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This chapter is from the book

Photoshop Quick Fix—Replacing the Preferences

Sometimes Photoshop doesn't seem to work quite right. Tools don't perform correctly, commands don't execute the way they should, the interface is mangled, Photoshop runs slowly or crashes often—these problems could all be signs of a corrupted preferences file. Instead of reinstalling the entire Photoshop program, you can often simply replace the "Prefs."

The Prefs: What They Are and How They Work

In addition to the options selected in the Preferences, the Prefs file stores such settings as the positions of the palettes, tool settings, guide and grid settings, scratch disk locations, and file saving settings. It is updated every time you quit Photoshop. (It is not updated during a crash.) Because the file is rewritten so often, it is subject to corruption.

When Photoshop is started, it looks for the Prefs file and loads the last settings. If it cannot find a Prefs file, Photoshop loads the default settings.

If you restarted Photoshop and your most recent settings weren't loaded, see "Unwritten Preferences" in the NAPP Help Desk section at the end of this chapter.

Finding the Prefs

Photoshop's Prefs file is stored is different locations for different platforms. In the following list, folder names are separated by slashes. The notation [username] represents the name of your particular account on that computer. For example, in the Mac OS X hierarchy, [username] might be replaced by pbauer or jfoster.

  • Mac OS X—Users\[username]\Library\Preferences\Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Settings\ Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Prefs

  • Mac OS 9—System Folder\Preferences\Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Settings\Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Prefs

  • Windows XP—Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Adobe\ Photoshop\7.0\Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Settings\Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Prefs (see Figure 3.16)

Figure 3.16 The path shown in the left frame is comparable for Windows NT and Windows 2000.

  • Windows 2000—Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop\7.0\Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Settings\Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Prefs

  • Windows NT—WinNT\profiles\[username]\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop\7.0\ Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Settings\Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Prefs

  • Windows Me—Windows\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop\7.0\Adobe Photoshop 7 Settings\Adobe Photoshop 7 Prefs

  • Windows 98—Windows\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop\7.0\Adobe Photoshop 7 Settings\Adobe Photoshop 7 Prefs

Replacing the Prefs to Reset Photoshop

The easiest way to cure basic Photoshop ills is to replace a corrupted Prefs file. The easiest way to do that is simply delete the file and let Photoshop generate a new one to replace it. To restore Photoshop to its default settings, hold down (Command-Option-Shift) [Ctrl+Alt+Shift] when starting the program.

One way to help prevent corruption of the Photoshop Prefs is to lock the file with one of these methods:

  • In Mac OS X, locate the file in the Finder and press Command-I to open Get Info. Click once on the Locked check box (see Figure 3.17).

Figure 3.17 Once locked, the Prefs file is less likely to become corrupted, but cannot be updated.

  • In Mac OS 9, locate the Prefs file in the Finder and press Command-I to open Get Info. Select the Locked check box.

  • Windows users should find the Prefs file in My Computer and click on it once to highlight it. From the File menu, select Properties. Select the Read-only check box, and click OK (see Figure 3.18).

Figure 3.18 Windows XP is shown. The procedure is similar for other versions of Windows.

The Additional Preferences Files

In addition to the Prefs, the Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Settings folder holds a variety of other files. You'll find separate files for the Actions palette, Brushes, Styles, Shapes, Swatches, and more. That's also the location of a folder called Workspaces, which holds your custom work setups.

What you won't find in the Settings folder are preferences for paths, Save for Web, or ImageReady. On the Macintosh platform, Save for Web and ImageReady generate their own preferences files, and a separate file is also created for Photoshop Paths. You'll find all three files in the same location as the Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Settings folder. Color Settings is a separate file within the Photoshop Settings folder.


You are strongly advised to leave the Windows Registry undisturbed unless you are a Microsoft Certified Expert.

On Windows, Save for Web and ImageReady must write to the Windows Registry instead of creating separate files. You'll find a separate Color Settings file with the Photoshop preferences in the Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Settings folder.

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