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How-To: Remove, Limit, Or Fix Adobe Flash On Your Mac

People freaked out when Apple flatly refused to let the iPhone and iPod touch support Adobe’s Flash plug-in, forcing the companies into a messy public battle over Flash’s power consumption and stability. Four years later, it’s long past obvious that Apple was right, particularly since Flash is now wreaking havoc on Macs with OS X Lion installed. Here are some quick tips for removing, limiting, or sandboxing Adobe Flash so that your Mac doesn’t lock up or lose half of its battery life. We’d recommend that you dump Flash altogether, but if you can’t do that, we have some tips to (try to) fix it, as well.

Uninstall Flash. If you’re experiencing random Mac lockups, there’s a possibility that Flash is somehow responsible—last year, Apple reportedly blamed Flash for the majority of Mac crashes, and things haven’t gotten any better since then. Purging Flash from your machine will require you to look in your Applications > Utilities folder for a file called Adobe Flash Player Install Manager—the program loads up as Adobe Flash Player Uninstaller. (You can also use Spotlight to search for the app.) There’s a nice, shiny Uninstall button there, and after hitting it, you’ll need to confirm that you want to remove Flash. You’ll be glad that you did; MacBooks will generally see big battery life boosts, and desktop machines won’t lock up or experience Safari crashes as often.

Limit Flash. If you need to keep Flash on your machine but don’t want to auto-load it every time a web page requests it, download the new Safari 5.1-compatible application ClickToFlash. This extension displays placeholder Flash blocks where Flash could be loaded, enabling you to manually decide whether to risk slowing down or destabilizing your machine.

Sandbox Flash. If you want to keep a Flash-ready browser around for the (increasingly rare) situations in which it’s needed, install Google’s Chrome browser, which keeps its own version of Flash in a “sandbox” so that you won’t hang up the rest of your system if Flash crashes. The only problem here is that Chrome’s version of Flash may be a generation behind the latest release—this matters because Adobe keeps releasing new versions of Flash all the time in a never-ending effort to reduce crashes.

Update Flash. If for whatever reason you need to keep Flash installed in your main Safari browser, don’t be surprised if it’s quietly responsible for causing complete OS X system lockups or Safari-specific crashes. Here’s where you can get the latest version of Flash, which as of this writing appears to still be causing OS X errors. While you’re at it, update Adobe AIR, which has been having problems of its own.

Based on our experiences, our strong advice would be to start planning for a Flash-free future—due to persistent and serious instabilities, as well as crazy (50%) battery drain, all of our editors are currently in the process of stripping as many unnecessary Adobe applications off of our machines as possible. Yes, it’s come to this.

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