Windows hasn't been willing to update on my computer for over a year now (maybe a few years), after I had some bad memory sticks for a while. Reinstalling is a giant pain in the butt even when it goes smoothly, and I have some issues with my Windows license. So I have an old version of Chrome, because that can't update without the Windows updates I haven't been getting. I've got Windows 7 Ultimate, Service Pack 1, and Chrome Version 38.0.2125.111 m
Now Chrome is nagging me about Flash being out of date, and doesn't seem to want to let me just say "I know, but use it anyways" and have it, you know, actually stick. When I try to follow Chrome's instructions to update Flash, I'm not even seeing Flash as a thing that can be updated (it's not on the list of "components"). When I try to download and install a new version of Flash, I'm getting an "Application initialization error".
Is there anything I can do besides, you know, buy a new computer that I can't actually afford?
This sends up a number of red flags for me.
USB Sticks are a common vector for malware. It's possible to infect the firmware on the actual stick itself, such that the stick can be blank, and it can still infect every machine it's inserted into. That the symptoms appeared after a couple bad memory sticks, and your machine no longer does important things like installing security updates sends all kinds of red flags for me.
If this was one of my personal machines, I'd back up all of my important data to an external hard disk or online service (google drive, dropbox, etc.), format the machine and reinstall Windows, fully update it, then reinstall my software from pristine sources. Most Internet Service Providers in the US give you a free antivirus license with your subscription, and Microsoft Defender is a free option. I'd also probably retire the USB sticks (with a hammer) and switch to using a cloud service for transferring files between machines.
There's still a remote chance that sophisticated malware might survive by infecting firmware on the machine, but given that it's older hardware, a wipe and reinstall is as thorough as you're going to get. It's a wasted afternoon, but far less hassle and worry than identity theft, particularly if you're using the machine for sensitive things like banking or healthcare.
That said, if you don't want to, or can't go that far, you could try just removing and reinstalling Chrome.
You can also go to the following location in the address bar:
You should see Flash Player listed there and attempt to update it. It takes a few minutes for Chrome to download and install Flash after a new install, but it should happen automatically in the background.
If you're not reinstalling, you might also want to check the disk for errors and defrag it:
Check your hard disk for errors - Windows 7:
To clarify: I mean the RAM was bad, not that I had problems due to a bad USB drive. I had to replace the computer's actual internal memory, which had somehow gone bad. But I didn't realize it for a while, so it screwed up Windows.
And in addition to 1. installing Windows being a giant pain in the butt, and 2. me not being the most computer-savvy person on the planet (I'd count myself as... a moderately competent computer user, but the kind of person who tends to need help to actually do much of anything besides use programs I already have, or install something fairly user-friendly), there are some issues with my Windows license, so reinstalling Windows is... a last resort at this point.
I've done error checks on my hard drives, and run both standard antivirus scans (I use Avast), Malware Bytes scans, and Spybot scans. None of those has fixed the problem(s) with Windows not updating properly.
Here is everything I see on chrome://components
The Flash Player version listed is ~3 years out of date, and listed as pepper_flash instead of Adobe Flash Player (which *might* have been the case 3 years ago).
I'm not sure what to tell you. If the machine and operating system aren't working right, the software running on top of it isn't going to work right, either. Until you deal with the fundamental issue, you're going to continue to have weird problems. The fact that nothing will update is deeply problematic, and leaves you at risk to vulnerabilities that have long since been discovered and fixed, and this is true at all levels, from the OS and browser, up through Flash Player.
You can download Google Chrome Offline installer and install the latest version of Chrome. It might fix the Flash problems.