How to update Flash on your Mac safely and avoid malware

Adobe frequently updates its Flash software with security improvements and other changes. Seeing update messages has become routine enough that some malware developers have started using "Flash updates" as a way of infecting your computer. Learn how to safely update your Mac to the latest version of Flash without worrying about malware or adware getting on there too.

What is Flash?

Adobe's Flash multimedia software remains very popular for web content. Apple no longer pre-installs Flash on the Mac, but many of us have put it on on so we can access the web sites we use.

With Flash installed, Mac users can access multimedia content on the Web using Safari and other Mac-compatible web browsers.

Flash and malware

Adobe's trying harder than ever to stay on top of security problems and exploits by regularly updating Flash software. Sometimes these updates are mandatory in order for you to continue to use Flash.

The updates have become frequent enough that developers of malware — software that hijacks your computer and potentially opens you up to security problems — have figured out that they can fool users into installing their software by making it look like Flash.

Fortunately, you can make sure you're installing the real Flash by only downloading from Adobe's web site. If you're prompted to install a Flash file from anywhere besides a domain ending in "," close your web browser window immediately. If you're confused or scared of what to do next, I'd recommend taking your Mac to an Apple Store or Apple-authorized service provider for further assistance.

If you'd like to make sure you're on top of things yourself, follow these steps to install or update Flash on your Mac safely.

Bonus tip: If you don't mind using a third-party Web browser on your Mac, there's another solution, too. You can download Google's Chrome web browser for OS X. Chrome "sandboxes" Flash — keeping it from installing malware.

Sandboxing is a security method for apps that restricts how they can access system resources. Apple requires apps downloaded from the Mac App Store and iOS App Store to be sandboxed. Google's taken it a step further by sandboxing Flash itself inside the browser.

(Hat tip: Adam Spelbring)

To install (or update) Flash on your Mac

  1. Double-click on Safari (or your preferred Web browser) to open it.
  2. Type in the address bar and press the return key.
  3. Click on Search in the upper right hand corner.
  4. Type Flash in the search field then click on Get Adobe Flash Player.
  5. Click on the Install Now button on the right hand side.
  6. A file whose name starts with "AdobeFlashPlayerInstaller" will now download to your computer. For most of us, this file goes in the Downloads folder. This file ends with .dmg. It's a "disk image" file.
  7. In Safari, click on the Downloads button in the search bar, then click on the magnifying glass to go to the .dmg file. Double-click on the AdobeFlashPlayerInstaller file to open it.
  8. Quit Safari.
  9. A new window will appear in your Finder. Double-click on the icon called Install Adobe Flash Player.
  10. You may get a message saying, "'Install Adobe Flash Player' is an application downloaded from the Internet. Are you sure you want to open it?" It will tell you that the file came from "" Click on Open to proceed.
  11. Type in your administrator password and click on OK.
  12. The Adobe Flash Player installer will download additional content it needs to proceed. If you haven't quit Safari, it will then tell you to close your web browser. Click on Safari, then click on the Safari menu, then click Quit Safari and click the Retry button in the installer.
  13. Once the Flash Player Installer is done, it should say "Installation Complete." Click on the Finish button.
  14. Safari should relaunch. You should get a thank you message.
  15. Flash should now be installed and up to date on your Mac. Make sure you've checked Allow Adobe to install updates (Recommended) in the Flash Player system preference, under the Updates tab, to stay on top of future security issues.