Problems Removing and Installing Adobe CS4

Take my advice: Before you even think about installing Adobe trial software, do a full mirror backup of your computer’s hard disk, and be prepared to use it. I had horrible problems with Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4), and according to the three tech support guys in India that I spent hours on the phone with today, I am not the only one.

Here’s the whole sad story, with the ultimate solution.

  • I downloaded and installed trial versions of Adobe CS4 programs while waiting for my licensed copy to arrive in the mail. The Adobe site said that I could enter my serial number in the trial copies, so I didn’t mind the 2 gig download.

  • When my licensed version arrived, I tried to enter my serial number into the trial software and it was rejected. I called Adobe tech support and was told this sometimes happens – I just have to uninstall the trial software and reinstall from DVD.

  • I tried to uninstall the software in the usual way, and the uninstall failed – repeatedly. It took about 15 minutes to run, and then told me the program was not uninstalled, “see below for why.” But there was nothing written “below”. I call Adobe tech support again.

  • After again making me spell out my mailing and email address, Adobe tech support told me to download the Adobe CS4 cleanup utility and uninstall it that way. I did this, and it appeared to remove all registry entries. The files were still on my disk and in my Start menu, so I deleted these manually.

  • I loaded up my DVD and try to install my licensed copy – software that retails for $1799 (no decimal points there). But the trial version was not completely gone and the installation failed, repeatedly, with no details as to why.

  • I called Adobe tech support for the third time, and again had to laboriously spell out my mailing and email address. The tech support guy told me to download a Flash removal utility and run that. I did as instructed. He then told me to download the Adobe CS3 cleanup utility. I told him I’d never had Adobe CS3 on my computer, but he said to download and run it anyway. His instructions had the quality of a magic spell: run it three times for Level 1, three times for Level 2, four times for Level 3, and four times for Level 4. This seemed pointless to me – especially since log messages made it clear that nothing further was removed after the first run – but I did as instructed.

    Then he told me to create a new admin account on my computer and install the program from there. That’s where I got off the bus. No way was I reconfiguring my computer and creating a new admin account I didn’t want or need just to install this software! He said that if I wouldn’t do as he said he couldn’t help me any further, and he hung up.

  • Hoping that the additional cleanup had fully removed the trial software from my system, I again tried to install Adobe CS4 from the DVD I’d purchased at great expense, and again it failed. I cursed loudly, which my neighbors surely heard through the thin walls of my apartment building.

  • I then did the only thing left to me: I wiped my hard disk, and restored my most recent backup – which luckily was from only 10 days ago. I also restored some some additional data I saved before the Big Wipe, then I did another mirror backup just in case.

  • With great anxiety (since I was out of ideas if this failed), I again ran the installation program from DVD. Happily, this time things went a little better. But even with a clean system, one of the packages – InDesign 4 – failed to install. The error message gave no hint of why. I continued with the rest of the installation, and everything else installed properly.

  • After the installation program finally completed – it took at least an hour (what takes so long?!) – I followed this advice from an Adobe KnowledgeBase article:

    • I ran msconfig, using the Start menu’s Run command.

    • On the Startup tab, I clicked Disable All.

    • On the Services tab, I selected Hide All Microsoft Services, clicked Disable All, then reselected the two FLEXnet Licensing Service items.

    • I applied the changes, clicked OK, rebooted, and ran the Adobe CS4 installation program again, selecting only InDesign 4 to reinstall. The installation finally completed without errors.

    • I went back into msconfig, selected Normal startup, and again rebooted. My $1799 software suite was finally installed – only took 12 hours, great distress, shouting loud enough for my neighbors to hear, and a full-blown migraine.

For the record, I am running 64-bit Vista on a Thinkpad T400, and I disabled my antivirus software and firewall before installing or uninstalling. I noticed that the trial software on the Adobe site is 32-bit rather than 64-bit (unlike what was available on DVD). This could have been part of the problem.

This software costs thousands of dollars – don’t you think Adobe should ensure the thing works before collecting that much money from people??

