What’s the Deal?
Any installation of any program is a severe operation that will modify your system in one way or the other. Even just installing a web browser leaves notable traces in your folder hierarchy and physically on your harddrive’s sectors. You should always keep that in mind. If that weren’t enough, installing a plethora of different programs on your system makes it even more complicated by using different install methods and serialization and activation schemes. Many of them also install additional services and auxiliary programs which may get in the way of others and often you will find file associations being rerouted to the newly installed programs or broken when they belonged to an existing program. Therefore it is crucial that you prepare your system and yourself accordingly, especially when installing something like a Master Collection that will bring 12 main programs and a lot of extra tools and content on your system.
In addition to errors occurring in the programs themselves, many things can already go wrong when you try to install them. The following chapters are meant to offer some guidance on which preparations are necessary.
- User Types and User Privileges
- Windows User Account Control (UAC)
- File, Folder and Registry Permissions
- Virus Scanners
As a first step, it is always important to get an idea of your current system status. This means you really should check what tools and programs you already have installed and whether your hardware and its drivers are running properly. On Mac OS X both things are quite easy. You merely need to check the Applications directory and its sub-folders to see your programs and to gather hardware information, you use the System Profiler, which is stored in your Applications –> Utilities folder. A few additional settings that may become relevant are in your Quicktime, Monitor and Energy system panels which can be accessed from the Apple menu.
On Windows this is all a bit more complicated. Programs and installations are handled on your Add or Remove Programs panel (Windows XP) or the Programs and Features panel (Windows Vista and Windows 7), which you can access from the Start Menu –> Settings –> Control Panel. Your hardware info can be accessed in a variety of ways. First, the Device Manager system control panel that provides an overview can be accessed directly from the system’s control panel. Secondly, it can be opened by using a right-click on My Computer and choosing Properties, then going to the Hardware tab (Windows XP) or again choosing the Device Manager (Windows Vista and Windows 7). The third option is to again right-click and choose Manage in the menu. this will bring up the Device Manager as a snap-in in your Management Console (MMC).
When you view the list, you will see various device categories. If everything works, you needn’t worry about it. If there are devices listed with a yellow sign and exclamation mark or if there are unknown hardware components with question marks, you may be in trouble. You should then always double-click on those flagged symbols and investigate the details or let Windows try to install the driver. If that doesn’t work, consult the hardware vendor for correct drivers. If you have no clue what hardware you actually have, diagnostic tools like Sandra can help you find out. Of course Windows also uses several dedicated additional control panels to manage specific hardware which include Audio, Display, Energy Options and so on.
Whenever your computer, or more precisely its operating system, starts, a number of system services and tools are launched. Some of them are essential, others are optional. However, all of them consume at least a minimum of performance and since they are constantly loaded and active, may interfere with installations. To reduce the likelihood of such disturbances, you should make it a point to get rid of as many of these tools as you possibly can. While some may interject that this is mostly a Windows problem, this isn’t true. Mac computers can just as much be bogged down with menu helpers, Spotlight extensions, automatic backups with Timemachine and so on. So keep reading!
First in line are little helper tools. There is an infinite number of them both on Mac and Windows, so it’s not possible to list them all, but there are a few common suspects. Most obvious are so-called quick launch tools that are used by office applications or Adobe‘s own Acrobat. Turn them off by clicking/ right-clicking on them and setting the respective options in their configuration. Another category are disk access and monitoring tools of all sorts. This can be indexing services like Spotlight on OS X, virtual drive or network drive tools like Daemon Tools down to power management helpers. Of course we live in the day and age of the Internet, so many people use Skype, instant messaging tools, are subscribed to RSS feeds or constantly check their e-mail. If really nobody is around to chat with or you are not waiting for important mail, consider closing those tools fully. In addition to saving resources, a little less distraction may allow you to get more work done. Likewise, you may want to get rid of widgets. You really don’t need to have a big analog clock on your desktop or check the weather every 5 minutes, do you?
