Acrobat 9: Installation issues

July 6, 2008

Bottom line: It looks as though most of the issues documented in this post were the result of a bad local environment—lurking Registry entries etc.

I’d like to thank Adobe Support for their testing and promptness in getting back to me when they said they would, and the Adobe Forums participants who also tested my files. I will stand by the general comments I made, though, on the usefulness or otherwise of error messages.

Update 26 July 2008: Better late than never… After dealing with the malware crisis and getting my new laptop, I FINALLY got to install Acrobat 9 on Vista on the new laptop. And I can confidently state that it works fine with Vista Ultimate 64-bit and Office 2007! Sometime in the next week or so Later, I’ll install it on my main machine.

Update 14 August 2008: More issues with Table of Contents linking, and a solution…

It shouldn’t be this hard.

I pre-ordered Acrobat 9 Professional and received my DVD earlier this week. I decided to install it on my laptop and test it out with Author-it and Word 2003 (in particular) before deciding whether to install it on my main production machine. My current installation is Acrobat 6.0 Professional, so I’m making a bit of an upgrade jump with this one. Acrobat 6 is the lowest number for the upgrade—if you have Acrobat 5.0 you’re out of luck and will have to purchase at the full price, not the upgrade price.

After spending quite a few hours identifying and deleting some 4 GB (!) of data from my laptop and defragging it, I was ready to install. BTW, my 5-year old laptop has Windows XP SP2 installed, some 7.5 GB free space, 512 MB RAM, meeting the recommended requirements from Adobe.

It’s taken nearly a day and a half… And I’ve only got it installed—I haven’t tested if the darned thing actually works yet!

Here’s why it’s taken so long and some solutions and locations of places that might be able to help if you have any of the same issues I had.

Attempt 1: Failed. DVD reader on the laptop didn’t appear to read the DVD after the first minute or so. I had time to answer ‘yes’ to uninstalling Acrobat 6.0 but that’s about all. Hard rebooted the laptop.

Attempt 2: Failed. I got as far as 3 markers on the progress bar then everything appeared to freeze. No lights on the DVD drive. I clicked Cancel but that didn’t work, so I had to kill the processes using Task Manager. Shutdown.

Attempt 3: Failed. I got as far as 3 markers on the progress bar then everything appeared to freeze. However, this time, there was the occasional flashing light from the DVD drive. So I let it just sit and do its thing. After 30 minutes, the progress bars were at approximately 75%. Twenty minutes later (yes, 50 minutes since it’d started the installation!) I got this error message:

Error 1316. A network error occurred while attempting to read from the file C:\Windows\Installer\Adobe Acrobat and Reader 6.0.3 Update.msi

Yeah, that was useful. Clicking OK on the error message cancelled the installation and rolled it back. I tried to browse the files on the DVD via the installation splash screen and Windows Explorer, but nothing happened—the DVD drive ‘froze’ again? Killed the processes using Task Manager.

Attempt 4:

  1. Investigated the issues on the Adobe Forums (nothing) and via Google.
  2. Decided to put the DVD into my main PC’s drive and copy all the files off the DVD onto a central location on the network. It took some 40+ minutes, but eventually everything was copied across.
  3. Rebooted the laptop.
  4. Turned off the antivirus software and other startup applications.
  5. Ran setup.exe from the network drive, completed my details, chose Typical installation. This time the progress bar moved along very quickly, but I got the same error message as above at the end and the installation was rolled back.
  6. I swore—and not for the first time. Some more Googling looking for the error message and its likely cause.
  7. Opened Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs. Saw there were two instances of Adobe Acrobat Reader Updates there (6.02 and 6.03). Aha! Maybe that’s why it wouldn’t install??
  8. Tried to remove the instance of Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.02 Update but got another error message: “This installer requires Adobe Reader 6.01 or Adobe Acrobat 6.01 installed on your system. Please install Reader 6.01 or Acrobat 6.01 before running this installer.
  9. Closed Add/Remove programs, then reopened it—6.02 wasn’t listed anymore, so I thought maybe I had killed it.
  10. I tried to remove the 6.03 instance. This time I got a repeat of Error 1316 (above) followed by this error message: “Fatal error on installation.” [Aside: When will developers let the technical writers write the error messages???? These errors all report as installation errors yet I was trying to UNinstall. And don’t get me started on the intelligibility of the wording.]
  11. Closed Add/Remove programs, then reopened it. Both 6.02 and 6.03 instances were back in the list. [swear]
  12. Navigated to C:\Windows\Installer—nothing listed for Adobe at all.
  13. Did some more Googling… Swore some more…
  14. One suggestion for cleaning out stubborn registry entries was to use Microsoft’s Windows Install Clean Up utility. That sounded familiar—discovered it was already installed on the laptop!
  15. Ran Windows Install Clean Up, selecting first the 6.02 instance, then clicking Remove.
  16. Repeated step 15, selecting the 6.03 instance.
  17. Checked Add/Remove—they appeared to be gone.
  18. Rebooted laptop.

