How To Backup Photoshop Settings Like A Pro:

PinExt How To Backup Photoshop Settings Like A Pro:

by Gavin Seim: I had a call recently from a photographer who lost all her preferences, settings and actions because of a crash. For some reason Photoshop lost all it’s preferences and went back to default. The thing is, PS is not meant to hold all our settings permanently. You need to have them backed up. The key is being prepared so when something’s lost, you can take it in stride. Today I’m going to tell you how to do it. Remember that once you’ve stored these settings, re-loading them is as simple as double clicking the file. Click the images to get larger illustrated views as we go along.

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1: Give Them A Home:
First, decide where you’ll be backing up your settings. Be it a folder on your hard drive, a CD/DVD or an offsite storage service. Wherever it is find a consistent place that will be separate up from your main computer should you have a total crash.

2: Archive your actions:
Photoshop is not a place to store actions. When you download a new action don’t just load it in the actions palette and expect it to stay there. PS will retain the actions so long as the preference to keep it loaded remains. Also deleting an action in PS does not actually delete the file, it just removes it from the action palette. As long as you have your action files safely stored you’re good. But, if you load an action, and then delete the file expecting PS to retain it forever, your doom is sealed.

I like to make a “favorite actions” set that I store with my other actions. This way all my commonly used actions are in one set that I can load fast. I keep it in PS all the time, but it’s backed up should I have a crash. My other actions are nearby as well, but I load them only occasionally since all my favorites are in one set. You can do this by making a new action set (folder) within PS, then drag your favorite actions into it from other sets, then save your favorites set in a safe place.

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2: Saving Brushes & More With Preset Manger.
In PS go to Edit/Preset Manager. A window will pop up that contains a dropdown to select your brushes, swatches, gradients, styles, contours, patterns, custom shapes or tools. If you have any custom settings for any of these it’s as simple as going to the manager, selecting what you want to manage and saving the set to your backup location.

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3: Backing Up Keyboard Shortcuts:
Keyboard shortcuts can save a ton of time, and once you set up custom ones you’ll want them to be there.  I for example set CMD+F to flatten since I use it so often. If I get on a machine that does not have the setting, I quickly miss it. All you need do is go to up to the menu and choose Edit/Keyboard Shortcuts. Slick the save icon, and save the current shortcuts in a file. Now you can easily load it on any machine by simply loading the saved file.

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Power User Tricks:
There’s more you can backup than what’s on the surface of PS. Workspaces  for example control the location of your palette’s and menus. Most know that you can save workspace by simply going to Window/Worskpaces. Thing is, there’s not really a built in method of exporting those workspaces for backup. To do this we have to talk about the Power User method.

Outside of Photoshop, go to your application (programs) folder and find Photoshop. We’re using CS3 for this, but it should be similar with other versions. Inside the PS folder look for the Presets folder, and inside that you’ll find stuff like Workspaces, and all kinds of other settings. You can just copy and paste things from here, to your backup and be good to go.

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Photoshop CS4 Notes: (UPDATE)
Most locations are the same in CS4. At the moment it looks like the only difference if the Workspaces location. Rather than being inside the folder that contains Photoshop it’s found in these locations. Location information for other settings in CS4 can be found here.

Mac… Users/[Username]/Library/Preferences/Adobe Photoshop CS4 Settings/WorkSpaces
Vista… Users/[Username]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS4/Adobe Photoshop CS4 Settings/Workspaces
XP… Documents and Settings/[Username]/Application Data/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS4/Adobe Photoshop CS4 Settings/Workspaces

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  • akuma

    I was wondering about what the WorkSpaces path was, so thank you this was really helpful since I had to format my computer ^___^

    Thanks a bunch!

  • Behnam

    The ability to save Workspaces is just great. thx for your perfect guide.

  • Jeremy

    Thanks much – I never really thought about how the actions thing didn’t technically save in a file format… I was racking my brain trying to transfer them to another comp!!! You saved me a butt-load of time!

  • Lex Blagus

    Great article! I wish all this were a little bit more simple…

  • designfiend

    something to note is the my keyboard shortcuts were saved in the WORKSPACE file.
    This was very helpful.

  • Hans Rudolf Wellinger

    The problem I have with workspace is not the saving or backing up. Photoshop saves it as it should. The problem starts when photoshop crashes or sometimes is simply switched off in an orderly fashion.
    After re-starting, it seems to be unable to find the location of the saved workspace. I use CS3.
    There is no obvious way in which I might be able to manually load the workspace. It is both, saved and loaded,
    automatically by photoshop itself.
    Any Ideas and suggestions would be most welcome. Ta Hans

    • Gavin Seim

      The easy solution is to have you workspaces and settings backed up as we talk about here. Then you can simply drag them back into PS and re-load.

  • Anton

    Hello, you say “PS will retain the actions so long as the preference to keep it loaded remains”. Where is such
    “preference”? I thought the loaded actions would stay there unless I deleted them. Thanks in advance.

    • Gavin Seim

      Not sure where information is stored that keeps actions in PS Anton. Usually PS will retain them fine, but occasional an error of some kind may occur and they’ll be gone. As with anything, just make sure you have them saved and backed up and you have nothing to worry about.

  • Tamara

    Thank you! I have to do a system restore to try to De-Bug my computer as my Kaspersky seems to be lagging and didnt want to lose the workspace I had spent sooooo much time customizing! Thank you so much!

  • Mary

    your instructions were awesome and saved me so much time and heartache to recreate my actions and brushes. Best I have found!!!!

  • Angela

    Thank you for this! My question is…when I go into the Preset Manager and look at all the brushes/swatches/etc…how do I know which are the ones I added versus the ones that came with the software? I know I’ve added some user created ones in the past, but have no clue how to know which I should be saving & backing up. thanks.

    • Gavin Seim

      Hey Angela. That’s why you need to make folders for things. Collection of actions and settings etc. The only one who can keep track of it is you I’m afraid. If you don’t make a point of knowing which is which you’ll be cluttered in short order. At this point you can either back up all, or better yet go thru them and get organized, figuring out which you really need installed.

  • Jacob

    Awesome Thanks.
    I also found this nifty script by John Nack for exporting importing Workspaces for CS4-CS5.

  • Helen

    Silly me. I assumed if I placed all my items in the Preset folder they stayed in that folder forever. duh. after a reinstall, I realized I lost all my actions, gradients, brushes, etc. I now see you must pick a place, organize the items in clear folders (things clutter up real fast) and back it up! If lost, a few clicks and you are back in action rather than back to scratch. thanks a million for an awesome reminder!!

  • Karen Schmidt

    What a great post it is. Thanks for some useful and beneficial information.