There are a couple of input helper utilities that you may never use or may not need to use. For instance on some Windows Vista and Windows 7 installations, support for tablet inputs is always installed even if there is no tablet attached. The other way around, you may be using a tablet but have no interest in using features like handwriting input. In both cases it would be safe to disable these features, even more so if you only use your Wacom tablet inside Adobe applications for painting – the specific driver will take over there and outside those programs the pen will act like a normal mouse. Other accessibility options, e.g. custom mouse drivers with explicit button mapping may also be possible to get rid of, if you never use them.
Now we are approaching a critical topic – services. Services are used by your operating system to provide functions globally to multiple apps and run system critical operations, but also includes printing services or licensing agents for commercial software. Services can be started and terminated and their options for doing so controlled to a degree. Since you normally don’t wanna deal with this, though, those options are a bit hidden. On a Mac, this can be done the hard way by using terminal commands. A simple explanation of the process can be found here. You can do the same on Windows using the Service Control Manager (SCM) command, but lucky for you, there is also an easier way. Right-click on My Computer and choose Manage in the menu, then pick Services. You will see a list of all installed services and their start options, which you can change by double-clicking on them. If you see one that is set to Automatic, which means it starts every time the system is booted, but you think it is not necessary, you can deactivate it or set its mode to Manual. In this case “manual” does not mean that you must revisit the panel to activate the service, but that it will only become active, if a program requests it. This would for instance make sense with licensing services that are specific to a program and have no use otherwise.
Now of course that is all well and good if you know what is going on, but some of these tools never offer a visible interface. So how do you get on their track? First, simply launch your Task Manager (Windows) or Activity Monitor (Mac). While the list of currently active processes may be overwhelming at first, you will notice that some of the names are familiar because they are your programs. You will also find many system services with somewhat cryptic short names. The ones that will interest you are either processes that do not identify themselves properly with a longer description or that carry names like FNPLicensingService for instance. You should monitor them for a while to find out what they actually do (the example being part of the Adobe licensing system). What’s important here is that once you know their names, you can go searching for them in other places. If that is not enough, there are additional tools, especially on the Windows side to help you track down problems. A more powerful version of the task manager is Process Explorer which offers even more detailed information. Once you have a clear name, you should first check your startup items. On a Mac, they can be accessed via the System Preferences from the Apple menu where you must access the Accounts system control and check them for each user. In most cases this will be empty unless you already added something yourself. On Windows PCs, the Autostart program group in the Start Menu is the place to look. An additional method is provided by launching programs via th Windows Registry. The easiest way to access that info is by going to the Start Menu and choosing Run…, then typing in msconfig or by using Autoruns.
Since you will be installing a new program or many new programs whenever you install something Adobe, you are going to need some harddrive space to put it on. Therefore you will first have to verify that your drive can actually hold all the files. This can be easily done by right-clicking the volume on a Mac and choosing Information. The same applies to Windows. Open My Computer and if, depending on your chosen view, you cannot see the column for free space (detail view) or status bars (icon view), right-click any drive and choose Properties. But wait, a little clarification first.
Whenever we are talking about a drive or disk, we usually mean the file system structure that we see as it was created by the operating system, not its physical layout. We are seeing partitions (Windows) and volumes (Mac) and the folders and files inside them. We don’t see any of the other invisible stuff like the boot sector or other hidden info nor can we ever tell, where a file is placed. Is it on the outer radius of the disk? On the inner edge? Is it placed on platter 1 or 2 of a drive that uses 3 platters? We just don’t know and normally we do not care. We start to care when something is not right there because e.g. a virus has destroyed the boot sector and we need to repair it. Likewise, we begin to care when running out of space and that is the part that interests us. But what do we do? Do we re-install the whole operating system just to change the drives? That was how it was done in the past, but lucky for you, it may not at all be necessary. Of course there are limits, but partitions and volumes can be resized after the fact. The only prerequisite here is that you have some free disk space left anywhere that we are not using currently.