So be warned!! Do not even think of installing software from Adobe – especially trial or beta software – without first doing a complete system backup. If you need to do a clean install, the only way is to wipe your system.

66 thoughts on “Problems Removing and Installing Adobe CS4

  1. Jesus L. Pifco!

    Word is already spreading about your experience, so if we’re all lucky, many others will be saved from your horrible experience. My sympathies to you.


  2. I’m having similar problems except on a Mac, I have CS2 running and have tried to install CS4 its fine and photoshop works but Illustrator and InDesign just quit out on startup. I tried it on another computer and its runs fine but not on my main computer…. I’m losing the will to live as I have been trying different things for about 3 weeks now!

  3. Ugh. Have you tried fully uninstalling and then reinstalling?

    Is this a licensed copy? Adobe has free phone support for installation problems if you have a license. They’ll spend a long time with you, trying all kinds of things. In my case, it was hopeless, but maybe they can help you.

  4. I’ve got similar problems, and have raised a Tech Support request a couple of days ago. I installed CS4 Web Premium (Full version), but due to some problems on my new PC with Vista 64 bit, I had to roll back the System Restore to a date before the date I installed CS4. I think that’s where all the problems have started, as now, whenver I try to re-install CS4, the installation fails part way through with an error message:

    Adobe Anchor Service CS4
    Error:1605. This action is only valid for products that are currently installed

    Vista does not recognise any of the CS4 products in the Add/Remove Programs – so basically I’m stuffed!

    I hope Adobe can sort this one out soon. Has anyone got any other suggestions?

  5. Vaughan, did you originally install the trial version and then buy a license? That’s what sunk me on my 64-bit Vista system. The trial versions are NOT 64-bit. What you get on the DVD is a different version of the software.

    Can you roll back to a backup image from before you ever installed CS4 and then install from DVD? That was the only thing that worked for me.

  6. Hi Sheryl,

    Similar experience but Leo Laport (the XM Tech guru talk show guy) did nail it. He spoke at length with the Adobe folks and they were reticent to help. They are so frightened that someone will pirate the software that they make it cost twice or three times what it should so they get their R&D money back fast then turn everyone else into taking the path of least resistance. The onerous procedures that Adobe has embedded into the program make it absolutely impossible for honest people to use. My CS2 continually asks for reautherization. The CS3 will not install at all on my new laptop because Adobe thinks it is still on the machine in the trash.

    Solution= Run “cleanscript” from Adobe and MS. Have a registry repair like “Fixit” utilities by Vcom. Lastly, the only way I was able to install safely is to add a user and install it there. Works great now.

    OK all you programmers- make a better photo editing program and count me in.

  7. I think it’s appalling that honest users of Adobe software are so severely punished cost-wise and in the destruction of their systems. But there is no decent alternative, so we suffer.

    What Adobe charges is obscene, and what they did to my system was obscene.

    I tried switching from Dreamweaver to Microsoft Expression Web 2. What a joke! It has extensive usability problems that may not be apparent at first glance, but drive a heavy user crazy. Plus it kept crashing.

    Adobe can abuse its customers because it has a monopoly. The product is great, but I think it’s a lousy way to do business.

  8. Can’t you call them? They have phone support, and it appears to be international since I was connected to India from the U.S. You’ll probably need a lot of back-and-forth on this, so I’d call them.

    Also, if I were you I’d try a registry cleaner (unless you are lucky enough to have a full backup, in which case I’d restore the backup). Apparently System Restore left one of Adobe’s secret registry entries there, and they’re not going to want to tell you where it is (for fear you will email it to a hacker network). But a registry cleaning program might find the orphan. Make sure you use a good one (like the one from VCOM). A bad one can trash your system. Back up first, of course, whatever you use.

  9. Finally, some good news!

    I ran the Windows Installer Cleanup utility, followed by Adobe’s CS4 Cleanup utility. Then did a scan and registry clean with CCleaner.

