Adobe Apps: Backup Your Prefs


It’s happened to all of us digital creatives. The dreaded day when you just cannot get one of your Adobe applications to launch. Usually there’s a deadline looming (of course). You’ve restarted your computer (three times) and still you cannot get Photoshop to launch. You’ve tried a few tips from some Google searches, but still nothing. Your geek cred is showing it’s limitations. And your deadline isn’t getting any further away.

What if I told you this could be avoided, virtually forever? And also, that you can get back to work with all your settings just the way you like them?

That’s a strong claim, but I am going to back it up by showing you how. You’ll be able to get back to work exactly where you left off — all your preferences, settings & palette locations will be just the way you like them, all with a clean start.

Typically on computers (on a Mac at least), the standard answer when things seem too far gone is to “trash the prefs”, or in other words delete the preferences file for that piece of software. The reason behind this logic is the fact that the software, not finding the prefs where they are supposed to be, will create a brand new preferences file for you when you next launch the application.

The big problem here is that all your settings — well your preferences, actually — are stored in this file (go figure). Creating a new preferences file from scratch will also result in losing all the customization you’ve done for that particular piece of software. But there is a pretty simple solution to both these situations.

Simply put, you just need to save a duplicate/backup version of the preferences file/folder, and replace that when things get weird. The trick however is to set up your software just the way you like things before you do this. This is the trick to getting a “new” set of prefs with everything set up with all your customizations. This customized setup is best done with a brand-new set of preferences, so as to ensure your working with a clean, error-free version. At the very least, backing up your prefs right now with a working version set to just how you like things is better than nothing.

Here are the locations of the preferences files for Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign (Mac and PC). If you need to do this for other apps, you can reverse-engineer the locations pretty easily to find anything else.

Mac OS X:

Illustrator: Users>(username)>Library>Preferences>Adobe Illustrator CS[x] Settings>Adobe Illustrator Prefs

Photoshop: Users>(username)>Library>Preferences>Adobe Photoshop CS[x] Settings

InDesign: Users>(username)>Library>Preferences>Adobe InDesign>Version [x].0


Windows (XP & 2000):

Illustrator: Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator[Version][Settings].

Photoshop: Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop\[version #]\Adobe Photoshop [version #] Settings

InDesign: Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Adobe\InDesign>Version [x].0

(Note: to locate the file from Windows Explorer it may be necessary to set Explorer Folder options > View to “View Hidden Files and Folders”)

What I like to do it to save a backup copy of the preferences in the exact same folder where the actual preferences are, renamed to something different. I usually just append the word “backup” to the folder name. For example, “Adobe Illustrator Prefs” would be saved as “Adobe Illustrator Prefs backup“.

On a Mac I can confirm that leaving this backup folder in the same folder will do no harm. I am not a Windows guy so you may want to check further to see if this is a safe option.

What I like about this is the fact that my backup is right there where I need it — no searching necessary. I just make a copy of the backup folder, trash the “problem” version and rename the copy of the backup.

Because I am extra cautious, I usually drag the problem preferences folder to the Desktop instead of trashing it immediately, just in case I need to go back for some reason (you never know). After a week or so of things working fine I will then go back and trash the faulty folder.

It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, and you’ll be glad you set this up if you ever need to use it, trust me.

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