Uninstall a Service in Vista, Repair Adobe CS3 and Clean Up the Registry

I totally messed things up with a botched uninstall of Adobe CS3 [update: although, as you’ll see below, some people have used this on Adobe CS4 as well and I would bet this works for CS5 too]. Basically, all I was trying to do was get rid of the absurd and unnecessary Version Cue Server, which absolutely should not be installed, and Version Cue, which should not be a default option. I was hoping it might help my group manage collaboration on InDesign documents, but it is not appropriate for what we want (I want real concurrent versioning for Word or InDesign, but I don’t think it’s possible). So anyway, I got stuck in this thing where I had some parts of CS3 removed, which was causing other parts to fail, but I could neither repair the installation nor remove the apps. So I was stuck. What follows is what I did step-by-step to get unstuck.

[Update: please help others. I created this blog after figuring this out because I wanted to put the information somewhere. As it turns out, even though this is just a nothing blog with no traffic, this page actually gets a bit of traffic from frustrated folks so I would like to improve it if possible. If this works for you, I would appreciate it if you would leave a brief comment on anything that was unclear. If it doesn’t work for you, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment saying where you got stuck. Thanks.]

[Update #2: There are some amazing tips in the comments. This post is about what worked for me, but scan the comments too. In response to the above, several people have added amazing instructions and tips. See especially the comments by JL (March 27, 2009), Philippe (February 17, 2010), an j7n (June 21, 2015)].

So I eventually found out that you need to download a special program to clean up the detritus left by CS3. Salim noted in the comments below that it’s probably best to boot into Safe Mode for this which might help with some conflicts. So first

  • Go get the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility (scroll down that page for the actual download link).
  • Then get the AdobeCS3Clean Script. In theory this utility is for cleaning up the beta distro to install the full package, but it cleaned tons of stuff off my system. Run it a couple of times until it doesn’t seem to do anything more.

This is a simple non-GUI tool that runs in a shell window. In theory, based on the options given, there are two levels on this cleanup utility, but in fact, there are four. I found out about this from CrucialLimit.com blog post on running the CS3 cleanup script and he got it from Adobe support. Dave (CrucialLimit) ran at level 3. I tried that and some stuff was left, so I thought, “Well, everything is hosed, might as well go nuclear” so I ran it at level 4.

Annoyingly, the Version Cue service was still running. Get rid of that damn it! Frankly, I did not want to just disable it, I wanted to kill it forever.You can do this by editing the registry, but (full disclosure), I think that’s how I got to the sorry state I’m in, though I did do a system backup and restore, so in theory my registry is back where it was before I mucked with it. Anyway, it turns out this is absolutely simple. So often, Windows is like Linux, only you just don’t know it, which is to say that there are command tools for everything if you know where to look. In this case, it’s a simple little tool named “sc.exe”. Simple

  • Open a command prompt
  • type sc delete “Adobe Version Cue CS3” and the nasty virus, er Version Cue, is finally gone. Note the quotes. Without them, you’ll get an error.

Now you’re almost done. If you want to try to get rid of as much Registry detritus as possible, download the Eusing Free Registry Cleaner. I’ve run it many times without it every causing any problems. I’m not sure it’s ever truly fixed anything either, but it does delete tons of registry keys with no seeming ill effects. In this case, it finds tons of Adob-related keys left over. Make sure to run it twice and to check that you have the latest version.

Finally, believe or not, you might still have some stuff left over and CCleaner is another registry cleanup and repair tool (choose “Issues”) and also does disk cleanup and handles uninstall functios using other option. A pretty handy little tool and also free.

So now you should have

  • most CS3 files removed
  • CS3 services totally uninstalled
  • most registry keys deleted
  • weird file assocation issues fixed.

So were pretty much at a clean slate. Restart and see if you can install!
[Update: JL posted a huge long comment about what he did. If you have trouble, look for his comment]

43 Responses to “Uninstall a Service in Vista, Repair Adobe CS3 and Clean Up the Registry”

  1. Thanks, the Adobe CS3 suite was totally removed from Windows XP finally.

  2. Glad to hear it. I think there’s something wrong with a piece of software when the uninstall process requires you to download a cleaner from the software maker, another cleaner from the OS maker and you still find cruft to clean out when you run a *fourth* party registry cleaner. It’s frankly just ridiculous.

