Photoshop CS3 and Mac OS 10.6.3 Potential Problems

Having a problem? This might help.

After updating my Mac to Mac OS 10.6.3, I found that I could not successfully open Photoshop CS3. Although the program would go through what seemed like the entire startup process, it would unexpectedly quit right before it opened a document. There was nothing I could do to prevent this.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

I started troubleshooting with a Google Search. Two pages were particularly helpful:

  • This thread on the Apple discussions forum contains 167 answers (so far) to the problem experienced by a user. As with most forums, the posts go off-topic to suggest Photoshop alternatives and attempt to place blame on either Apple or Adobe. If you have the time and patience to wade through the posts, however, you’ll discover several potential fixes.
  • This TechNote on gets to the meat of the matter without having to wade through a bunch of off-topic nonsense.

Apparently, the problem concerns all Adobe CS3 products and possibly some other software. It did not affect my copy of InDesign CS4.

Adobe provides three possible solutions. I’ll present them here in the order I think you should tackle them.

Disable Opening with Rosetta

Adobe suggests that you turn off the “Open Using Rosetta” check box in the Info window for Photoshop CS3 (or any other program that might be experiencing the problem. In the Finder, select the application’s icon. Then choose File > Get Info or press Command-I. In the General area of the Info window, turn off the check box labeled Open using Rosetta. Close the Info window. This was not the source of my problem, so I can’t verify whether this will help.

Obtain a New Serial Number

Adobe claims that the problem might have something to do with an invalid serial number registered for the computer. This is most likely to happen if your computer was serviced by Apple, perhaps to replace the logic board or some other major component. Per Adobe:

When launching Adobe CS3 applications on Apple’s Mac OS 10.6.3, the applications crash, or quit unexpectedly. This only occurs on systems where the system serial number is a value with more than 12 characters. This appears to only be the case when the system serial number doesn’t have a valid number, but instead has a value such as “System Serial#”, or “SystemSerialNumb”.

About this MacHow do you find the serial number registered by your computer? The easiest way is to choose Apple > About This Mac to display the About this Mac window for your computer. Click the Version number info right under where it says Mac OS X twice. The Version number will change to the Build number and then to your serial number as it is registered inside the computer.

When I originally read this and checked it against my serial number, I did not think this was my problem. After all, Adobe says it happens with serial numbers “more than 12 characters” in length. Mine was 11 10. And that was my problem. When I had my logic board replaced about a year and a half ago, the Apple genius entered an invalid serial number for the new logic board. He basically left out one character. Something in the Mac OS X 10.6.3 update triggered a serial number validation routine in CS3 products. When it came up with an invalid serial number, it refused to run Photoshop CS3.

The solution is not one you’ll like if you don’t have an Apple store nearby. This morning, I’ll be driving 50 miles to get the correct serial number entered into my Mac by a “genius.”

Revert to Mac OS X 10.6.2 or Earlier

Adobe suggests this as the first alternative. Downgrading operating system software is never something I recommend as a first option. After all, eventually you’ll have to upgrade again. Why not try to fix the problem if you can?

But if you can’t fix the problem any other way, downgrading to Mac OS X 10.6.2 might be the way to go. You can find instructions for downgrading at

Are You Having This Problem?

If you’re having this problem, I’d like to hear from you. What software was affected? How did you resolve the problem? Add your comment to this post.

Please limit your comments to this topic. Rants against Apple or Adobe or suggestions on what software is better than Photoshop will not be approved.

37 thoughts on “Photoshop CS3 and Mac OS 10.6.3 Potential Problems

  1. Thanks for the concise recap, Maria. I was pointed to your page by Miraz who saw my woes on Twitter. I upgraded to 10.6.3 yesterday and encountered the “unexpected close” of Photoshop, Illustrator, Bridge (I’ve tried nothing else so far, seeing a trend) upon starting work today. Photoshop doesn’t have “Rosetta” checked. *But* I had work done (by Apple-blessed tech) a couple of months after I got my iMac in early 2008 and I believe my logic board was replaced. I have no valid serial number entered in “About this Mac”.

    I also have no proper Apple Store within the region. I did put in a call with Apple Care using the nice “set an appointment” interface and had a lovely discussion but no ultimate joy. I believe I’ll be reverting to 10.6.2 (which means I’ll need to download those huge incremental updates since my Snow Leopard disc is “10.6″).

    Right now I’m doing a bit of a hack job with a simple layout using Preview and Pages just to get by.

    I think I’d like to pursue the “enter the serial number” task as it feels oddly illegitimate not having one.

    • Cheryl: Well, I made the drive down to my Apple store and discovered that the only way to “fix” my incorrect serial number is to install a brand new logic board! How idiotic is that? Since I have Applecare, I’m having them come to my house to fix it. I’ll be blogging about this latest bit of nonsense tomorrow.

