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

Ditch Those Unwanted Safari Plug-ins

Safari Plug-in list
The file name is included in the plug-in list. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Safari, Apple’s web browser, 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 is true of most browsers (and some other software programs), you can expand Safari’s feature set by adding modules called plug-ins. Plug-ins are small programs that can add functionality that a software program lacks; they can also enhance a program’s existing capabilities.

Plug-ins can have a down side. Poorly written plug-ins can slow down Safari’s web rendering performance. Plug-ins can compete with other plug-ins, causing stability issues, or replace a program’s built-in functionality with methods that aren’t as, well, functional.

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.

Find Your Installed Safari Plug-ins

Safari is quite willing to disclose which plug-ins are installed, although many people end up looking in the wrong place for this information. The first time I wanted to find out how Safari manages plug-ins, I looked in Safari’s preferences (from the Safari menu, select Preferences). Nope, they’re not there. The View menu seemed to be the next likely possibility; after all, I wanted to view the installed plug-ins.

Nope, they’re not there either. When all else fails, try the Help menu. A search on ‘plug-ins’ revealed their location.

  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 installed on your system.

Understanding the Safari Plug-ins List

Plug-ins are actually files within files.

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. (Short for coder/decoder, a codec compresses or decompresses voice or audio signals.)

Other types of plug-ins you’ll probably see include, Shockwave Flash, and Silverlight Plug-in. If you want to remove a plug-in, you need to know its file name. To find this information, look through the plug-in descriptions on the Installed Plug-ins list. 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 know the file name, you can remove the plug-in file; this will uninstall the plug-in from Safari.

Remove or Turn Off Plug-ins

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.

Manage Plug-ins

Plug-ins are managed from Safari Preferences.

  1. Launch Safari, and then select Safari, Preferences.
  2. In the Preferences window, select the Security button.
  3. If you wish to turn all plug-ins off, remove the checkmark from the Allow Plug-ins checkbox.
  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 been configured to have the plug-in turned on or off, or to ask each time the site is visited. Use the dropdown 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' dropdown menu sets the default (On, Off, or Ask). 

Remove the Plug-in File

Safari stores its plug-in files in one of two locations. The first location is /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/. This location contains plug-ins that are available to all users of your Mac, and is where you will find most plug-ins. The second location is your home directory’s Library folder at ~/Library/Internet Plug-ins/. 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. This location holds plug-ins that Safari only loads when you log in to your Mac.

How to Access Your Library Folder on Your Mac

To remove a plug-in, use the Finder to go to the appropriate location and drag the file whose name matches the description entry in the Installed Plug-ins page to the Trash. If you want to save the plug-in for possible later use, you can drag the file to another location on your Mac, perhaps a folder called Disabled Plug-ins that you create in your home directory. If you change your mind later and want to reinstall the plug-in, just drag the file 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 browsers functionality, Safari also supports Extensions. You can learn how to manage Extensions in the guide "Safari Extensions: Enabling and Installing Safari Extensions".