    That said, CS3 is a fine software package (although, I got it for free through work, I can’t imagine ever paying full price for that).

  3. Jakob… if only! In fact, though, no you can’t. CS3 is far too devious for that (do I need to reiterate that I *like* CS3 except for this issue? I’m not trying to rant about it). Ok, that’s out of the way.

    You definitely need to run the Adobe cleaner/Windows Installer Cleanup Utility. If you just ran CCleaner before that, it would still see CS3 as a valid application (just like you Add/Remove Programs interface and your CS3 Installer/Repair/Uninstaller wizard does). You literally cannot uninstall it without this tool, so it’s not cruft that you can clean up with a registry tool. It’s an application and, thankfully, CCleaner is much too cautious to go blowing away your valid (or semi-valid) apps.

    Now if you mean beyond that whether you need to run both Eusing and CCleaner, the answer is that you don’t need to run either one, in theory. Everything was fine after running the Adobe Cleaner. In theory, I could have re-installed then, but I just wanted to get as close as possible to a clean slate, so I decided to just have at it with the cruft cleaners.

    Why not just use one? I’ve tested this a few times. If I run one then the other, I always find more stuff. It doesn’t matter which one you run first. They’re both excellent apps that do a great job (especially for free), but neither one of them seems to nail 100% of the cruft.

    I suppose if I ran a third cruft cleaner, maybe it would find even more, but of course there’s a point where it becomes ridiculous, so I decided to declare victory and be done.

  4. Thank you! I was having related issues with CS3; whereas Photoshop and Flash would not uninstall. Found your short guide here quite useful.

  5. Awesome! It’s amazing how much traffic this one page gets (a few hundred visitors per month). Since this site doesn’t have a lot of traffic and probably doesn’t rank high for many search terms, that tells me that Adobe really screwed up on this one.

    Okay, I’ve never built an install package, but is it really that hard to create an install package that can be uninstalled fully and completely without jumping though hoops? guess not.

  6. So, What program did you eventually use for your file management? I need it for the same reasons you did, but running version cue on Vista is a nightmare! ^_^

  7. Actually Chris, I didn’t use any file management. I don’t need it in fact. When I do need file management I use Subversion, but that’s more of a programming tool than an “asset management” thingie like Version Cue. That is to say, it’s great at doing version control on text files, but I’m not sure how well it would work for tracking other things.

  8. Thanks for all the advice!
    What I did for uninstalling CS3 and installing CS4 Master under Vista Ultimate.
    Read all warnings, agreements, suggestions etc. with all the software. I am not an Adobe pro by any means nor am I an IT expert. I just thought my troubles and resolves may help someone out.

    Steps I did:

