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Preventing and Resolving Photoshop CS5 Installation Problems

With every new release of Photoshop, Adobe rewards those who upgrade with a bunch of new features both big and small. So it is with Photoshop CS5, the latest version. Unfortunately, each new release also brings with it new bugs and complications that can frustrate those attempting to upgrade. Again, so it is with CS5. Here are a few pointers and suggestions if you're stuck in upgrade hell.

First, you have to get a copy of the upgrade. Adobe does make this a bit difficult given the number of different CS5 suites available and which previous products qualify you for which upgrade product. Keep in mind there are also the standalone versions of Photoshop Standard and Extended if you don't go in for the suites. With their Suite Comparison page and the Upgrade Eligibility Tool, Adobe's website does a reasonably good job of providing the resources to help you figure this out, but if you're anything like me none of the suites are an exact match for your needs so you end up compromising. I've mentioned this before, but I find it odd that Adobe has yet to create a Creative Suite including Lightroom targeting photographers. Heck, the product is officially even called "Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3" but even with every single current CS5 suite including either Photoshop Standard or Extended, none includes Photoshop Lightroom.

Once you decide which version you want to go with, you have the choice of buying a boxed version, or downloading the necessary files and dispensing with the physical media. Long gone are the days when Adobe included printed manuals in the product boxes so even though the suite upgrade box is more or less the same size it used to be, it's mostly cardboard and empty space. All there really is is a few DVD's inside a cardboard box, inside a bigger cardboard box, inside a nice looking slipcase. It's not quite up to Apple design esthetics in terms of packaging, but they definitely appear to be taking their cues from the folks in Cupertino. You do save a couple bucks in shipping by downloading and while you may gasp a bit when you look at the size of the download, you'll still probably have it done before Federal Express gets there with your boxed version. If you do download, be sure to make a backup copy just in case.

Before you actually run the install, there are a few things you should do to improve your odds have having things go smoothly. First, reboot your computer. If you're like me, you tend to leave it running since it can be a pain to close out of everything. I typically have any number of applications and documents open at a time so I only restart Windows when forced to, mostly by those all-too-frequent Windows Update reminders.

Which brings me to the second thing you should do before installing the CS5 upgrade: update your operating system. Both Windows and Mac OS issue updates to resolve known problems and security issues as well as occasionally add new features or upgrade core components to new versions. You know the drill. If you've been at all remiss in keeping up with all these updates, take time out now to get caught up. Many new programs rely on the latest and greatest components of the operating system. At least for us Windows users, Adobe software doesn't tend to be as bad as other publishers since, well, let's just say that Adobe and Microsoft tend to do things differently. Still, anything that can be done upfront to avoid dealing with a failed install is time well spent in my book.

If you were involved in the prelease program for Photoshop and currently have the beta version of CS5 installed, go ahead and uninstall it now too. Some users have reported compatibility problems with the upgrade getting confused as to what version you currently have on your machine.

After you get all this taken care of, run the installation just after rebooting, before you start any other programs. Sometimes, installation problems can result from files being locked by other applications so the fewer you have running (or previously run since rebooting) the better.

The installation process logs what it does in two places, the first for what it does before you actually click on "Install," and the second for what it does from there on to completion. Both logs contain way more details than us mere mortals are likely to make sense of, but skipping to the end and searching online for any apparent error messages can turn up others who have hopefully already found a solution. The first place to search would be the Adobe Support Knowledgebase, but if you're not finding much help you might try resorting to using Google (or Bing if you must) to search the web at large. Adobe has a good Knowledgebase article covering some of the specifics of what to look for in the logs.