    I’ve now just finished installing CS4, plus all the latest updates, and it’s working fine … so far. There did not appear to be any problem with Activating, as the software shows the Deactivate option in black, not greyed out.

    Oh, and STILL no reply from Adobe, even though they promise to get back within 2 business days on email support requests. Thanks for your tip about phoning, but to be honest, I feel I’ve already given Adobe more than enough money without spending even more money (and time) on a frustrating phone call to some call centre in India.

    Now I’d love to take my CS4 DVD case, find Adobe’s CEO and shove it right up where the sun don’t shine. Enough said!

  10. It was a toll-free call to Adobe, but in any case you don’t need them now. I’m very glad you got it working!

    Maybe we should send Adobe bills for our time since they so freely waste it. For every hour it takes us to deal with Adobe installation hell, we should get $100 off the purchase price.

  11. Having a similar problem – also did a system restore with no luck! So now I’m going to try some of the solutions here. Honestly, they’re more in depth (and there’s more of them!) than Adobe’s on “uninstall/reinstall” business (can’t…uninstall!). Thanks for posting these. 🙂

  12. Hi Sheryl,

    I just bought Adobe CS4 Design Premium, upgraded from Macromedia Studio MX 8.

    1. My Macromedia serial was saying it was invalid in the Upgrade Check

    2. The customer service people (called 4-times) told me to CTRL-SHIFT and right click on the button… (mind you there is no button, you need to click on the X) and they can give you an over-ride code.

    3. Now that, that works I put in all my information and now I am getting errors from the trials I had installed. I can’t use Acrobat at all and I can’t even uninstall it. I try and nothing happens. I remove Design Premium and the programs are still there. But the only thing in my Add/Remove folder is Acrobat and InDesign which cannot be removed for some reason.

    Do you have a solution to my #3 problem? Do I just need to install Windows? I have XP, I find it a pain to do that.

    Please help 🙂


  13. I purchased the CS4 Web Premium edition. I had previously downloaded a trial version of Photoshop CS4. I did not uninstall when I first installed my purchased version. Of course, PS would not work saying that the trial period was over. I uninstalled it and reran the installation. When I inserted the disc and got thru to the set up to check PS, it installed and started right up.

    The only problem I’m having is that I cannot install Soundbooth. It did not install successfully in the first installation and when I went back to reinstall, it was grayed out. Has anyone else had this problem? From what I can tell, that’s the only one that did not install.

  14. I thought I was the only one that got the problem. I phoned Adobe at least 4 differrent times. The first three time the tech support only told me to uninstall and then re-install. All attempts failed. The fourth person walked me through to clean all registries as your described on four level four times on each level. I then had to create a new user then install. It worked finally. The whole process took more than three evenings and one afternoon. Can Adobe do better in the installation department?

  15. Do you still remember the program the Adobe Tech support asked you to download? I forgot the name of the site. It is then something…

  16. I wouldn’t create the new user account. That solution was not acceptable to me. I have everything set up under my current user account, and I didn’t want to have to change my whole way of using my computer just to accomodate the one program. It’s just one more reminder to back up on a regular basis… Which reminds me, I need to do a backup.

    I don’t still have the URL for the cleanup utility, but if you google it, I’m sure you’ll find it. As I recall it was posted in one of Adobe’s Help pages, and these are indexed in search engines. Or you can just search on the Adobe site.

    I still think it’s terrible that they don’t fix this. I also have a beef about a bad bug in Dreamweaver under Vista that they must know about but haven’t fixed (it’s reported in many places on the internet). I should put that in a separate post.

  17. I did create another user account called Adobe. I installed CS4 under that user account. I can run CS4 under Adobe account and my own account. After CS4 seems to be running in a stable manner, I then deleted the Adobe account. Now I can run CS4 ok (cross my fingers. I had to phone adobe tech service 5 times, spent over 4 hours on the phone and more then 20 hours to install CS4. It is worse than the good old days of running a mainframe. No wonder they have to charge that much for their programs. Adobe has to hire so many tech support to answer all the service calls. It is a good job creation exercise for India.