    1. Looked on the internet knowing I would have difficulty. I followed some instructions I found.
      1. Deactivated CS3 by using the Photoshop menu. Read the warnings!
      2. Stopped all Adobe items that were running.
      3. Ran msconfig and rebooted in safe mode – minimal
      4. Under program remove, uninstall would not even start
      5. Tried using the CS3 disk, right clicked on setup and ran as admin. Failed again.
      6. Removed safe mode and rebooted.
      7. Used the disk again and right clicked setup and ran as admin. A couple items said they removed then it failed.
      8. Rebooted and tried again, same result. Did this 3 times and threw in a couple Program Remove tries.
    2. Found your info and did the following as admin (backed up registry during each install and run of each program and when asked to):
      1. Downloaded:
        1. Windows Install
        2. The Adobe CS3 clean script
        3. RegCure
        4. CCleanup
      2. Stopped Adobe items
      3. Ran Windows Install Cleanup
        1. Reboot
      4. Ran CS3 script
        1. Ran level 1 about a bunch of times, many items just kept coming up that should have already been removed but I figured I did it enough times
        2. Ran level 2 about a bunch of times, many items just kept coming up that should have already been removed but I figured I did it enough times
        3. Ran level 3 about a bunch of times, many items just kept coming up that should have already been removed but I figured I did it enough times
        4. Ran level 4 about a bunch of times, many items just kept coming up that should have already been removed but I figured I did it enough times
        5. Then I ran 1, 2, 3 and 4 two more times each.
        6. I seemed to be left with folders or files (couldn’t tell) under Program Files\Adobe and Program Files\Common Files\Adobe, about 10. Most were acrobat files and the version cue.
        7. Rebooted
      5. Ran the sc delete command you mentioned (don’t want to repeat in case I type it incorrectly) to remove more version cue junk.
        1. Reboot
      6. Purchased full version of RegCure and ran it. Maybe could have not purchased? I wasn’t sure but when I did the scan with the free version it said only certain things would be fixed. I already spent a ton of money and time so I went for it
        1. Rebooted
      7. Ran CCleaner. This did take awhile and seemed to freeze so I did restart a few times. I think it was just my impatience though.
      8. Tried to delete leftover folders and files. Had huge issues with this. I am set as admin, owner etc. on each folder I tried to delete but they failed. I was able to cut them out and paste them to a folder I created on my desktop. I did this in hope that when I installed CS4 it wouldn’t pick them up. They are still there, no idea how to get rid of them, vista stinks.
        1. Did an Adobe search and all seemed to be removed.
    3. Now, loading CS4
      1. Opened the disk under explorer and ran as admin, it took forever!

    So far it seems to be working. I have only checked Photoshop and Bridge so far since I have things I need to work on using those programs but I wanted to get this posted while it was fresh in my brain.

    Sorry this looks so crappy but I pasted it from Word. Hope it’s useful to someone anyway.

  9. Whoa! Awesome JL!

    Sorry it took so long for me to reply. I saw it and then forgot about it. Anway, I formatted it so it should look sort of like you wanted.

    Thanks for taking so much time to do that. This page actually gets a lot of traffic, so I’m sure it will help someone

  10. Well, it worked for me too. I made everything you said and it just did what you said.
    Thanks a lot for your time.

  11. Man! I cannot tell you! It has bee 2 days of torture…I even started giving the old razor blade a couple of dodgy looks! Either way, found this post and cannot thank you enough! Thanks, thanks, thanks…..putting the blade away now .. WEG:)

  12. Whew! Another life saved by giving out obscure technical advice.

    Reminds me of the time when I was being driven insane by a crashing computer. I came home one day to find a note on my computer from my girlfriend that said “Please don’t throw the computer out the window until after I finish my paper.”

  13. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!!
    I was stuck on this one for a looooong time! Dumb Adobe! Grrrr… I got into the mess because I installed CS3 on top of CS2 and then stopped the install halfway through because I thought it had stopped (because it takes so long). The result; a nightmare mess. I walked through everything you said, step by step, detail by detail, dreading it not working…I almost got stuck when the one program was all DOS interactive styled..but it was pretty simple to figure out. Anyway, I so much appreciate you and the others out there who share these pieces of information to help others! Thank you so much, and a prayer of blessing on your day!

  14. Oh and yes, I know what a dim-wit I am for messing the thing up like I did to begin with. So, only half the blame goes to Adobe.

  15. Thank you for the kind words!

    Well-designed software would not get stuck like this and require such extreme measures.


  16. Thank you so much for the clear instructions and the links. I followed everything exactly and it worked beautifully. Not only was I able to install CS3 but it also cleaned up my computer in general, and gave me a lot of extra space that I desperately needed.

  17. Thanks for your comments Jen! It really gives me a boost whenever I find this has helped someone.

  18. Hi,

    Thanks for this information. Without it, I could not have fixed the this problem. I used Tom’s and JL’s suggestion and it worked.

    Thanks. MBB

  19. Thanks, Tom!

    Worked a treat. Just what I needed after countless hours lost without CS3. Still can’t believe Adobe lets this keep going on. Without people like you, we’d be forever at their mercy.

    THANK YOU!!!

    Kevin Oh!

