How to View, Manage, or Remove Safari Plug-ins

Ditch those unwanted Safari plug-ins

Safari is one of the best browsers for the Mac. Out of the box, Safari is fast and can handle just about any type of website as well as some of the most advanced interactive websites out there. Of course, every once in a while, a website comes along that needs a little bit more in the way of specialized service to perform its intended function.

You can expand Safari’s feature set by adding modules called plug-ins. These add-ons are small programs that can add functionality that a software program lacks; they can also enhance a program’s existing capabilities, such as adding additional methods to track and control cookies.

Instructions in this article apply to Safari 9 and earlier. In Safari 10, Apple ended most support for legacy plug-ins.

How to Find Your Installed Safari Plug-Ins

A MacBook Air showing the Safari plug-ins screen

After you've had Safari for a while, you might lose track of which plug-ins you have installed. Here's how to find the list in Safari.

  1. Launch Safari.

  2. From the Help menu, select Installed Plug-ins.

  3. Safari will display a new web page that lists all of the Safari plug-ins that are currently on your system.

Understanding the Safari Plug-Ins List

Safari groups plug-ins by the file that contains the small programs. An example that just about every Mac Safari user will see on the Installed Plug-ins page is one of the various Java Applet Plug-ins. The Java Applet Plug-ins encompass a number of files, each providing a different service or even a different version of Java. 

Another common plug-in you may see, depending on the version of Safari and OS X you are using, is QuickTime. A single file called QuickTime Plugin.plugin provides the code that runs QuickTime, but it’s actually made up of dozens of individual codecs for playing back various types of content.

"Codec" is short for coder/decoder. A codec compresses or decompresses voice or audio signals.

To remove a plug-in, you need to know its file name. For example, to remove the Shockwave or Flash plug-in, look for a Shockwave Flash entry in the Description column for the Flash Player.plugin. Once you locate the description for the plug-in, you'll see an entry like the following: Shockwave Flash 23.0 oRo - from file Flash Player.plugin. The last part of that entry is the file name, in this case, Flash Player.plugin .

Once you know the file name, you can remove the plug-in file to uninstall it from Safari.

How to Remove or Turn Off Plug-ins

Plug-ins can have a downside. Poorly written ones can slow down Safari’s web rendering performance. They can also compete and cause stability issues or replace a program’s built-in functionality with less desirable methods that don't work as well.

You can remove plug-ins completely by deleting the plug-in files; with newer versions of Safari, you can manage the plug-ins from the Safari Preferences settings, turning plug-ins on or off by website.

The method you use depends on the plug-in, and whether you're ever going to make use of it. Removing plug-ins outright makes sense; it keeps Safari from becoming bloated and ensures memory isn't wasted. And although Safari plug-in files are fairly small, removing them frees up a bit of disk space.

Managing plug-ins is the better choice when you want to keep plug-ins installed but don’t want to use them at the moment, or you want to restrict them to certain websites.

Whether you want to add functionality or fix a plug-in problem, it’s a good idea to know how to find out what plug-ins Safari is currently using, and how to remove the ones you don’t wish to use.

Here's how to manage Safari plug-ins.

  1. Launch Safari, and then select Safari > Preferences.

  2. Select the Security button.

  3. To turn all plug-ins off, remove the checkmark from the Allow Plug-ins box.

  4. To manage plug-ins by website, click the button labeled Plug-in Settings or Manage Website Settings, depending on the version of Safari you're using.

  5. Plug-ins are listed in the left-hand sidebar. Remove the checkmark next to a plug-in to disable it.

  6. Selecting a plug-in will display a list of websites that have it turned on, off, or to ask each time the site is visited. Use the drop-down menu next to the website name to change the plug-in usage setting. If no website has been configured to use the selected plug-in, the setting of the When visiting other websites drop-down menu sets the default (On, Off, or Ask).

How to Remove a Plug-in File

To completely delete a plug-in from your computer, delete its file from your hard drive.

Safari stores its plug-in files in one of two locations. The first is /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/. This location contains plug-ins that are available to all users of your Mac. You'll find most of them here.

The second location is your home directory’s Library folder at ~/Library/Internet Plug-ins/. This location holds plug-ins that Safari only loads when you log in to your Mac.

The tilde (~) in the pathname is a shortcut for your user account name. For example, if your user account name is Tom, the full pathname would be /Tom/Library/Internet Plug-ins.

To remove a plug-in, drag the file whose name matches the description entry in the Installed Plug-ins page to the Trash. You can drag the file to another location on your Mac to disable it but save it for later. Create a folder called Disabled Plug-ins that you create in your home directory to hold these files. If you change your mind later and want to reinstall the plug-in, drag it back to its original location.

After you remove a plug-in by moving it to the Trash or another folder, you’ll need to restart Safari for the change to take effect.

Plug-ins are not the only method used by Safari to allow third-party developers to extend the functionality of the browser, Safari also supports Extensions.