  18. Hi all,

    A friend had recently a problem like that, adobe cs3 and cs4 came into conflict after installing photoshop from the cs4 suite, everything stopped working. Solution? Uninstalling the codecs 😀

  19. También a mi me pasa lo mismo con CS 4, el código legal que Adobe me proporcionó, me dío error al instalar, me dijeron en el soporte que lo instalara en trial, no me convencía pero lo hice y después del tiempo perdido en la instalación, me sale el aviso de licencia caducada.
    Si lo hubiera bajado de la red de forma ilegal, como hace mucha gente, seguro que ya estaría trabajando con las nuevas aplicaciones.
    Soy usuario de Mac desde hace 15 años, y es la primera vez en que no he podido instalar un sofware.

  20. It is for these reasons exactly as listed above that I refuse to pay for most programs. Not to insult any of you, but it is quite upsetting that you offered to pay that god awful amount of money in the first place. I would understand if you needed a company license to “ensure” that your programs will not fail you in time of need, but as we can all see from the previous posts, even legal copies of these programs can be harmful. If CS4 cost about a third of the money it is now, there is no doubt in my mind they would have sold at least three times as many copies of their great software, and there would be a LEGAL copy of it on my computer as well. Nothing is invincible on a computer, and Adobe of all people should realize this. It is a fun challenge for these hacking wizards to crack, decode, and torrent these programs and they love the satisfaction of completing a more difficult task. I may have gone off on a bit of a rant, but in closing: bit torrenting/file sharing/decoding FTW, software monopoly rapists FAIL

  21. I agree that Adobe charges an obscene amount of money for its software – especially considering that the copy protection can destroy your computer. That said, every program in the suite is the best in its category. There is nothing else as good, and I needed tools that good. I have a copy of the Microsoft competitor to Dreamweaver, and I hated it so much that I bought Dreamweaver anyway. That tells you something. I wrote a book and used InDesign to lay it out. What were my options? Microsoft Word? I have that and I tried it, but it can’t hold a candle to InDesign for book layout.

    Adobe can charge what they charge because no other software comes close. And if you think Adobe’s copy protection can destroy your computer, try a cracked copy. The crackers will have your bank account username and password before you’ve finished installing.

  22. Be thankful that it only took you 12 hours to install CS4–it took me 12 days to install CS4 Web Premium–started on 5/19/09 and as of yesterday, 5/30/09, it finally seems to be working. My takeaway is this: once you get Creative Suite installed, do not upgrade until it’s absolutely necessary, and then be prepared for the likely possibility that your computer will be trashed in the process. I’m not sure if that’s the message that Adobe wants to put out, but . . .

    Tech support? While I was following the instructions of the Indian lady who was assisting me, she asked if she could call me back in 5 minutes, and I said sure. That was the last I ever heard from her. Maybe I should post in Missed Connections on craigslist. Do they have a craigslist in New Delhi?

    FWIW, here are the steps that finally worked for me attempting to install on Vista 64-bit Home Premium. The initial install from the DVD’s went fine, but after I installed the updates I wasn’t even able to install from the DVD’s. I noticed that the install always hung while it was executing AdobeAIRInstaller.exe. The install program would ignore the cancel command, so i had to manually kill adobeairinstaller.exe. I had resigned myself to having to reinstall Vista, but fortunately my last attempt worked.

    I ran Ccleaner to remove as much junk from the registry as possible; not sure if that made a difference, but it didn’t hurt at least. Then I just plowed thru the install process. Whenever the AIR installer hung, I cancelled it. The setup programa asked me if I wanted to quit or resume, so I chose resume. After everything finished, I reinstalled Acrobat Pro and, since they seem to have some connection with AIR. I downloaded AIR from Adobe’s website and it installed fine, so go figure.