  20. I was happy to come across this website, however when I tried to follow the steps (not sure I did it correctly) it didn’t work for me. What did work for me however was I use the system restore and restored to a previous date in which was prior to me installing CS3. It just so happened that this was a good option for me because it was only 1 day prior to me having it installed.

  21. Hello Tom,

    I just downloaded the new version of photoshop cs4 and I am having a few difficulties installing the program, after reading your post I am wondering if I should get a pro to install it for me.


  22. Dude, Thanks.
    I am not computer saavy, so I rely heavily on people like you that can effectively, and clearly show us these steps to take. I also appreciate the links to the software right on your page.

    And to Adobe, get you S&%@ together. Your 4 solutions didn’t work. And can I mention that having used both legit and cracked copies through the years, I will always prefer the cracked. And not cuz i don’t like to pay, but because when I use the cracks, i turn the updates off, and no problems typically. The legits get the updates, and they are nothing but a source of headaches. So go figure.

  23. May have been a tad easier if you ran it in safe mode. I personally prefer ccleaner but they all pretty much do the same thing. =)

  24. Good call Salim – that’s might make it a tad easier. I agree with the CCleaner choice – it’s a regular tool in my toolbox, but this problem requires much bigger guns. That’s why people have so much trouble backing out of it.

  25. Wai Yin


    I had been touble with this error on CS3. Today I found this website and will go ahead to work on my desktop tomorrow and hope it will resolve this issue. But I had did some foolish act before that and that was to dun the CS5 Clean Script before uninstalling CS3. Now my Add/Remove Programs had a lot of repeated Adobe applications. I had tried re-installing CS3 but the setup file just won’t run. I hope the Windows Installer CleanUp Utility is able to do the magic and remove all those items.

    Do wish me luck and let me know if anyone out there had did the same foolish act and yet able to save their desktop.

    Thanks once again for creating this website.

    Wai Yin

  26. Hi Wai Yin,

    I think you’ll be okay. Try my method and if you have any issues, but sure to read JL’s comment above from March 27, 2009 at 9:26 pm.

    The Adobe cleanup script run at the highest level should clean out everything and take care of the multiple entries and everything. It means you’ll have to reinstall any Adobe product but it should get the computer back to a usable state.

    Good Luck!

  27. Why does computer run slow? One major reason is the registry, the important windows database which stores computer’s configuration, is corrupted. The registry gets blocked by daily use or virus attacks, which slows down the computer, causes Blue Screen and computer freezing. Thus, cleaning the registry with T55 WinMate will speed up your computer.

  28. Wai Yin

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the encouragment. I am only able to find the CS5 Clean Script, does this work the same as CS3 Clean Script?

  29. Wai Yin

    Hi Tom,

    I had been struggling over the weekend to install CS3 onto the desktop but still failed. I will get the error message immedately after I install CS3 and attempt to run the program. Do you have any answer to my below queries?
    1) I am not able to ping activate.adobe.com. Does this got to do with the activation?
    2) My desktop is connected behind my company firewall, is this the cause of my failure?
    3) When I run “sc delete “Adobe Version Cue CS3″”, I get any error saying there is no such services. Any idea?
    4) Is Flexnet services a must to be running after installing CS3? This services was set to manual after installed.

    Anyone out there who have an answer for me, please help me. I had tried contacting Adobe Support Line but yet again was disappointed with their services. Even got cut off by one of their guy during an online chat.

  30. I’m not sure about the ping problem.

    Did you already run the Adobe cleaning script on level 4? Are you running it as Administrator? If so, maybe Version Cue is already gone from your system.

    As for Flexnet, I don’t know anything about that.

    Sorry I can’t be more help. I wish you luck – this is such a nasty problem. I can’t believe it persists after all this time.

  31. I successfully cleaned my system off Adobe and reinstalled Photoshop CS3 – this time without Version Cue. The installer had a good visual style but was very dumbed down. It installed several MSIs in silent mode, slowly, showing only two progress bars to the user, and no other feedback. Most of the time it spent installing “shared components” and not the program proper.

