Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Why does my Flash plugin crash?

        Tech | Internet Tips

We've all been blissfully (and mindlessly) browsing sites on the Internet when we get an error message saying the Flash plugin crashed. But have you ever wondered just what causes this?
We've all been blissfully (and mindlessly) browsing sites on the Internet when we get an error message saying the Flash plugin crashed. But have you ever wondered just what causes this?
benstevens/Thinkstock

The Flash plugin is a small program that works within your browser, allowing you to view and interact with animated files created in Flash format. The reasons for a crash can vary from browser to browser. Here, we'll look at the most likely causes of Flash plugin crashes in Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Google Chrome has its own internal Flash installation, unlike Firefox and Internet Explorer, which rely on your computer system's Flash installation to handle Flash content [source: Fitzpatrick]. In some cases, Chrome tries to simultaneously use both its internal version and the installation on your machine, and everything freezes up. To find out if this is the cause of your Flash crash, type "about://plugins" (without quotes) in the address bar of your Chrome window. If you find two Flash files in use, disable one of them and give the site another try [source: Fitzpatrick].

If duplicate Flash files aren't the source of your problem, you may have software or malware on your system that's causing the crash. To check this, type "chrome://conflicts" into your address bar, and Chrome will display a list of any third-party applications known to conflict with Chrome [sources: Fitzpatrick, Google]. You can also check to see if a browser extension such as ad-blocking software may be causing a conflict. Type (you guessed it) "chrome://extensions" into your browser address bar and go down the list one by one to see if disabling one of the extensions resolves the issue (source: Spector].

In Firefox, the most common reason for a Flash plugin crash is an outdated version of the Flash player [source: Mozilla Support]. To check, go to Mozilla's Plugin Check page and see if Flash needs to be updated. If so, you will need to manually install the latest version of Flash from the Adobe website. If Flash is up to date, try disabling hardware acceleration, first in Flash (you can find this setting in your Adobe Flash Player Settings), then in the Firefox browser itself [source: Mozilla Support]. (Hardware acceleration uses the video or graphics card on your computer for extra processing power when displaying animations or videos.)

Flash plugin crashes seem to be slightly less common in Internet Explorer, but if you do experience a crash, the most likely culprit is an outdated version of Flash [source: Adobe]. If installing the latest version of Flash Player from the Adobe website doesn't solve the problem, another browser add-on may be causing a conflict. To remove or disable add-ons, click on Manage Add-ons, under the Tools button in Internet Explorer [source: Microsoft].