Chrome browser on Windows fails to update embedded Flash player

Three days ago, on October 8th, Adobe released a new copy of the Flash player, version 11.9.900.117 (see the Release Notes and Announcement). That same day Google announced that "We are updating Flash Player to version 11.9.900.117 on Windows and Mac via our component update system (i.e. there will not be a Chrome update)."

Yet, here I sit three (going on four by the time this was published) days later with Chrome on Windows 7 still using the old version (11.8.800.170) of Flash. This, despite the fact that Chrome reports that it is up to date (version 30.0.1599.69 m, below). Bill Clinton must have been right, there are multiple definitions of "is", because it certainly is not up to date.

Chrome browser up to date

Chrome considers Flash a "plugin" and Chrome users can see the version of installed plugins by entering either "chrome://plugins" or "about:plugins" in the address bar. All web browser users can check on the latest version of Flash, as well as their installed version, at two Adobe tester pages: adobe.com/software/flash/about and helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/find-version-flash-player.html

FORCING AN UPDATE 

It used to be that invoking the "About Google Chrome" option on the Chrome menu bar forced the browser to check for updates. Obviously things are no longer that simple. So, I tried to force Chrome to update itself by running the scheduled Google updates. 

Since the beginning, installing Chrome on Windows created two scheduled tasks. One task runs hourly, the other once a day. 

I started with the daily task figuring that if the computer was not running at the scheduled time (which varies on each computer) perhaps the task didn't run. The Windows task scheduler can keep a history, but for whatever reason, the history was disabled on this particular copy of Windows 7.

The task is named " GoogleUpdateTaskUserS-1-5-21-3588425011-2520465083-2943838727-1004Core" and it runs program GoogleUpdate.exe with a parameter of "/c". I force it to run by right clicking on the task. No new Flash.

The hourly task is called "GoogleUpdateTaskUserS-1-5-21-3588425011-2520465182-2943837927-1004UA" and it runs the same GoogleUpdate.exe program only without any parameters. Manually running this task also failed to update Flash.

On another Windows 7 computer the history of scheduled tasks was enabled and it showed both tasks had been happily chugging along. Still, however, Chrome was using the old version of Flash. 

Then I made the mistake of trusting Adobe. 

An article on their web site, Flash Player with Google Chrome, says "If the built-in Flash Player in Chrome is disabled, Chrome uses the downloaded plug-in version of Flash Player if it is installed on the user’s system".

So, I installed the latest Flash for Firefox and disabled Flash in Chrome. Adobe was wrong, Chrome does not fall back, it complains that Flash is disabled. 

Since the Adobe article does not say when it was written, when it was last updated or when it was last reviewed, I can only assume that back in the 1970s Chrome did work that way. But no more.

Speaking of Firefox, it too had a problem installing Flash. I try to limit myself to a single copy of Flash, so the Firefox plugin and the Internet Explorer ActiveX editions are normally not installed.

To install Flash for Firefox I went to the main Adobe tester page, got the notice that the plugin was missing and let Firefox 24 automatically install it. The installation failed (this was on Oct 11th) and, it's a good thing it did, as Firefox tried to install the old version of Flash rather than the latest version. It seems both browsers are behind the times.

Update: Oct 12, 2013 3PM ET: Four days after the latest Flash was released, the Firefox auto-installation of the Flash Player still tries and fails to install the old version. Tested on Windows 7. 

COMPONENT UPDATING

Back to the drawing board. 

Someone who identified themselves as "Der Moloch" left a comment at Google's blog posting about updating Chrome to Flash version 11.9.900.117 that said "The component update system is very obscure. It seems the process cannot be started manually but checks on its own every five hours and requires Chrome to be running".

This made me re-read the Google announcement and notice that it says Flash will be updated with the "component update system". It turns out that Google's component updating system is separate and distinct from their legacy updating system (the two scheduled tasks). In "Manage Chrome browser updates on Windows" the company says:

Chrome Component Updater allows the Chrome engineering team to release small updates to parts of Chrome on a very rapid schedule. The Chrome component updater behaves as follows: Runs only when Chrome is running ... 

Very rapid schedule? I think not. But at least there is a hint, Chrome has to be left running for the embedded copy of the Flash player to get updated. Ugh. 

According to blogger Martin Brinkmann, in the future, Chrome users will be able to type "chrome://components" into the address bar and then click a button to force an update to the Flash player. In the mean time all we can do, apparently, is leave the browser running and hope. 

Time was, the Chrome browser got updated copies of the Flash player before Adobe even announced they were available. Oh, the good old days.

Update: Oct. 13, 2013 5PM ET. Checked three Windows 7 computers: two still were using the older version of Flash, one had been updated. The Firefox v24 automatic installation of the Flash Player still wants to install the old version (11.8.800.168). 

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