Monday, April 2, 2012

Adobe Flash Player 11.2 and Automatic Updating for Windows

Yesterday, Adobe's familiar Flash Player Update window alerted me that a new version of Flash was available.  This is a fairly ordinary event, and I always accept these updates.  Flash, though it seems to be in decline, is still very widely used.  New Flash features, like video acceleration, can be interesting, but mainly I like to have the version with the fewest vulnerabilities. 

Something new caught my eye in the release note summary for Flash 11.2: Background Updater.  The Windows release of the latest version of Flash - Flash Player Desktop: - includes an automatic updating feature.

This feature, like most automatic updating applications, creates a new Windows service, "Adobe Flash Player Update Service", which, in Windows 7 64-bit versions, launches C:\Windows\SysWOW64\Macromed\Flash\FlashPlayerUpdateService.exe.

After the install, there's a new option screen which offers three choices:
  • Install updates automatically when available (recommended)
  • Notify me when updates are available
  • Never check for updates (not recommended
The middle setting essentially offers the screen-pop-up update notifier that Adobe has used for a few years.  If you choose that setting, as I did, the new Adobe Flash Player Update Service is set to Manual start.  After the install, you can modify these settings with the Flash Player control panel applet.

If you enable the Background Updater feature, the "Adobe Flash Player Update Service" service will be set to Automatic start and you'll get a scheduled task called "Adobe Flash Player Updater", naturally.  The task runs daily, according to Adobe, or hourly, according to the Task Scheduler.  Adobe documents explain that the task reverts to daily operation after the first check, but this doesn't seem to be true.

Adobe's description of the feature is pretty thorough.  Some key points:
  • It's nice to get automatic updates without having to do anything.
  • For Firefox, the running browser has no way of reacting to an updated plugin.  So if you're a Firefox user, and you leave you rarely reboot, you may be worse off with automatic updates, which don't take effect till you restart the computer.  At least with update alerts, you'll be prompted to close Firefox when updating Flash.
  • Internet Explorer users with Windows 7 x64 are in better shape - they'll be notified when a new Flash plugin has been installed. 
If you're not getting automatic updates for Adobe Flash, you'll want to grab them at

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