Let’s start with the Mac side of things again. Open your Applications folder, go to the Utilities sub-folder and launch the Disk Utility. Select the drive you want to modify, choose the Partition option, input your desired sizes and hit the Apply button. Done! If you are on Windows Vista or Windows 7, it is similarly easy. Right-click on My Computer and choose Manage, then pick out the Disk Management tool. Inside it, right-click on the partition and choose Resize. Input the new size, hit Apply and let it do its thing. Now heare’s the caveat: Both methods assume that whatever free space you have is directly adjacent to the active partition. If that is not the case because there is another partition in-between that cannot be resized, they won’t work. However, it may still be possible to change the partition size using other tools. An overview list of available tools can be found at Wikipedia and in addition, any Linux distribution that can be booted from CD/ DVD will do the trick, also.
Warning: Changing the partition size may cause loss of data, so backup important files first.
Now okay, you have gained additional space the hard way, but aren’t there other methods? Indeed there are! What we haven’t considered so far is the data you yourself and your programs produce. That does not mean your work files and documents, but even as you read this article, temporary data has made its way onto your computer and is cached to be available later for faster reloads. If you never take care, such data can amass considerably. So where can you find it? As I was mentioning, browser caches are one place to look. Depending on what web browser you use, the options to clean them out are in the Options or Tools menus. Another Internet-centric tool that can eat away lots of disk space are mail programs. How so? When you delete a message inside them, it is not really deleted, but only hidden, so it can be recovered later. This can result in several Gigabytes of “nothing” being taken up. To avoid this, you will have to use e.g. the Compress this Folder command in Thunderbird. Another big blockage can be temporary files in your user Temp directory. Info on that can be found on this page. This step is particularly important, as the installer will need this directory to place its own temporary files and with several GB for a Master Collection, you get an idea how much that is going to be. In addition to doing these things manually, there are a few tools that can help out. One such tool is CCleaner, which does the same as your Windows Disk Cleanup Utility, just much faster and more efficient.
After all that freeing up space, as a last item you need to check whether the disk is actually healthy, i.e. if its file structure is intact. On a Mac, you use the Disk Utility again, employing the First Aid options. On Windows, you double-click on My Computer and then right-click on any drive, accessing the Properties panel. On the Tools tab, you can then see a Check Now button for the drive. While there, you will also notice the Defragment Now button. This should be your last step – because you have deleted and changed so many files, they may have become scattered across unrelated physical clusters/ sectors, meaning that you have a lot of space wasted that is only half-occupied. This could mean, that during install you still can run out of disk space, because there are not enough free, contiguous clusters. Defragmenting can fix that and also improve overall system performance.
A matter of much debate is whether you should create snapshots and backups of your current disk layout before installing a big suite or not. Of course it doesn’t hurt, but ask yourself how sensible it actually is to keep those large files around. If the install is successful and there are no problems with using the applications, you will never bother to go back. After a while the info in the backup would be outdated, anyway, because security updates and patches are installed regularly on today’s systems. Restoring your system from those old files would then set you back and possibly re-introduce security risks and compatibility issues. It would definitely require you to rerun those updates. If something goes wrong during an install, then restoring a backup would of course give you a system that works, but without the new Adobe software on it. The underlying problem that prevented the successful install in the first place would still be there and you need to fix it before trying it again. Also keep in mind that restoring backups may overwrite sectors inadvertently which could cause problems with licensing and activation that rely on a fixed harddrive signature/ footprint or store info in hidden sectors. So in the end, having those backups does not necessarily help.
Since, for all intents and purposes, installs modify system components, they are of course relevant as possible security issues. This means, that they can trigger security alerts on your system or being blocked from doing their work by security tools and security mechanisms. Therefore it is crucial to restrain these tools or temporarily disable them.
As a first, always install your software with administrative rights to minimize blockages from the get go. This is usually not a problem on systems where only one main user exists – you are effectively the system’s administrator and sole user and have all the necessary user privileges. If you have multiple users because e.g. the computer is used by your colleagues or different family members, a few extra steps may be required. On Windows Vista and Windows 7 you can right-click any executable file and choose Run as Administrator. You will be prompted to input the system’s administrator password to proceed. If that is not enough, you will need to switch the user account. Log off from your current account and log in to the administrator account on the given system. This method also applies to Windows XP. If no such account exists or is disabled, you may need to create one or activate it. To do that, right-click on My Computer and choose Manage then select the Local Users and Groups option. In the right pane you will see all current users and user groups. Right-clicking in an empty area allows you to create a new user, if you right-click on any name, you can choose to edit the properties of existing users. This includes the user name, password expiry rules and group memberships. The latter can be accessed on the Membership tab. On a Windows system, there can only be one user called Administrator, but multiple users can be Administrators and part of the respective group. To add yourself as an administrator, hit the Add button and type in Administrators, then Apply. The same procedure works in reverse, when you selected a user group and want to add a specific user. The only difference there is that you type in the user name, not the group name.
