Removing Flash from your Mac

No Flash Illustration

Back in October, Apple shipped its first MacBook Air models without the Adobe Flash plug-in pre-installed. In the ensuing brouhaha, Ars Technica discovered Flash cut battery life by up to 33 percent on the MacBook Air and possibly other MacBook models. Personally, my MacBook often sounds like it's preparing for space flight when I visit pages that use Adobe's plug-in.

Whether you wish to conserve electricity, silence overactive cooling fans, boost the security of your browsing experience or protest against the use of media plug-ins, you can easily remove Adobe Flash from your Mac. Most often, the Flash plug-in can be found in the "Internet Plug-Ins" folder on your system's hard drive. To get there, switch to the Finder and select "Go to Folder..." from the "Go" menu. When prompted, enter "/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/" and click "Go" to switch to the appropriate location on your system.

Once you are in the "Internet Plug-Ins" directory, make a new folder called "Disabled Plug-Ins." Move the "Flash Player.plugin," "flashplayer.xpt" and "NP-PPC-Dir-Shockwave" files into your new "Disabled Plug-Ins" folder. Or if you really want to kill Flash, toss these files into the Trash. (Note: if you don't find these three files in "/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/" they may be hiding in "~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/".) The next time you relaunch Safari or Firefox, Flash will no longer be enabled.

If you need to view a Flash-enabled page in a pinch, you can install and launch Chrome. This Safari-alternative ships with a Flash plug-in embedded in the browser. You can also install OmniWeb or iCab and copy the Flash plug-in into the browser's plug-in folder. For OmniWeb, right-click on the OmniWeb application and choose "Show Package Contents" to reveal the PlugIns folder. Copy the Flash plug-in to the folder, and you should be good to go. iCab does not contain a PlugIns folder, but you can create one yourself and copy over the Flash plug-in manually.

Of course, you may still wish to use websites that deliver useful content exclusively through Adobe's plug-in. If so, you could give Flash a reprieve and rely on a plug-in called ClickToFlash (or a similarly named Safari extension) that bottles Flash content until you ask for it. Unfortunately, ClickToFlash accomplishes its Flash-blocking magic by masquerading as Flash itself, preventing websites from automatically sending alternative, standards-based content. While ClickToFlash offers some useful benefits, you may still find Flash Player running wild in the background after selectively enabling it on a page.

If simply blocking Flash falls short of satisfaction, go ahead and remove the plug-in from your system using the instructions above. Then, download Google Chrome or any browser with its own encapsulated version of the Flash Player. According to Mac OS X Hints, it may be possible to configure OmniWeb or iCab with browser-specific (rather than system-wide) copies of the Flash Player. When you encounter a website with Flash content you want to see, open it in the browser you've dedicated to Flash and enjoy. When you're done viewing the content, you can quit the browser and its local copy of Flash will quit, too; Flash will not continue to run in the background, drain your battery or expose your primary browser to the plug-in's additional security flaws.

Give it a try and see how it goes. In the worst case, you can always download and install a fresh, up-to-date copy of Flash Player for free from Adobe's website. In the best case, you'll find that most of the pages you enjoy don't actually rely on Flash, and you'll save some electricity or keep the fans in your Mac from going wild. If you have any additional tips, words of wisdom or Flash-blocking anecdotes, please share them in the comments.

[Thanks for the additional tips, John Gruber]