      I might revert to 10.6.2 in the meantime. I sorely miss Photoshop. I already have it installed on my maximum 2 Macs but the other Mac is my Phoenix office. Ugh.

      Best of luck with your downgrade. Maybe, if we’re REALLY LUCKY, Apple or Adobe will come up with a quick fix patch in the next few days. But I wouldn’t count on it.

  2. Pingback: Acorn and Aperture move Photoshop aside for me — KnowIT

  3. Maria, I look forward to hearing how it goes with you with having a proper serial number installed. If well, I will see about following suit.

    I went back to read the main Apple Discussion thread more carefully .. at least the last bit of it .. and on this page:

    .. I note with interest some observations the surmising that:

    - Adobe programmed some flawed logic into the CS3 apps that look for a certain serial Apple serial number syntax, and

    - Apple, prior to 10.6.3, had effectively covered up this weird logic in some way.

    - And sadly: Adobe feel everyone should update their $$$$ software regularly (even if CS3 has been working quite well for one’s needs, thank you) so I look for no help from their camp. I think it notable that your CS4 product works fine.

    Crossing fingers for us all. :-)

    • On one hand, I can’t blame Adobe for not patching/fixing old software and wanting us to update. That’s how they stay in business. But I can blame Adobe if Adobe screwed up their programming code and relied on Apple to cover it up.

      Since I’m not a heavy Photoshop user, I don’t update more than every second or third revision. I just can’t justify the cost. Now Apple is paying the price of their dumb mistake (entering an incorrect serial number in my computer) by having to install a brand new logic board when the only thing wrong with the one I have is that its serial number is not recognized by an Adobe product. How amazingly wasteful.

  4. Hi,

    Yep, i’m too also experiencing the same problem since I updated to 10.6.3. None of my CS3 software works! :( I hope they fix this soon!

    • Daniel: I wouldn’t count on Adobe or Apple for a fix. Check your serial number. If it’s missing (not just plain wrong), you can likely get it entered by a “genius” at an Apple store. It’s quick to do with a special CD. If the serial number was entered already but is incorrect, they cannot fix it without a logic board swap.

  5. You say you have an invalid, 11-character serial number. However, all the evidence of Mac serial # at (e.g. this How to find the serial number article), points to 11 being the right number of characters in a serial number.

    Mine is also 11 characters long, and that’s the correct one, written on the sticker in the battery bay on my MBP… In the About my Mac, it’s of course “System Serial #”, since the MBP’s logic board was replaced 18 months ago.

    So, I’m wondering whether you might have some other issue? No idea what that might be, though…

    • Erik: You’re right! I only had ten characters. (I should have put my glasses on when counting.) The correct SN has 11 characters. They replaced my logic board today, but I’d already downgraded back to Mac OS 10.6.2 and got Photoshop working again. Now I’m a little leery of going back to 10.6.3, so I can’t tell you first hand if the logic board/serial number fix made my Photoshop problem go away.

    • Good to hear you likely got your problem fixed, Maria.

      I walked over to the local Apple Authorised Service Provider today ( They flashed the logic board with the correct S/N while I waited, and were sorry it hadn’t been done at the time of the board replacement.

      Now, all CS3 apps are working fine again, and I have so far not come across other applications that complain about the “new” S/N.

      • Erik: This is good news indeed. Maybe I shouldn’t be so cowardly and test my computer’s fix by updating back to 10.6.3.

        What’s the worst that can happen? A new but related problem that I can write about here.

  6. Maria, love your bravura! I’m very encouraged by this post and thread. I’m still up a creek (logic board work, not a real serial number) and talked again with Apple Expert via phone appointment but last night’s guy was very unhelpful (short summation: too bad, talk to Adobe, we can’t do anything) which is diametrically opposed to my experience with the first Apple Expert via phone I talked to Monday.

    Upgrading to CS4 is out of the picture (I have separate apps, not the “Suite”, so we’re talking an easy grand here) and I’m hesitant about backing down to 10.6 then up again because of the little ancillary stuff (iWork updates, iTunes updates) which I’ve been warned about.

    We don’t have an Apple Store here (yet! one is supposed to be coming!) so I’m going to call Apple Expert once again and — armed with several reports that yes, a reserialising can be done …

    Question to both @maria and @erik …

    This reserialising – does it affect your hard drive or otherwise cause back-up concerns? Any input (ie: arming myself with additional info) would be most welcome.

    • Cheryl: The question is, was your serial number ever entered at all? If it was not, the correct serial number can be entered through the use of a proprietary disk that Apple service people have. The process takes only a minute or two. But once a serial number is entered — in my case it was entered incorrectly with 10 digits instead of 11 — that number is locked in. The only way to get a correct serial number is to replace the logic board.