Attempt 5: Success! I hope…

  1. On rebooting, turned off the antivirus software and other startup applications.
  2. Ran setup.exe from the network drive, completed my details, chose Typical installation.
  3. This time the progress bar moved along more slowly, but steadily, and I got messages that it was copying files which I hadn’t seen before.
  4. It took about 15 minutes, but eventually I got a message that the installation was successful.

Yes! But that was it for the day. I STILL haven’t tested if Acrobat 9 works with my two critical applications. After spending close to EIGHT unchargeable hours on this process, I’m tuckered out, frustrated, and very angry about how even after all these years software companies still can’t make installation a seamless process. [And I feel like sending Adobe an invoice for some of the time I’ve wasted on what should have been a simple process. While my laptop’s DVD drive may have been the reason for the failures at attempts 1, 2, and 3, that was NOT where I spent most of those troubleshooting hours.]

The biggest failing—yet again—is with the error messages. They are meaningless or arcane for a general user (see the above), and ultimately don’t tell you WHY something didn’t work. I’ve been working almost exclusively for software companies since 1992, and with computers since the mid-80s. I’m willing to persevere, and I have a clue. Enough of a clue to try things out that the normal user may not be prepared to try, even if they knew about the possible places to look to fix the problem. Applicable, meaningful, error messages that could point the user in a direction for the possible reason for the problem would help enormously.

Adobe—are you listening? You’ve been in business longer than I’ve been using computers. I expect that you have TEAMS of usability people, technical writers, etc. Get them to vet EVERY ONE of your error messages in EVERY program and send back ANY that don’t make sense to a general user of your software. Get them to quiz the programmers until you get error messages written in plain non-technical language, and which don’t require a degree in programming or system administration to understand.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, here are some resources I found that helped me solve my installation problem, which appeared to be caused by some lurking registry entries for Adobe Acrobat software that did not uninstall correctly the first time. BTW, I had tried to uninstall these two Reader Updates some months ago, but they wouldn’t go. No error messages—or any messages—at that time: they just didn’t go. So these registry entries have probably been lurking for a long time as I’ve been using Reader 8 on this laptop for some time.

I haven’t written this article to pick on Adobe—I’ve done it to help anyone else who may find themselves in the same situation, and to emphasize—yet again—the importance of useful error messages in ANY software. Also, if I can save one other person from spending eight hours troubleshooting an issue that could’ve been sorted in a few minutes with a decent error message, then I’ll be happy.

But meantime, I’m still very angry that a simple message like “Remove all instances of Adobe Reader and Acrobat” (or, gee, even a routine to do it for me such as: “We’ve detected that other instances of Adobe Reader and Acrobat are installed. Click Continue to allow us to uninstall them for you.”) could’ve saved me hours of work.

I wonder how people who don’t work in the IT industry get on. No wonder there’s a lot of anger and frustration with software—and no wonder people are hesitant about upgrading.

And if, after all this, Acrobat 9 Professional doesn’t work with my critical software, you’ll be hearing from me again on this subject…

Update 7 July 2008: Well, all is looking good so far! I can successfully:

  • create a PDF from a ‘standalone’ Word 2003 document using the Adobe PDF item on Word’s menu
  • publish to Word 2003 from Author-it and then create a PDF document from Word’s menu option
  • publish directly to PDF from Author-it (Initially, there was an error message and I had to remove the check mark from the Adobe PDF printer setting and republish, then it was all OK. (Go to Start > Printers and Faxes, right-click on Adobe PDF, then select Properties. Click Printing Preferences then clear the Rely on System Fonts… check box. Click OK and try publishing to PDF again—it worked for me after I’d removed this check mark. And yes, the error message was pretty clear as to what I had to do!)

