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Troubleshooting Final Cut: A Quick Guide to Resetting Preferences

I love Apple's Final Cut Pro (now part of Final Cut Studio), and have been using it since it was first released. I've come to know it very well in that time, and while I do love the program, I'm also frustrated by how easily, since that very first release, Final Cut will corrupt its own preferences - more easily and more often, in fact, than any other professional app I've ever used.

When Final Cut's prefs get corrupted, all kinds of strange things can happen. In fact, in a previous life, I worked as the Technical Director for a video production company that used Final Cut exclusively, where I managed a network of over 100 Macintoshes of all kinds. Our ironclad rule there was, "whenever Final Cut starts acting weird, trash the prefs", which usually solved the problem.

But Final Cut has a lot of preferences, in several different locations, and you don't want to delete all of them, as other bad things can happen. In this troubleshooting guide, I'll show you which prefs to delete, which ones not to delete, and where to find them.

Step 1 - Locate the Preferences

OK, let's say you're working in Final Cut and it's suddenly decided to stop drawing waveform previews - a common problem. Deleting prefs will usually solve this, but which ones? Final Cut has at least five different locations where it can store prefs and settings, and it's important to trash the right ones.

On the Macintosh, preferences are usually located in the Library folder, but there are three different Library folders -

  • the root level Library
  • the System Library and
  • the User Library (the one found in your User folder):

Fortunately, you can ignore the System Library, as application preferences don't get stored there. You can also ignore the root level Library folder - there is, in fact an Apple Final Cut Pro plist (preference) file stored in that Library's Preferences folder, called com.apple.RegFinalCutStudio.plist:

(I've removed some stuff in the file list to make it easier to view.)

But that file is your registration data - you definitely do NOT want to trash that, as you'll probably have to reinstall Final Cut if you do.

Note that the root level Library Preferences folder also may contain a folder called Final Cut Pro System Support; you may also find a copy of it in the Application Support folder in that same Library folder:

These contain the Final Cut Sequence, Capture, and Device Control presets you load and create in the Audio/Video Settings... dialog in Final Cut. While these aren't preferences, as such, they are important settings you'll want to be aware of, especially if you've created any kind of custom presets - you don't want to trash these either.

The prefs we're interested in are in:
Users > (your user name) > Library > Preferences:

(Again I've removed some extra stuff in the path.)

There are two sets of prefs here we want to work with - com.apple.FinalCutPro.plist, and Final Cut Pro 7.0 Prefs.fcset in the Final Cut Pro User Data subfolder.

Step 2 - Trash Some Prefs

Finally, we're in the right folder and have found the right prefs, so let's start trashin'. First, you want to make sure that you've quit out of Final Cut before you do this. Then, select com.apple.FinalCutPro.plist, drag it to the Trash, and empty the Trash. Then re-open Final Cut and see if your problem is resolved - often it will be.

If it isn't, then trash Final Cut Pro 7.0 Prefs.fcset, Final Cut Pro Obj Cache.fcmch, and  Final Cut Pro Prof Cache.fcpch. Be aware, though, that if you do, you'll have to reset any User Preferences and System Settings you've changed in Final Cut (including things like Autosave settings, Timeline Options, and Scratch Disks.)

That should do it. If you continue to have problems with Final Cut, your next step may be to reinstall the program, unfortunately. But many strange Final Cut behaviors can be resolved by trashing prefs.

In fact, it's such a common procedure that I have a final tip to  share with you - after you first install Final Cut and get it set up to your liking, it's a great idea to locate and save copies of the prefs I mentioned above before you do any other work in Final Cut. That way, you'll have fresh clean prefs you can copy back into their respective folders when, inevitably, you have to trash your corrupted prefs. This will save you a lot of preference resetting time later on.

Happy editing!

Post a comment if you have any troubleshooting Final Cut questions and check out our Final Cut Studio video tutorials here!

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.


Mar 21, 2011
Hi Richard. Very good to know. Thanks for the tip!
Oct 03, 2011
Straight Shooter

Great advice, it really worked. Thanks for putting the article together. Is there any place I can download the good prefs that became corrupted, so I can save them like you suggested?

Straight Shooter
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