs).

  13. Hi Leo

    You wrote that Adobe Flash was not needed and to avoid updates,
    but you didn’t mention anything about uninstalling it, so should we?

    Also, what about Adobe Reader and Adobe Air, are they safe to keep
    and do we need them?

    Many thanks Leo


  14. I’m currently taking the National Safety Counsel Defensive Driver course online. This may be 2020, but it still uses Flash.

  15. I wish we could convince the government to replace Flash. If you want to see the NOAA radar loops in the Kansas City area you have to have Flash.

  16. Chris,
    I need Flash to open and view my Employer’s Roster, Payroll, Time Card and Leave entitlements on Kronos.
    This is a large multi- national company so I cannot recommend them to stop using it.
    What do I use instead of Flash?

    • YOU don’t use anything instead of flash. It’s something that the website implementor has to change. YOU would choose to use a different website that uses more current technology, if you can.

  17. I always take the flash updates with no problem. I assume they are closing security holes with each update because nothing else changes. I have more issues with Windows updates than Flash updates.

  18. I just installed a Flash update a few minutes ago. Reason being I had a sudden urge to start using Firefox again, and it wouldn’t allow me to play the games on without Flash. I’ve been playing them okay on Chrome, but the process for enabling Flash was completely different. Now, do I uninstall and simply head back over to Chrome, or do I give Firefox a chance?

    • If there’s any way to play those games and avoid using Flash, I’d do it. Flash was a vector for malware way back when the iPhone came out and Steve Jobs blocked iPhones and iPad from installing Flash. It’s only been getting worse since then.


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