The first of these logs is called PDapp.log and can be found on Windows in your temp folder (easily found by using Start >> Run and typing "%temp%" (without the quotes) to open the folder in Explorer. If you prefer, you can also go there the hard way by navigating to "C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Temp" on Vista and Windows 7, or "C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Local Settings\Temp" if you're still on Windows XP (yes, Photoshop CS5 does run on Windows XP with Service Pack 3). On Mac OS, the PDapp.log gets written to "Users/~/Library/Logs". Why is it that folder paths on Mac OS always seem to be shorter and simpler than on Windows? On either operating system, the file is a simple text file so you can open it in a simple text editor, whether that be Windows Notepad, Mac OS TextEdit, or another third party equivalent. On both platforms, these paths may not be visible unless you use Folder Options in Control Panel (Windows) to change your preferences to show hidden folders, or use Terminal (Mac OS) to navigate there.

From the moment you click the big "Install" button in the installer, Adobe switches logging to a different place for some reason. On Windows, this new location is at "C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Installers\" (or "Program Files(x86)" on 64-bit Windows), and on Mac OS you can find it at "/Library/Logs/Adobe/Installers/". Apple fans win again with a shorter folder path. When you get there, you'll find the log file as a compressed gzip archive with a *.log.gz ending. You'll need WinZip, Stuffit, 7-zip or the like to uncompress the file. The file inside is again a normal text file but Adobe chose to compress it to save space since it can be fairly large. Be forewarned. Again, you can mostly just skip to the end to find what went wrong or at least some clue.

Most actual install problems relate to permission issues. On Windows, running the install as Administrator can eliminate many such issues, but you may still run into problems depending on how your machine is configured. Adobe as a good knowledgebase article on their site to help Windows users fix a particularly common issue where the install fails with "Error 1401, 1402, 1404 or 1406" which all imply permission issues. Mac OS users can have permission issues too, most often when you have cloned one user to another. You can use the Repair Privileges option in the Disk Utility application to help fix things.

Some users have reported installation problems when installing directly from the DVD media that have been resolved by copying the source to a desktop folder, then installing from there. This avoids potential device driver conflicts thereby removing one more variable from the equation. Users who choose to use electronic delivery and download their upgrade should likewise make sure everything is in a single folder before running the install.

If you run up against a failed install and are at your wits end, there is one more option worth trying. As they have in the past, Adobe is making available a tool to clean out left over remnants of failed install attempts, prerelease versions and so on. You can download the "CS5 Cleaner Tool" from Adobe's website here. Don't run it unless you really have problems, but if you do, you're the reason they created it. Go for it. After running it, reboot your system and try the install again.

Welcome to Adobe Photosop CS5!After you get the installation finished, you're not actually yet completely done with the process. Make sure you run Photoshop and check for any updates that have been issued since the retail release. There have already been several and will likely be more as Adobe gets feedback from an ever growing user base for CS5. The more people using the new version, the more problems however infrequent will have been reported and fixed.

Luckily, my own upgrade experience went fairly smoothly although I have a friend who ran into a permission snag. I purchased the boxed upgrade for Adobe CS5 Design Premium both so I didn't have to download multiple gigabytes and simply because I still prefer to have the physical media as backup. I did have a few small hoops to jump through though when I first accessed the Help menu option. The darned thing performed no fewer than three upgrades between Adobe AIR and the Community Help content itself. This even after I had downloaded and updated everything that the Adobe Updates option found (Camera Raw 6.1, etc.). Odd that somehow "Updates" doesn't really mean "all updates." I also still find it puzzling that Adobe doesn't offer to migrate settings from an installed prior version. It would be great if it would offer not only this but also facilitate copying actions, scripts and other presets into the folders for the new version.

But at least the upgrade itself went smoothly for me. Here's to hoping yours does too, or that if you do have problems some of the information here will prove useful in resolving them.

Having written all this, I should point out that most upgrades do go without a hitch, but occasionally problems can happen. If you end up being one of the unlucky ones it will likely be little solace knowing that countless other people had no difficulty. Make sure you at reboot before installing. And keep your lucky rabbit's foot handy, just in case.

Date posted: June 27, 2010


Copyright © 2010 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Upgrading Photoshop Actions, Plug-Ins, and other Odds and Ends
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