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I am going to guess that you are using Internet Explorer.
It sounds like your flash player went corrupt on you. At my company we have found that the easiest way to fix this problem is to delete the folder C:/WINDOWS/Downloaded Program Files - this folder holds all of the plug-ins used by IE. (That path is a WinXP path, and I have no experience with Vista to know if that path will be the same) Deleting it forces IE to re-download all plug-ins the next time they are accessed.
Yesterday, Adobe prompted me to install an update and after that my Vista started failing too. You can see the error if you go into IE and uncheck the friendly errors in the Internet Options | Advance tab. It's showing me that a DLL can't be loaded. I uninstalled the software from the C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash folder and the copied over all the files from my **working** Vista of a previous version. Then, I ran as administrator the FlashUtil9d.exe and everything came back to working order.
Obviously this latest **patch** as of 2/7/2008 does not work with VISTA. Adobe needs to revert this patch or fix it for the VISTA users.
Thanks for your reply i think you've described what happened exactly, trouble is i'm not a great computer buff so a little of what you said you did is beyond me, but i will get there eventually....i hope !