    Since the CS3 installer did not allow for component selection, I examined its XML files: payloads.xml and AdobePhotoshop10en_US_volume.proxy.xml (the main component). I removed the unwanted components from both. In proxy they are listed under . Setup will fail if that is not done. Then I deleted the respective directories from disk.

    This resulted in disk space savings and most likely less bloat in the registry. The installer reported success in the end. Less Start menu items were created, and mDNSresponder (Bonjour) service was NOT installed.

    Photoshop orderly reported that the removed Bridge was absent. But it crashed when certain common commands were invoked (Open, Save, New), because it couldn’t find VersionCue. Finding an option to disable it proved unsuccessful, because it still needs to load VC, which then may choose to disable itself.

    To solve the issue, I extracted two files: VersionCue.dll and Versioncueui.dll and copied them to the correct path:

    %programfiles%\Common Files\Adobe\Adobe Version Cue CS3\Client\3.0.0\

    I took them from AdobeVersionCueClient3All1.cab where they are named


    This allowed Version Cue to be disabled, and Photoshop then worked stable. The whole component is bigger than these two files.

    Version Cue’s enabled or disabled state is recorded in the following file. We don’t need to touch it, unless we want to force VC off remotely.


    In ..proxy.xml there is also a line that limits the supported OS. I changed it so that any version is accepted. (CS3 actually needs XP SP2+, or Svr2003 SP1+).


    I removed the following components:

    AdobeALMAnchorServiceAll — FlexNet Licensing, unneded with a crack
    AdobeAssetServices3All — Version Cue server
    AdobeAUM5.1All — Update Manager
    AdobeBridge2All — “Bridge” file browser
    AdobeDeviceCentralAll — Preview for cellphones, needs FlexNet
    AdobeStockPhotos1.5All — Service has been discontinued
    AdobeVersionCueClient3All — Version Cue client, incl. Bonjour!
    AdobeXMPPanelsAll — probably for Bridge
    BridgeStartMeeting — unknown

    The Windows Installer is – as expected – horrible and inefficient. I was surprised it carried out all the silent steps without failing. Adobe doesn’t allow us to interact with the MSI’s, it directs us to use setup.exe, so why on earth aren’t they using InnoSetup or NSIS? Arrogant corporate BS probably.

    I’m certain that if they had dumped the javascripts, dupe text-encoded icons and graphics, and XML, and use better solid compression, the size of the package could be cut by a third and installation time reduced to a fraction of the current. The setup then would also not need to be wrapped into another EXE file, which requires temporary disk space.

    CS2, now freely available, allows to delete any sub-components before installation. It also allows to execute “remove” onto any of them separately after they’ve been installed. CS3 doesn’t allow it anymore. Adobe offers a downloadable uninstaller to remove StockPhotos. That option should be part of the package…

  32. Wow! I’m amazed this is still useful to people EIGHT years after it was written!

    Anyway, glad it helped and thank you for the additional details.

  33. Thank you for this article. I followed your instructions to recover my software. I use Win10 and it worked for me too. Yes, I use CS3 on Windows 10 :)

  34. Wow! I almost deleted this post a couple of weeks ago because I didn’t think it would do anyone any good! Thanks for letting me know. I guess I’ll leave it up for a while longer

  35. En verdad no puedo deaisntalar el Photoshop Cs3. Al desisntalarlo desaparericio el unistall
    Y sigue estando. O sea que carajo hago. Formatear wl windowa 7. No quiero hacer eso. Ya que hoy no estoy bien de situacion economic.

  36. Sorry to hear that. I’m amazed that all these years later people are still referring to this article. Pretty soon it will be older than the internet ;-)

  37. Wow, seems like a daunting effort. I upgraded my hard drive (swapped out old spinning disk for solid state). All programs work except CS3. It gives me a message the products activation is broken or invalid. I could not find my original install disk so bought a new one and tried to install new. It says there is some sort of a conflict and would not let me install. I’m stuck there. One other time I went through and spent lots of time getting rid of everything in the registry. That worked but reading here it seems that may not with CS3. I read the thread here. Any additional words of wisdom? Thanks.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>