      Frankly, I don’t understand why the “expert” you talked to on the phone is giving you grief. Tell him this: “When I had my logic board replaced, Apple neglected to enter a serial number. Under Mac OS X 10.6.3, Adobe Photoshop CS3 needs that number. Apple screwed up my computer so it doesn’t work right. Apple should fix it for free, as soon as possible.”

      The logic board replacement did cause backup concerns. I had to create a brand new Time Machine back up, which means I lost all that backup history. Other apps seem to be working fine. Ironically, Photoshop has no problem with the new serial number; I haven’t tried all my apps yet, but I’ll get around to it throughout the rest of the week.

      In all, this has been a royal pain in the butt caused, for me, by a typo. How frustrating is that?

    • I understand you concerns, Cheryl. As I mentioned, I didn’t visit an Apple Store (as we don’t have any around here at all), but the closest Authorised Service Provider (find one here), which should be able to do the fix in a minute or five.

      As for post-reserialising troubles, I’ve had none. I was anxious about a number of programs I had licensing issues with after replacing logic board (Adobe CS3, Unity 3D and others). They all worked as usual after today’s fix. My Time Machine backup is also continuing just fine.

      And the fix doesn’t do anything to your hard drive. As I understand it, they boot from a special Apple-supplied DVD, and flash some piece of memory on the logic board. See a bit more info here.

  7. Blessings to you both for such concretely helpful info. The unhelpful “Expert” from yesterday told me point blank that it is ” standard operatin procedure” to leave (when logic board replaced) the “serial num: serial#” filler text, that they don’t support reserializing etc. Like I said, a very unhelpful person.

    So thanks, Maria, but no typo issue so that’s good. And there is an Authorized Apple place in town. Will report back later when have more news. Excuse any typos pls as I’m on my iPhone. Cheers!

  8. Yay! Thank you, my problem got solved by visiting local apple store. They changed my serial number back. They got it in their registry after they fixed my computer one year ago.

    Man said Apple doesn’t even advice in fixing manuals to update serial number when changin the motherboard / logic chip. There might be a lot of people having this problem. I wasn’t only one in this small city with 2 mac stores.

  9. All’s well that ends well. After calling my local Apple Authorized Service Provider (thx @erik) — MacLife in Boise — they were able to help me at their nearby location within about 10 minutes. My iMac is now sporting her proper serial number and I was happily using Photoshop earlier today.

  10. Maria you are a monday morning saviour !!! I closed the lid yesterday when I had the photoshop cs3 problem with it crashing after installing 10.6.3 . I found your very detailed diagnose to solve the problem ..checked my serial numer as you explained and you were right .. after a mother board replacement from the genius bar under warranty, they did not put a serial number back in .. fortunatley my mac store is five minutes away .. they immediatly put the 11 didget number in ..FIXED IT !!! So I’m thinking that most of the problem with everyone’s upgrade is 90 % that.. .all works fine now ..thankyou :0)

  11. Maria,

    Same problem with Photoshop CS3 after installing 10.6.3.

    Lots of (expensive) phonecalls with Adobe and Apple. Lots of trial and error solutions.

    Finally downgraded to 10.6.2. because Lightroom 2.6, Flash and Adobe Reader didn’t work anymore.

    Ik think I’m not going to get a new serial number for my IMac. A bugfix from Apple in a new upgrade version seems a better idea!

    • Hein: Have you heard about an upcoming bug fix? I haven’t, but it would be great. But given Apple’s relationship with Adobe these days, I’d be surprised if Apple went out of their way to fix this bug, which might be Adobe’s fault.

      Beware of downgrading Mac OS. I made the downgrade and it “broke” several programs I use regularly. I spent an hour on the phone yesterday with RIM, troubleshooting why my BlackBerry wouldn’t sync anymore. Turns out, it was likely due to that downgrade and files that were deleted as part of it. Other programs have required me to re-enter serial numbers, redo updates, and jump through other hoops. Seems that going backwards is a bad idea.

      Who knew?

  12. Maria,

    An Apple employee suggested a fix yesterday, but he probably didn’t ask Apple headquarters.

    Downgrading for me, was a step back in time for two days (Timemachine is great).

    I miss a couple of non important mails and had to reinstall one program.

    Thanks for your concern!


    • Hein: Yes, I suppose Time Machine would make it easy to go back to a previous version. And it’s good that you used it for that — one of the drawbacks when I downgraded was that I lost my Time Machine backup and had to start it from scratch. Of course, that might have been due to the new logicboard/serial number. I don’t think I’ll ever know.

  13. @hein – Is your situation that you had work done on your logic board and you have no serial number? Or is it like Maria where a wrong serial number was entered? If the first (no serial number) I would recommend — if you have an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service place near by — to quickly have your serial number entered as it solved all my problems straightaway.

