Disable Flash or Uninstall Flash

Flash can be a very handy tool. There are some excellent entertainment and game sites online with great Flash objects to play with. Unfortunately, much of what Flash is used for now-a-days is for ads. Big, loud, annoying ads. If you've ever suddenly been startled by a loud unexpected ad while quietly browsing the web, it's almost always Flash. To make matters even worse, flash can now be used to compromise your privacy. So what can you do?

Option 1: Uninstalling Flash

If, like some people, you decide that the downsides of Flash (privacy invasion, loud annoying ads) simply outweigh the benefits (fun animations and games), you can simply uninstall it from your system. To accomplish this, Macromedia has a page with Flash uninstallers that remove it from your system. Unfortunately, some browsers will then prompt you to install Flash EVERY time you visit a page with Flash on it, which can be very annoying. Disabling it can be preferable in these instances.

Option 2: Ad-Blockers

Some people choose to use some sort of ad-blocking software. There are several out there and I won't try to list them all here. I've used AdBlock for Firefox and the Mozilla Suite for quite some time. It works quite well. There are several out for Internet Explorer as well. The unfortunate thing with adblockers, though, is that some Flash ads will still get through. And if a website is using 1x1 flash applets to track you from their own site (and get around the fact that you disable or delete your cookies for privacy reasons), an ad blocker won't help.

Option 3: FlashBlock ...Recommended!

Works with Mozilla Suite, Mozilla Firefox, K-Meleon and Camino (All are free. I recommend Firefox!)

For Gecko-based browsers, a handy utility exists that lets you disable flash and replace it with a clickable button called FlashBlock. If you'd like to view that Flash object, just click the button and it appears. (Plus, there's a whitelist allowing you to specify sites that will always be allowed. Just right-click a flash object and select "Allow Flash from this site".) If not, it just stays a button. A silent, motionless button. FlashBlock effectively blocks all 1x1 Flash tracking applets as well. Mozilla Suite and Mozilla Firefox users can install FlashBlock from the FlashBlock extension page. K-Meleon 0.9 users have FlashBlock installed by default. Camino users will need to hack a little bit to get it working.

Option 4: Internet Explorer: Registry Hack

There are a couple utilities for Internet Explorer that let you turn Flash on and off. All they usually do is update a simple registry key. I've setup .REG files here to make it even easier. These work under Windows XP with Internet Explorer 5, 5.5 and 6.

Warnings

  • These files are provided without warranty. Use them at your own risk.
  • These files have only been tested by me on Windows XP Pro, though they may work on other Windows variants.

Files

The following files are .reg files. You should download them to your PC and then double-click them to add them to your registry. After saying YES to the message box, the effect is immediate. There is no need to reboot or restart your browser, though you will have to reload the current page.

On the small possibility you have any issues with these files, you should be able to get Flash back to the way it is supposed to be by rebooting, ensuring all browser windows are closed, uninstalling flash using the tool linked above, rebooting and then installing Flash again.