On a Mac, there are only two user types – administrators and users, so things are much easier. User management is handled via the System Preferences from the Apple menu where you must access the Accounts system control. The important option you are looking for is User can manage Computer, which effectively gives you administrative access.
Warning: Enabling administrator access may present a security risk, as it would also allow malicious software to access your computer with full rights. Therefore be extra careful when downloading unknown stuff from the Internet or running suspicious programs.
A Windows specific problem is User Account Control (UAC) which was introduced in Windows Vista and also exists in Windows 7. It is not per se necessary to turn it off, but it may prompt multiple warnings during a longer install and typing in the administrator password over and over again may become quite tiresome. Therefore turning it of temporarily or reducing its alert level (Windows 7) may be a good idea. To access these options, go to your Start Menu –> Settings –> Control Panel. Open up the User Accounts system control panel and click on the Turn User Account Control on or off (Windows Vista) or the Change User Account Control Settings (Windows 7) option. On the first, you can really only turn it on or off, on the latter you should set the level one notch below the default one or also completely turn it off. Don’t forget to re-enable these options once you are done with installing.
Also related to user privileges are permissions on directories. In order to install something, you will need write access to the target directories. This is usually not a problem, if you obey standard directories, but if you choose other target locations or reinstall software in existing directories, you may run into trouble and get warnings about files not being written due to permission issues. To fix these issues, right-click on the folder. On OS X, choose Information. Near the bottom of this panel you see a list which users can read or write to this folder. If you currently have no access, this list will appear dimmed and the padlock symbol at the bottom be in locked state. Click on the padlock to release it and access the list (requires admin access as laid out above). Grant the user that is installing write access. On Windows, you choose Properties in the right-click menu and go to the Security tab. There you will find a list of users at the top and their associated permissions. Enabling and disabling check boxes will set those. If your user is not listed yet, you can hit the Add button again and follow the same procedures as when adding a global user. A special case is presented, when a directory is not associated with any user. In that case, you won’t be able to do anything until you take ownership. From the Security tab, click on Advanced. A new panel will come up on which you again choose the Owner tab. To actually now make you the owner, hit the Edit button and pick out a user. If the folder contains sub-directories and files, make sure to enable the respective options that propagate or replace existing permissions with the new permissions.
Note: Manually modifying security settings may require to access the panels multiple times
until you find the right combination.
An often misunderstood security mechanism are firewalls, so let’s do some myth busting first. Both on a Mac and PC, the firewalls already built into the operating system are so-called passive firewalls. They only monitor ports, files and traffic, but do not inspect network traffic packets. What does that mean? First, it means that most of the time you simply do not notice them since they do not consume much performance. Second, it means that they will only kick in if they notice activity on certain ports. It’s like someone knocking on the door and requesting to get in or get out, but the firewall having no idea what the person is carrying in its pockets. Usually this is enough, as any action that appears on a port that you did not clear for traffic will trigger a warning. It does of course not protect you from going to the dark places where your mom told you not to go, so you have to act responsibly. A second category of firewalls are third-party software firewalls as they are included in many security suites and the ones in your Internet access router or modem (DSL, cable or others). In addition to blocking ports, those also do packet inspection, meaning they look in the pockets of the stranger. Some do this quite thoroughly, others more superficial. It all depends on your settings and the performance. A few will even go so far as the quarantine data for a few milliseconds or seconds to gather more info and evaluate potentially dangerous packets in a greater context. Returning to the matter at hand, though, none of that requires you to turn off the firewall completely, as some would advise. Software firewalls are able to learn and can be taught a new rule by just confirming or denying access and your router firewall is usually configured in such a way, that it will allow most networking protocols to go through without a hitch, most importantly HTTP.