    @maria – yes, my first conversation with Apple Expert he did tell me that there would be threads of things that weren’t in sync any longer. He mentioned iWork apps and iTunes but I got the idea and it did dissuade me from doing the backward move. If the serial number hadn’t worked, I was going to do a complete wipe and reinstall everything. (UGH!) So glad that wasn’t necessary.

    @hein – I agree with Maria in that I think this was a fault in CS3 code (since there is no problem, I think, with CS4 apps) and I think there is no obligation by Apple to repair. However, in my situation with the serial number not being re-entered after a repair, that was something Apple could do for me and did so.

    Best wishes.

  14. I am yet another person affected by this problem. I have a MacBook (late 2006) and exactly the problem you described. Except when I downgraded to 10.6.0, the crashing behavior remained absolutely unchanged!

    My serial number has eleven digits, but I pulled my computer out of its original packaging with my own hands and it’s never been in for any kind of servicing whatsoever, not even a replacement battery, let alone a new logic board! I get the feeling, though, that this is not the problem because there should, in fact, be eleven digits, as @Erik pointed out. I’m not attempting to run it in Rosetta or anything silly like that.


  15. What a great blog. Thanks for posting everything so clearly. Now that I’ve read the 25 comments, I’m a little sheepish to post mine but — just for some balance to the intricate, time-consuming, frustrating & often unsuccessful gymnastics of others — here it is:

    The Rosetta un-check worked!

    I think I had been advised to run PS CS3 in Rosetta to get it to communicate with my new wireless Epson printer 6 months ago. That made the printer work but when I upgraded this week to OS 10.6.3, PS was history. Wouldn’t start, 1 bounce on the dock & out.

    It’s not my usual experience that the first and easiest fix is actually … a fix! There really must be a dog in heaven.

    • Sorry it’s not working for you, Don.

      Make sure you’re at the original Photoshop CS3 application [probably in your Applications folder and maybe within another folder labeled "Adobe Photoshop CS3"].

      Either single-click the Photoshop icon to select it and press Command-I –OR– right-click the icon and select “Get Info.” In the Info window that opens, make sure the “General” section shows its contents [Kind, Size, Where, etc.]. Near the bottom of the General section is a check box for “Open using Rosetta.” Make sure that’s UN-checked.

      Then close the Get Info window and try to open Photoshop again. If that doesn’t work, you might also try restarting and then open Photoshop.

      That’s what worked for me: it was checked when PS didn’t work and after I unchecked the box, PS opened correctly the next minute.

      IF YOUR BOX IS ALREADY UNCHECKED, sorry you probably need to try something else.

  16. I am suddenly having trouble with InDesign CS3 crashing every time I try to open a file in OS 10.6.3 on a MacBook Pro. I don’t know when I upgraded to 10.6.3. My Serial number is 11 digits.

    I was having trouble with ID running very slow earlier today so I repaired permisions and ran the OnyX scripts and now I can’t function at all. I don’t know if I still have a backup with 10.6.2 on it.

  17. Same problem, thanks for information related.

    I have CS3 Photoshop that doesnt work.

    When not upgraded to 10.6.3 Photoshop works fine in Rosetta (and i need Rosetta for CanoScan Lide 20 Plugin so i could scan in Photoshop).

    As soon as i upgrade to 10.6.3 Rosetta my Photoshop doesn’t work and i can’t scan.

    Interesting InDesign works in Rosetta after updating.

    For me the best current move may be to downgrade.

    My serial is 11 digits.


  18. 10.6.4 was released today, but I’m still encountering the same issues after upgrading my OS.

    Anyone else having success or failure?

  19. My CS3 ran fine with 10.6.3 until today when I upgraded to OS 10.6.4 . Now it takes 3 minutes to launch and acts very sluggish. CS5 owners reporting crashes with the new 10.6.4 also.

    Hoping Apple will have a quick fix.


  20. I just installed 10.6.3 and updated to 10.6.4. I just tried CS3 – PS3 and did not have any apparent problems. I did note that I do not have an apple serial #. I dont think that I did when I installed the CS3 as when I first got the machine I messed up the OS and had to reinstall. Now with the update I dont have a serial # and all seems ok. Just an FYI.

  21. I’m up to OS X 10.6.5 now and lately I’ve been having trouble with my Arpeture program getting stuck until I finally force it to quit, and sometimes it just suddenly quits on its own. The new iPhoto started doing the same recently.

    When I bought my iMac it went belly up in the first three weeks and we had to take it in for a repair. I think they replaced the logic board. Then I bought my Macbook Pro and it went belly up within the first month. That only required a walk through with AppleCare on the phone to completely reinstall the operating system.

    I haven’t looked at my iMac, but my Macbook Pro has only 11 characters in the serial number. Is there supposed to be 12?

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