How to get click to play working in Firefox 23 or newer

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 7, 2013

Click to Play is mainly a security feature in browsers such as Firefox or Google Chrome that prevents plugin contents on websites to load automatically. Plugins are often used for media streaming, advertisement, or games, and while that does not sound too bad at first, they are also on the high priority list of malicious people who exploit vulnerabilities in them.

Click to Play itself does not distinguish between good or bad contents, it simply blocks them all and gives you the option to enable them, or leave them disabled.

Mozilla has been using Click to Play internally for some time to block known vulnerable plugin versions and unstable plugins from being run in Firefox. You still get an option to override that, but initially, you are safe from exploits this way.

Up until now, you had to enable click to play in the Firefox preferences. First integrated in Firefox 14 Nightly, it is now part of all Firefox versions. Unfortunately, it is still only configurable via the advanced configuration and not the options menu.

  1. Type about:config in Firefox's address bar and confirm that you will be careful when the message comes up (on first visit only).
  2. Search for plugins.click_to_play and set it to true by double-clicking its preference name.

This was all you had to do in pre-Firefox 23 versions to enable Click to Play functionality. With Firefox 23 comes a change that may confuse some users.

Even if you have enabled Click to Play via the preference, you may notice that plugin contents get loaded automatically. Mozilla has changed the way the feature is handled.

Besides setting the preference to true, you need to change the state of plugins in the plugins manager. Once you have set the preference, and it is important to note that this is still the main requirement to enable the functionality, you need to open the Plugins section of the Add-ons Manager.

  1. Tap on the Alt-key on your keyboard and select Tools > Add-ons from the menu, or use Ctrl-Shift-A to open the Add-ons Manager directly.
  2. Switch to Plugins here.

You will notice a menu next to each plugin that refers to the different states of a plugin.

click to play

Plugins can have three different activation states:

  1. Never Activate means it is disabled and won't be activated unless you modify the state in the plugins manager.
  2. Always Activate means that the plugin will always be loaded automatically.
  3. Ask to Activate means that Click to Play will be used.

If you want to use Click to Play, you need to set all plugins that you want to use it with to Ask to Activate.

There you have it: if you have upgraded to Firefox 23 and noticed that Click to Play is not working anymore, you should open the plugins manager to check if plugins are not set to ask to activate here.


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  1. scar said on November 11, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    i have plugins.click_to_play set to true and in about:addons i have set (shockwave) flash to “ask to activate” yet still on sites like youtube and facebook the plugin loads automatically without asking me. on every other site that uses flash the ‘click to activate’ still works as expected, just not on youtube or facebook. i wonder if those sites have been previously set to ‘always activate’ and now i cannot figure out how to reset those site-specific settings….

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      Are you in the HTML5 Beta by chance? Check

      1. scar said on November 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm

        no i am not

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on November 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm

        Have you set a specific site permission? Right-click on YouTube, select Page Info, then Permissions.

      3. scar said on November 11, 2013 at 10:16 pm

        for “Adobe flash” it was set to ‘use default’ but i changed it to ‘always ask’ but it still just loads the player without asking :\

      4. Martin Brinkmann said on November 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm

        What happens if you set it to block?

      5. scar said on November 11, 2013 at 11:08 pm

        then it blocks the plugin from loading… which is ok i guess.. it at least has shown me that i still need to disable the plugin in about:plugins in order for “Youtube Flash to HTML5” extension to take over and work properly, which is unfortunate and annoying… i’ll see about contacting those devs to see if it’s something they can work on.

  2. Just A Nobody said on October 27, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Thanks as always Martin. Somehow, for every FF query of mine, you seem to have the perfect answer LOL! Cheers! :-)

  3. Erick said on October 14, 2013 at 1:53 am

    Thank you very much ^^

  4. Marvin said on September 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Firefox 23 should have made it simpler to enable Click to Play. Chrome makes this extremely easy. And if somebody is wondering where is Adobe Flash in the plugins sections, it isn’t. The plugin to be set to Ask to Activate is Shockwave Flash. And the Ask to Activate option appears only when you set the click_to_play item under about:config to TRUE.

    Martin, plugin.default.state didn’t seem to work. I upgraded to Firefox 24 yesterday. Do you think they have removed the option?

  5. Melpomene said on September 16, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Thanks, I’ve been looking for the cause to this issue in fx 23 >

  6. Frank said on September 1, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    I just updated to 23, and I wanted to thank you for writing this article. Thank you, thank you. I have a daily MB allowance, and ever since YouTube took away the right-click > stop option on videos, click to play has been my salvation. I could hardly use YouTube without it, and I thought I was screwed before I found your article.

  7. Nick said on August 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Thanks very much indeed, Martin… I wondered why Click-to-Play had suddenly stopped working! The plugin.default.state is useful too. :)

  8. Martin said on August 16, 2013 at 8:11 am

    It’s a bit easier: You don’t have to do this manually for every single plugin.

    Simply set plugin.default.state to 1 in about:config. This will set all current (and future!) plugins to ‘Ask to activate’.

    But I won’t be surprised if some UI “experts” at Mozilla will change this AGAIN in the next version. :(

  9. Pretty Johnny said on August 7, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Thank you, Sir. I completely forgot about HTML5.

  10. Pretty Johnny said on August 7, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Thank you.

    When i select “never activate” and go to youtube, clicking on a vid, displays a message for a second saying that plugin is disabled. However, checking addons manager shows that flash plugin is still set to “never activate”. This is a bug, i presume?

    1. Pretty Johnny said on August 7, 2013 at 9:02 am

      Thank you.

      When i select “never activate” and go to youtube, clicking on a vid, displays a message for a second saying that plugin is disabled but the videos loads anyway. However, checking addons manager shows that flash plugin is still set to “never activate”. This is a bug, i presume?

      P.S. Please disregard my previous comment since i forgot to mention that video loads even if the plugin is set to “never activate”

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 7, 2013 at 9:18 am

        That’s YouTube’s HTML5 player that seems to kick in, if videos play.

  11. Ken Saunders said on August 7, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Thanks Martin

    Now that the change is here, I’m glad that I had a way to quickly find a fix (even though I had read this article).

    While I didn’t try it, and I’ve had click to play enabled since it was introduced, I would imagine that not having click to play enabled would be an annoyance if you’re loading videos in background tabs since they’d all start playing at once which is just stupid. More so on YouTube’s part (and other sites) especially since as far as I can tell, YouTube doesn’t do autobuffer or preload.

    Before click to play I used an add Stop Autoplay

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 7, 2013 at 9:20 am

      I think that Mozilla should have communicated this “better”, or at all, with users who have Click to Play enabled in Firefox. It is a quick fix though and it gives you better control over the feature, so, it is a welcome change after all I’d say.

      1. Ken Saunders said on August 7, 2013 at 10:06 am

        I help out with the Facebook page.
        “Oh toll, seit Firefox 23 installiert wurde, geht Click-To-Play nicht mehr.”

        I’m sending him here. :)

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