Browser plug-ins like Flash and Java add additional features web pages can use. However, they can also slow things down when in use or add extra security holes, particularly in the case of Java.
Each web browser has a built-in way to view your installed browser plug-ins and choose which are enabled, although this feature is hidden in many browsers. To remove a plug-in completely, you’ll need to uninstall it from the Windows Control Panel.
Google Chrome has several hidden chrome:// pages you can access. To view the plug-ins installed in Chrome, type chrome://plugins into Chrome’s address bar and press Enter.
This page shows all the installed browser plug-ins enabled in Google Chrome. To disable a plug-in, click the Disable link under it. You can also click the Details option to view more detailed information, such as the location of the plug-in on your computer’s file system.
By default, many plug-ins can only run with your permission. This helps prevent websites from exploiting plug-ins like the vulnerable Java plug-in. The Always allowed check box allows you to bypass this protection for an individual plug-in, but it’s unchecked by default for a reason.
Firefox makes your list of installed plug-ins easier to access. To view your list of installed plug-ins, open the Firefox menu, click Add-ons, and select Plugins.
You can disable individual plug-ins by clicking the Disable button. To view more information about a plug-in, such as its file name, click the Options button. You won’t actually find any options you can use to configure the plug-in from here, only additional information.
If you would like to view a more technical list, Firefox’s old plug-ins page is still available on one of Firefox’s hidden about: pages. Just type about:plugins into Firefox’s and press Enter to access it.
Internet Explorer lists its browser plug-ins along with other browser add-ons you have installed. To view them, click the gear menu at the top-right corner of the Internet Explorer window and select Manage add-ons.
Browser plug-ins are displayed under the Toolbars and Extensions category, along with any browser toolbars and other type of ActiveX add-ons you have installed. Note that many are hidden by default – click the Show box at the bottom-left corner of the screen and select All add-ons to view them all.
You can disable add-ons by selecting them in the list and using the Disable button at the bottom-right corner of your screen.
Opera allows you to view its installed plug-ins on one of its hidden opera: pages. Just type opera:plugins into the address bar and press Enter to view your list of installed plug-ins.
You can disable plug-ins from here by using the Disable button, just as you would in other browsers. You can also disable all plug-in support by unchecking the Enable plug-ins check box or use the Refresh plug-ins link to have Opera notice new plug-ins you’ve just installed. (This normally requires a browser restart.)
Uninstalling a Plug-in
You’ve probably noticed that web browsers don’t have a built-in way to uninstall plug-ins from your system. Unlike browser extensions or add-ons, plug-ins are installed system-wide.
To uninstall a plug-in, you’ll have to open the Uninstall or change a program screen in the Windows Control Panel, locate the plug-in, and uninstall it like you would any other installed program.
To view your installed plug-ins in Safari, click the Help menu and select Installed Plug-ins.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 03/9/13