The only thing that doesn’t seem to be working is that TOC entries in my Word doc published from Author-it are not hyperlinks despite that Word conversion setting being turned on (in Word, the TOC hyperlinks work with Ctrl+Click). I’ll test that with other Word docs not published from Author-it (and also PDFs created in earlier versions of Acrobat), then see if there are any reports of that on the Adobe Forums if it’s an issue with all Word docs.

For Author-it users hoping that Acrobat 9 Professional would automatically create bookmarks when you publish direct to PDF from Author-it, it won’t. This is the same behavior with earlier versions of Acrobat. To get bookmarks, you have to publish to Word first, then create your PDF. Your conversion settings (Adobe PDF > Change Conversion Settings > Bookmarks tab on the Word menu) have to be set to Convert Word Headings to Bookmarks.

I still have to check:

  • internal links within a Word doc published from Author-it and a standalone one
  • creating a PDF from web pages

Update 7 July 2008 (later…):

  • Creating a PDF from a web page works well—both from within Acrobat 9 Pro and from IE7 (I saw some issues reported on the Adobe Forums about IE7 losing the PDF icon, but it was there for me and it worked fine).
  • Creating a PDF from a Word 2003 document whether published from Author-it or not, DOES NOT create a clickable TOC or internal cross references for me. My settings for this are the same as for my Acrobat 6 Professional on another machine, and yes, the Convert cross-references and table of contents to links check box is definitely selected. I’ve posted this issue to the Adobe Forums so will hopefully get a response soon. I cannot use Acrobat 9 Pro in production if it can’t create these links as they are essential to my clients, some of whom have 400+ page Word documents with many such cross references.

So, except for the lack of TOC and cross reference links, Acrobat 9 Pro seems to work fine for me at this stage. But the issue of the links is a showstopper for me; as a result, I will not be installing it on my production machine until I get a solution to it.

Update 8 July 2008: You can follow the progress of my testing and suggestions from Adobe Forums and Adobe Support people here:

Update 10 July 2008: Bottom line: After Adobe Support called me again today with the results of more tests that show it works, I think we can assume that it’s my environment. There’s probably some lurking Registry entries on the laptop (it *is* close to 5 years old, after all), so I’ve bitten the bullet I’ve been contemplating for a while and have ordered a replacement laptop. I’ll go ahead and install Acrobat 9 on my production machine, probably this weekend some time.


  1. […] my experiences with Adobe and its software over the past week (don’t get me started on how impossible it is to log a support call/bug report via their […]

  2. i had to reactivate my cs2 licence and call them, and after a bunch of ‘phone errors’ i got through and they refused to help because they said i called the USA (from dialing a sydney number??) then gave me a disconnected help number…
    then when i got through after 40 min they give me the run around saying ‘have i tried the phone activation’…
    mel gave me this link to cheer me up. hehehe

  3. Glad you found it amusing, Sarah! ;-) It sure wasn’t at the time…

  4. What I ended up doing was go into Add/ Remove Programs, click “Change” on the Adobe Acrobat 6.0.3 Update, and do a “Repair.” Then the install worked!

  5. […] test document I created when I had issues when installing Acrobat 9 was able to correctly create live Table of Contents (TOC) links in the PDF produced from Acrobat 9 […]

  6. […] This utility has got me out of a bind a couple of times—first when I couldn’t uninstall remnants of a very old version of Microsoft Money, and more recently when I couldn’t uninstall remnants of Acrobat Reader 6 updates. […]

  7. Indeed. Software installations should be easier, especially ours. (Adobe :-). However, I have to say that compared to Symantec or McAfee we look like angels.

  8. […] May 2, 2009 After a lot of trepidation based on my horrible experience last July trying to upgrade my old laptop’s copy of Acrobat 6 Professional to Acrobat 9 Professional, I bit the bullet on a recent holiday Monday and decided to upgrade my main PC to Acrobat 9 […]

  9. […] Acrobat 9: Installation issues (4,860) […]

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