    After that everything worked except the 64-bit Photoshop, so I figured I could live with that. But then I noticed that every time I’d right click on a file or folder, I’d get a message that versioncue.dll was missing, and Windows Explorer would crash. Major pain, esp cuz I don’t use Version Cue. Fortunately I happened across a thread in the user forums that provided an answer: Seems to be a common problem.

    Everyone seems to have their CS4 horror story–that’s mine. The government should never have let Adobe buy Macromedia. They need the competition.

  23. Hey this is terrible, i did the exact same thing. I still do not have CS4 running. I am currently running CS3 and Craving the changes in CS4. I hope others wouldn’t have the bad luck i have.


  24. Well well well…looks like I’m not alone.

    I had installed the trial version of Photoshop CS4 on my Macbook and I have to say that its by far the most bloated piece of software that’s available on this planet. And after going through the trial period I have promised myself that I will NEVER EVER set my sights on the pieces of crap this company puts out, not to mention their way of doing business and pissing off valuable and honest customers.

    I have read on the internet, and I don’t know how far this is true or untrue, that the product installations mess with the boot sector of your hard drive, which is why it makes it so cumbersome to uninstall the program. If they are so worried about people pirating their software, they have to implement an approach that will keep their existing customers and not have them wipe out their hard drives each time they either upgrade or have to uninstall the piece of crap. Oh but wait, they can’t do that without giving their customer’s grief and charging them a hefty price so that they can pay for their wonderful executives who deploy pathetic business practices.

    The 30-days was all I needed to convince myself that I would seek myself alternatives. True, the alternatives might not give me everything that Photoshop had to offer, but if Adobe is going to make their legit customers rant and rave, then they don’t have a need for our business. I wish Google will come up with an open-source solution in a year or two that will kick Adobe so severely in the wrong spots that each one of their product marketing managers realizes that THERE does exist an alternative. Google developers, are you listening?? They are going after Microsoft now and Steve Balmer is probably fidgeting in his chair, in his cozy office. Matter of time before Adobe’s CEO sits up and takes notice. The only way to get Adobe to pay is by boycotting each and every one of their products. Enough said!

  25. After installing Dreamweaver CS4 I decided I didn’t want to spend the money for the new version. No problem until I removed the CS4 trial. CS3 no longer functioned. After uninstalling CS3 and reinstalling it, It worked but crashed about eight times a day. (as opposed to once or twice) I was also having problems with windows (xp)I reinstalled windows. Dreamweaver works better but the extension manager doesn’t work. I tried re-installing the extension manager, but I get a message saying it’s already installed. Uninstall it with the original install program. I guess that means uninstalling dreamweaver again, but since I’ve done that already I have a feeling that’s a waste of time.

    Thank you Macromedia for selling a good program to a shit company like Adobe.

  26. So Sheryl, what do you recommend me to do…….. My problem is that it will install the 1st disc, and when it asks for the disc 2 , I can’t eject the disc, it is stuck, unless i rebbot…….. of course this means reinstalling disc 1 again, I’ve been at it for 5 days……… today I called Adobe, explained my problem , they said it’s a technical problem, not a software issue, try and call tech support…… man he was tech support lollll.

  27. If you’re having a hardware problem with your DVD drive, try copying the install files to your hard disk and installing from there. Or better yet, get the drive fixed!

  28. there is no problem with the drive, it works for other installations I made……… and I did try copying the install files through the c:\ numerous times, exact same problems, cannot eject cd when prompted for disc 2……
    must be software issues. I think more like cd legit, safety of some kind, and there not telling us……..

  29. I had the same problem with cs4. My problem started when I realized that cs3 was better with my pen tablet then cs4.Once in awhile when i use the undo command or click back and forth from photoshop to the internet, or even when i use the scroll wheel to zoom, the pen would just make a thin line once i try to use it. So i would have to click the “restore down” button in the corner of the screen so the pen pressure can re-initiate. Small bugs but annoying enough for me to go back to cs3. And that’s when i walked into a nightmare with the uninstall process of cs4. Granted, cs4 has some nice features but i dont think they’re enough to make me upgrade.Especially with the steps you must take to uninstall.

