IE7 and Flash Plugin Behavior

Posted in Fixes, For Geeks Only

Two weeks ago, I started to experience some issues with my Flash plugin in IE7.  Some sites that previously detected my plugin correctly, were now reporting that I had the incorrect version of the plugin installed.  Every time I went to Adobe’s Flash site to install the plugin, it would tell me I had the most recent version installed.  I performed a number of uninstalls and reinstalls, to no avail.  I scoured the web for other people who were having the same problem.  It appears that there are a lot of people having similar issues!  There were even some very detailed fixes posted on some of the sites that I found.  I tried them all.

Most people would say, “why not just use FireFox as your browser?”  Well, I use IE7, FF3, and Safari for Windows on a regular basis to test client projects and ensure browser compatibility.  So it was not acceptable that the browser that still holds the biggest share of the market was not working for me.  But I couldn’t find a solution.

Last night, I found an obscure article, that had nothing to do with Flash, but did mention some weird behavior in IE7 under a very particular condition.  That particular condition was, the user-agent string reported by the browser to servers being longer than 260 characters.  After I read that, I did a quick check on my browser user-agent string, and found it to be approaching 300 characters!  It seems with the addition of some other plugins and software to my machine a few weeks ago, I pushed myself over this obscure and rarely documented threshhold.

To fix this problem, I had to edit my registry, and remove some of the things that IE7 was reporting back in my user-agent.  While I offer this as the solution that worked for me, I note that editing your registry can be a risky endeavor, and should not be taken lightly.  Make sure you set a restore point for your machine before you touch your registry.

The list of values that are reported in the user-agent can be found in the following location in your registry:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE|SOFTWARE|Microsoft|CurrentVersion|Inernet Settings|5.0|User Agent|Post Platform

I removed a few of the values there (right click, chose “delete”) and restarted my browser.  Voila!  Problem solved!