Flash Cookies – Finding and deleting [also how to remove flash from your PC]

In this post I want to cover the subject of flash cookies. If you use Adobe Flash Player [and over 95% of us have a flash plug-in in our browsers] then you will have flash cookies on your pc. These can be used to track your browsing. 

I will explain where to find flash cookies on your Mac or Windows machine, and how to remove them.

I will also suggest two Firefox extensions you can install to make flash  less obnoxious and explain how you can completely remove all the components of flash from your machine.

What are flash cookies?

There are two kinds of cookies – HTTP cookies and Flash cookies [also called Local Shared Objects]. Both are used to track your behaviour. Many people know about HTTP cookies. Few know about Flash cookies.

“HTTP cookies, sometimes known as web cookies or just cookies, are parcels of text sent by a server to a web browser and then sent back unchanged by the browser each time it accesses that server. HTTP cookies are used for authenticating, tracking, and maintaining specific information about users ... Cookies have been of concern for Internet privacy, since they can be used for tracking browsing behavior.” Wikipedia

I dealt with the subject of HTTP cookies in an earlier post. I have Firefox set to automatically delete mine at the end of every browsing session, and I often also clear them several times during a session. If you use Firefox it is easy to delete HTTP cookies. If you are a IE or Safari user it is a bit harder, but still worth doing if you want to protect your privacy.

HTTP cookies have some positive uses. They record site preferences, authentication and the contents of shopping trolleys. Flash cookies have all the privacy disadvantages of HTTP cookies, and non of their advantages. They do not have expiry dates and they can contain personal information that you have entered on Flash enabled websites. They are just nasty and you should clear them from your machine if you care about your privacy.

Where are Flash cookies stored?

Windows XP

First ensure that your hidden files and folders are visible

Start Windows Explorer and go to – Tools/Folder Options/View/

Click on Show hidden files and folders.

Click on Apply.

You can now see the flash cookies stored on your machine by using Windows Explorer to go to both of the locations where they are stored.

Documents and Settings/yourusername/Application Data/Macromedia/Flash Player/Shared Objects/your flash userid/

Documents and Settings/yourusername/Application Data/Macromedia/Flash Player/Macromedia.com/Support/Flashplayer/Sys/

You can safely delete any cookies you find at these two locations.

Macintosh OSX 10.5

Start Finder and go to

Places/yourusername/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/SharedObjects/your flash userid

Places/yourusername/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/Macromedia.com/Support/Flashplayer/Sys/Settings.sol

You can safely delete any cookies you find at these two locations.

Will this have any adverse effect when you visit flash enabled web sites? I doubt it. I have deleted all my flash cookies and blocked any future ones. I have not noticed any adverse effect at all.

Firefox extensions to manage Flash

Flash advertisements can be annoying. If you install the Flashblock Firefox extension Flash animations will only play with your permission.

The Better Privacy Firefox extension can be used to control Flash and automatically remove its cookies..

Completely remove Flash

Adobe has created some tools which you can download and use to completely remove Flash from your system. You can download them from the Adobe website.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for an explanation where to find these Flash Local Shared Objects or "flash cookies".

But I would like to mention, that they are sometimes needed... For example, if you are playing a flash game in your browser and want to save your progress then you might have to enable "flash cookies" for that site.

Greetings from Latvia! ;)

Anonymous said...

1. Even after you go (repeatedly) to the adobe/macromedia website and think you have set FlashPlayer to stop hiding these nasty secret cookies, they still appear on your hard drive.

2. You can do a Search for them by searching for *.sol and you will find a lot of them.

3. You can VIEW the content of some of the cookies (some are encrypted) with your Notepad or similar program.

4. MAXA COOKIE MANAGER (Germany) will find these secret cookies (and will let you see their content), but if you want to delete them, you need to buy the Paid Version of MAXA.

5. These cookies are NOT HARMLESS! They contain highly specific, personal info about your computer and your viewing habits. Some of them even include your computer's name and directory paths. This is way too invasive and should not be allowed--especially when done secretly behind our backs like this, by Adobe/Macromedia.

6. If you feel these secret Adobe/Macromedia spy cookies are a violation of your privacy and personal boundaries, COMPLAIN LOUDLY to adobe & DEMAND that they provide a PATCH that allows end-users to set the parameters (ON OUR OWN HARD DRIVES without interference from Adobe!) for whether these cookies appear on our machines...


PS CCleaner claims that it will detect and remove these FlashPlayer cookies, but we haven't yet found which version will do that--and for which browsers.

Anonymous said...

why not just delete them?

i.e. rm -r /Users/john/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash\ Player/#SharedObjects/RRWFWAK3/*

Anonymous said...

thanks for good info....