  30. I feel for you, I am still experiencing a nightmare with this software, and I have not even isntalled trial software, I’m on Windows Vista Business edition though! Tried the phone, the quility of the line was so bad, I told the guy to tell adobe to invest some money in REAL telephone lines, he laughed (I was serious though)! Then I told him to call me back from his land line, he could not do that, I realize now why not, he is obviously in his home in India somewhere, instead of in a professional office where they understand your Aussie accent and have telephone lines that work… anyways, I gave up on the telephone, now on my 10 time of trying the install, the messages do change everytime I try, so I figured I might as well keep trying.

  31. I’m having a similar nightmare, but triggered by Adobe Updater. Fully licensed, up-to-date, etc. Adobe Support is absolutely no help. It seems the Adobe Support telephone number rings the lobby of some temple devoted to nitrous oxide. I’ve been using the product line since the nineties. I’ll never buy another thing from Adobe. That’s it, finito. I am recommending to everyone I can: do the same! Adobe has scammed us all. The entire range of CS4 is in no way stable. All levels of the programming are bugged. It’s filled with damned quicksand traps just awaiting to be sprung by our foolish attempts at productivity.

  32. > The irony here is you would have a better user experience if you stole Photoshop by downloading a pirated copy.

    Not if the pirate software site puts malware on your hard disk, which is all too common. Or forces you to look at grotesque (to me) pornography and won’t allow you to close your browser. Those sites can be nasty. When you do illegal stuff, you have to associate with some low-life people.

  33. I read your horror story about installing Photoshop CS4 and am encountering
    something similar, however I am on Windows 7 64-bit.

    Question: What did you use to wipe your drive? My machine is new enough
    that I can do a full wipe of it and not be set back too far as I have my
    files backed up on my Lacie drive. My research indicates that Adobe puts
    something in the boot sector of the drive so whatever I do to wipe it needs
    to wipe the boot sector as well. Thanks!

  34. I booted from a rescue disk and did a full restore of the boot drive. This replaces everything that was on the hard drive previously. I’m running Windows 7 64-bit now, and the backup software I use is Acronis 10. I don’t know if you need to restore the boot sector (can’t remember if I did that), but this is an option with Acronis.

    Make sure that the backup you restore to is from BEFORE you installed the Adobe trial software.

  35. I was going to download the trial version of Photoshop because I’m learning Dreamweaver and thought Photoshop should be next but no way after this. I’m afraid to buy it now. Luckily I don’t work in the graphics field so I have the luxury of refusing to buy it. Good thing I research before I buy.

  36. trying to install Dw cs4 to win 7 64 bit, but cannot validate serial, no problem at all when installing to
    32 bit platform.
    Dw works fine as trial version, only problem is validate serial 🙁

  37. I have VISTA and do know or care whether I have home pro or office pro…I just know that Adobe CS4 Web Premium is a very poorly designed and overly expensive piece of software. Additonally the support is lacking and you would think they (ADOBE) would care about customer support. They are not the only sharks in the ocean and I am certain that some software engineers might see dollar signs (or maybe Euro signs.)

  38. I bought CS4 and tried to install it, after a couple of days I threw it in the corner, that was 8 months ago. I don’t have time to fiddle and play with junk software. I have been developing web apps for year and use software that I bought In 2004 and it works fine. Adobe and Macromedia would compete with each other. One company just waiting for the other to screw up. Looks like adobe now can do what ever they like. Too bad, great marketing, great packaging, poor value, driving million of people crazy. Why don’t you people send all the junk back, then they might do something about it.

  39. I had the same problem, but solved easily. With a program called “CCleaner” it took just a second to solve this problem.

  40. All that problems are related to registry permissions for some keys lost after Adobe cleaner script -script remove those keys owner and nobody has permission to even read it.

    Solution is simple – just check system event log (Application) to see which keys are affected and just take over ownerchip and set permission to full controll for i.e administrator group – and enjoy smooth instalation after 🙂

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