Fixing Poor Flash Video Performance in Firefox

Just when I thought I had fixed my problem with Firefox, another one rears its ugly head!

I have a client that wants a Flash-based slideshow on their home page, so I downloaded and installed the demo of Adobe’s Flash CS4 to create it. The only problem was that Flash upgraded the web browser plug-ins on my system from Flash 9 to Flash 10 without telling me. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but Flash 10 breaks the “image upload tool” in WordPress (read all about it here), so upgrading to 10 is a no-go. And, as it turns out, Flash 10 (the program, not the plug-in) is way overkill for the simple slideshow thing I want to do, so I uninstalled Flash, then the Flash plug-ins, and rebooted my computer.

I was good to go… or so I thought. I reinstalled Flash 9 and everything was OK for a couple of days. But then anything to do with Flash ground to a complete halt on my box. For example, a YouTube video would drop frames like crazy. Remember the early days of Internet video, when everyone had RealPlayer installed so they could watch postage stamp-size videos that often “froze up” on slow dial-up connections? That’s exactly what a YouTube video looked like on my system: the audio was fine, but the video would play fine for the first few seconds, then freeze up, then slow down to about 1 frame every 5 seconds, then freeze, then continue on slowly again.

Another example: the audio player on this very site. If you click this link, you’ll be taken to a “SONGS I LOVE” post, which contains a small audio player embedded inside. If you click on the “play” button, the player should smoothly expand to reveal a progress bar for the song. On my system, clicking that button in Firefox would cause the bar to move to the right a few pixels and freeze, then move a few move pixels and freeze and so on, until the player finally opened all the way (the audio would sound just fine, however). If I opened the same post in Internet Explorer or Safari on this very same system, the player would expand smoothly as expected – only Firefox had a problem.

Well, I looked high and low for a fix, and when I found it, I didn’t believe for a second that it would work… but it did! If Flash is working horribly for you in Firefox, simply do this:

1) Bookmark any tabs you want to go back to later.

2) Disable anything that saves your sessions (tabs). This not only includes extensions like SessionSaver or Weave, but also Firefox’s built-in session saving tool. Disable any extensions by going to Tools > Add-ons > Extensions and disable SessionSaver or Weave. Then go to Tools > Options and change the option under “When Firefox starts:” from “Show my windows and tabs from last time” to “Show a blank page”.

3) Restart Firefox.

Flash should now work properly. If so, you can reenable any extension and\or options that saved your previous session. Should Flash start acting badly again, just repeat the process above and you should be aces again.

If, on the other hand, a Flash video plays for exactly 2 seconds on your system and then freezes (especially on YouTube), I have another fix for you: simply go to Tools > Add-ons > Plugins and disable Flash, then restart Firefox. Once restarted, go back to Tools > Add-ons > Plugins and reenable Flash. That seems to work most of the time, but if not, close Fiirefox, uninstall Flash (Control Panel > Add|Remove Programs) and reinstall it (hey, you might want to download the Flash installer before shutting down Firefox, BTW).

Why is Flash such a pain in the ass with Firefox? No one knows. Adobe says it’s Mozilla’s fault, while Mozilla (predictably) blames Adobe. Until the finger pointing stops, users like us are stuck with this bullcrap.

5 Replies to “Fixing Poor Flash Video Performance in Firefox”

  1. Wow, can’t believe I didn’t think of this, but thanks! I’ve been having flash performance issues for a while now.

    My guess would be that it’s an issue with Firefox (or its extensions) writing periodically to disk every few seconds, and this action may cause other Firefox threads to pause for a moment. I have no direct knowledge of how Firefox operates, though — just a guess.

  2. Thanks for your help.

    I believe this is because of Flash Player, not Mozilla. Because, when I open a video using chrome or other browsers, my computer become slow. Very slow!!

    thanks for your help, anyway.

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