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Quick Tip: How to Reset Photoshop's Preferences

Nothing is perfect. It's a sad fact, but even in the world of technology, things can go wrong: applications can refuse to launch, an application or plugin may crash, or you may simply experience unexpected behavior when using using the application. Photoshop is no exception. Now although we're not going to be looking at troubleshooting every possible error message or crash that can be experienced when using Photoshop on a Mac or a PC, there is a blanket approach that may solve whatever the problem is. Read on to find out more...

What's in a Preference file?

Adobe Photoshop CS5's Preferences file stores a whole host of different settings. For example, there are options for:

  • The Scratch disk
  • Performance
  • Plugins
  • File Saving
  • The cursor
  • Your display and more...

Every time you launch Photoshop (or most applications on a Mac) it will reference it's preferences file which stores all the above. When you quit Photoshop the preference file will be saved. Sometimes a preferences file can become damaged or corrupted. This can cause Photoshop to behave badly or even not behave at all (not launch!)

So rather than bring a hammer down on your computer in frustration (or worse reinstall Photoshop from scratch) it's a good idea to first try resetting Photoshop's preferences file.

Reset Photoshop's Preferences to Default Settings

If you are a Mac user, then you can manually delete the Photoshop's preferences from the following location. (Photoshop will then create a new vanilla preferences file.)

Please Quit Photoshop first!
Next navigate to your Home folder (user account) in a Finder window and move this folder to the trash (or the Desktop if you prefer to keep a backup):
~/Library/Preferences/Adobe Photoshop CS5 Settings/

If you would prefer not to delve into the Finder, or you are a PC user, you can instruct Photoshop to delete and reset the preferences instead. Hold down the following keys as soon as you launch Photoshop:

(WIndows PC): Alt+Control+Shift
(Mac) : Option+Command+Shift

Photoshop will give you the option to delete the current settings as shown below.

If the above dialogue window did not appear for you, quit Photoshop and try again. Make sure to press the correct key combination above immediately upon launching Photoshop.

And that's all there is to it! Hopefully this has helped troubleshoot your Photoshop errors. If it hasn't pop by our forums and let us know if we can help.

Photoshop tutorials check these videos out to learn more!

Rounik Sethi

Rounik Sethi | Articles by this author

Rounik is the Executive Editor for Ask.Audio & macProVideo. He's built a crack team of professional musicians and writers to create one of the most visited online resources for news, review, tutorials and interviews for modern musician and producer. As an Apple Certified Trainer for Logic Pro Rounik has taught teachers, professional musicians and hobbyists how to get the best out of Apple's creative software. He has been a visiting lecturer at Bath Spa University's Teacher training program, facilitating workshops on using music and digital media tools in the classroom. If you're looking for Rounik, you'll most likely find him (and his articles) on Ask.Audio & macProVideo.com.


Nov 28, 2014
John Law
Many thanks for this advice!
When pShop went haywire last evening I suspected the mouse, keyboard, then the Mac itself. I suspected but couldn't find the prefs then your piece restored all to normality.
To my surprise I see that you visit Bath Spa U. where I taught in the Art School for many years.

Best wishes

Nov 30, 2014
Hi John,

Glad this helped!

I really should update my bio(!)... it's been a couple of years now since I was involved as a visiting lecturer at Bath Spa.

Very best,
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