If you have installed Adobe software on your system, then you likely
have installed various accompanying updaters that periodically check for
updates from Adobe’s support servers. These updaters should run
seamlessly in the background; however, there are times when an odd
configuration of them may result in annoying distractions.
This may particularly happen if you have updated your system with
additional Adobe software, uninstalled and reinstalled (especially after
restoring from a backup), or otherwise have modified your Adobe
software installation. If affected, the problem may manifest as a brief
display of an Adobe-related updater, and may even affect the focus of
applications or otherwise interrupt your workflow.
MacFixIt reader Ed recently ran into such an issue:
While I am working in some application, a window pops open
and quickly disappears. It looks like a Flash Player installer or a
read-only installer disk image mounts and dismounts. It is there and
gone so fast that I can’t see well enough to read the item’s file name.
It is clearly a Flash Player icon. If I’m using an app like Word, typing
something, it switches me to the Finder, then disappears and I find
myself typing in the Finder. I have searched all over for the item with
Of course following notable malware outbreaks such as Flashback that
have disguised themselves as Adobe software, whenever Flash- and
Adobe-related oddities show up on a system, one suspicion folks might
have is that some new, related malware may be at play. While not an
invalid concern, another more likely issue is that some configuration
error is resulting in the problem.
If for some reason the installation or updating of software goes
awry, the system could be left in a configuration where it attempts to
perform some final cleanup steps, and could be regularly launching a
tool or helper to do so. Therefore, first I recommended to Ed to try
reinstalling any recently installed Adobe software, including the latest
version of Flash. However, this did not work, and the problem
In looking closer at the problem, it was clear that the problem was
being triggered on regular intervals and not in response to any specific
task. At one point Ed could be using Word and have the problem appear,
and at other times the problem could happen when using another program.
This behavior indicates that the problem was likely manifesting
itself through launch agent scripts, which are methods that Apple and
third-party developers can use for periodically running updaters and
other routine tasks in the background.
Therefore, the next step was to check the contents of the following
Launch Agent folders to see if any items in it looked suspicious or out
Macintosh HD > Library > LaunchAgents
Users > username > Library > LaunchAgents
In addition to using the Finder to view the contents of these folders, the following Terminal command can quickly list them:
ls /Library/LaunchAgents ~/Library/LaunchAgents
After listing the contents of these folders, it was apparent that
Ed’s account Launch Agents folder (~/Library/LaunchAgents) contained
three files of the following names:
These files are installed by Adobe Reader to run the automatic
updater that’s included with that program, and in checking the contents
of each file it was apparent that they were all doing the exact same
thing: targeting the program “Adobe Reader Updater Helper” and having it
run every 12,600 seconds (3.5 hours) to check for updates.
The contents of the launch agents show they are
all targeting the same “Adobe Reader Updater Helper” program and are
doing so every 12600 seconds (3.5 hours).
While running this updater program under normal circumstances should
not cause an issue, having three launch agents running it simultaneously
will cause the system to schedule attempts to open and run the updater
program at the exact same point in time.
Since the system will only allow one instance of this program to run
at a time, the three simultaneous attempts may result in odd errors and
perhaps could lead to the system switching application focus and
flashing brief instances of the program’s interface onscreen.
To fix this problem, all Ed had to do was remove two of the Launch
Agent scripts, leaving only one to manage the updater, then simply log
out and back in, or restart the computer. After doing this, the updater
still runs in the background as it should, but it no longer switched
application focus and interrupted his workflow.