As a last item, let’s talk about your virus scanner. While all the Nortons, Kasperskys and McAfees will tell you that you need their software running with all bells on all the time and it needs to update every 5 nanoseconds, this is not exactly true. Not only does this cost you notable performance, but instead of providing security, over-zealous scanners have been known to damage files or render entire systems defunct by quarantining critical system files. Therefore you must teach them some good manners and tell them to behave. Most critically, tell them to only scan files when reading them from local drives, not when writing them. There is no point in letting it scan twice – if a virus comes on an install CD/ DVD, the scanner should be smart enough to warn you when it is being read, not when it is being written to its final destination. Also, letting it scan on writing can easily triple the time required for an install, which is certainly something you do not want. Next on the list is the general behavior when encountering viruses. Unless you have a very good reason, never ever let your virus scanner auto-quarantine or auto-block files. Instead set the mode to user interactive. Having to click away some extra warnings may be annoying, but it’s certainly better than files never-ending up on your harddrive because they have been intercepted and redirected elsewhere. Finally, about those update cycles. Yes, viruses are an epidemic, but even if the scanner signature may not know about a virus that popped up 5 minutes ago in some country you haven’t even heard of, it should know about most others and in addition have a heuristic engine that can distinguish between good and evil based on statistical methods. Recently even behavioral analysis makes its way into those scanners, so malware may be detected on what it does. In any case, during installation processes it is a good idea to suppress updates to avoid additional install processes kicking in. This can in most cases be done by setting a longer cycle for checking for updates and then manually initiating an update. After that, you should not see automatic updates happening for the duration you defined. Just don’t forget to reset the update frequency once you are done.
Since recently SSD drives have become fashionable, but due to the cost people often buy them too small or want to save them to prevent wearing them out with too many write operations, that poses a problem for installs and also running some programs and they will throw errors about running out of disk space. Therefore it may be a good idea to pick another location on a magnetic platter drive (aka a conventional harddrive) when installing to conserve space. This can be done by simply picking a different location in the product installers on the page where you select the components or by setting a different location in the Adobe Application Manager (AAM) for Creative Cloud or subscription installs. The caveat here is, that once you have chosen an alternate location, all of your apps will be installed there. This is particularly important to keep in mind when you did not install all applications in a suite like the Master Collection and want to add the other ones after a while. So, in more clear terms, if you have a C:, D: and E: drive in your computer and chose to install some programs on D: during your first install, it will not be possible to install the remaining tools on E: without a full uninstall and cleanup of the whole package.
Another part that may be affected by this problem are your temporary folder and your user home directory. If you want to change their locations to something else, this will require some work. The easy part is your library folders for My Documents and similar, which are the default ones where e.g. the After Effects disk cache will be created. Here you can simply right-click on any of the icons, choose Properties and then add more locations and disable the default one. In contrast to that, moving your entire user folder is not that easy. This requires you to right-click on My Computer, then choose Properties and then open the Advanced System Settings option. In the Users section you now have the option to move or copy profiles, but only if another location is properly set up already.
As an alternative, but rather geeky way, you can change all these folders in your Windows Registry editor. To do so, type regedit.exe in the input field in your start menu. Then you can change that data by navigation to the following branches in the hierarchy:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
The values listed in the right-hand pane can then be edited with a double-click. In some of these keys you will notice names like %PUBLIC% or %USERPROFILE%, which are Windows‘ default internal variables where it will replace them with the full path.
Finally, you can change your system’s TEMP and TMP variables. Right-click on My Computer, then choose Properties and then open the Advanced System Settings option again. On the panel you will find an Environment Variables button which will take you to a dialog where you can change that setting by typing in alternative paths.
Note: Everything described above may have side effects like programs not being able to find their configuration data and that in accordance with your system’s Group Policies and security settings you may not be allowed to implement these changes, especially when you work in a larger company. Talk to your IT department then and have them do it. Also, of course only use drives and folders that are permanently available for this kind of thing or your system may not even launch anymore when it cannot find some of those folders.
Now that you are done with your preparations, let’s move on to actually installing some Adobe software and the more specific steps involved.