A handy tip about updating Flash in the Chrome browser

After my last blog, about recent updates to the Flash Player, a reader was nice enough to pass along a tip that I am now passing along to you.

I track updates to the Flash Player on my FlashTester.org site, and a number of times Chrome has been late installing an update. The browser would report that it was up to date, yet Flash would be a release behind. My last blog mentioned the helplessness of Chrome users to force an update to Flash. It turns out, we are not helpless.

In addition to the standard, well-known mechanism, shown below, for updating Chrome (hamburger menu -> Help -> About Google Chrome), Google has a second system that they sometimes use for Flash.

chrome.full.update.inprogress

Updating the Chrome web browser, the normal way

Chrome, like all browsers, is a large complex package. On the Windows 7 computer that I normally use, the

C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\49.0.2623.112

folder is currently 390 megabytes and contains 88 files. In addition, Chrome stores files in

C:\Users\[windowsuserid]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data

Many of the files in this second location are the browser cache, but, even ignoring the cache, Chrome has 3,768 files here consuming 239 megabytes.

Rather than do a full refresh for a small change, Google's second update system does small updates for small changes. The parts of Chrome that can be individually updated are called components and the Flash Player, embedded in Chrome, is one of these components.

Google mentions this in an article targeted at IT administrators called Manage Chrome updates on Windows. It makes a good first impression. The article says that the "Chrome Component Updater allows the Chrome engineering team to release small updates to parts of Chrome on a very rapid schedule." Compared to the full browser update, the article notes that the Component Updater uses a small amount of bandwidth and only runs when the browser itself is running.

The downside, for me at least, has been that there was no interface to the Chrome Component Updater.

The tip that I received (thanks Michael) was that there is, in fact, an interface to it, and, that the Component Updater can be used to update Flash. 

The interface is a URL, chrome://components

chrome.components.update2

Updating Chrome browser components

The number of Chrome components varies by operating system. The screen shot above, taken on Windows 10, indicates there are nine, only the first five are shown. There are six components on OS X 10.10, eight on Windows 7, nine on Windows 8.1 and two on Chrome OS 49.

The Flash Player is identified as "pepper_flash". Simply click the gray "Check for update" button and the Chrome Component Updater will not only check for updates, it will also download and install an available update.

The "Component updated" message in the screen shot above is the result of upgrading Flash from version 21.0.0.213 to 21.0.0.216. If there is no available update, the button click response is "Component not updated". If your computer is slow and/or the component is large, you may briefly see a "component downloading" message too.

In my tests, the Chrome Component Updater worked consistently across Windows, OS X and Chrome OS. The only downside is that on Chrome OS (tested on version 49) Flash is not an available component.

So, there is no excuse for Windows and Mac users to run Chrome with an old version of Flash. Good thing too, considering how buggy it has been over the years.

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