Zune Software (2.5 to 3.x) conflicting with Adobe Illustrator CS2 and CS3

Zune Software Conflict Adobe Illustrator and More

Starting about a year and a half ago, after upgrading my personal computer build and purchasing a Zune 1 30 GB, I ran into the problem that Adobe Illustrator would not save in many formats, especially the nativ .ai format.  This was a huge problem since I wanted to use the Zune software to synchronize new music with the Zune, play music with the Zune software, and of course use the Adobe Illustrator software for graphics work.

Specifically, this problem occurred immediately after the Zune 2.5 update sometime in early 2008.

After some research I learned this was a known and widespread problem. While some people did not seem to have the problem at all, even with the same software versions, there were a number of troubleshooting threads and complaints at both the Zune and Adobe forums. Both forums had official responses stating this was a known problem (while implying that it was the other company’s fault).


  • Adobe Illustrator and the Zune software have a major conflict and cannot be installed at the same time.
  • Both Adobe Illustrator (confirmed both CS2 and CS3) and Zune Software (2.5 or later) are installed. They do not need to be running.
  • In Illustrator, when trying to save a file, you receive the message “An unknown error has occured” This can be further tested: hiding all layers should allow you to save again.
  • Some users report problems with printing in Illustrator as well.


Here is the Zune official response:

Zach Johnson_1 – 1:14pm Apr 24, 08 PST (#165 of 175)


This is the adobe kb for this issue: kb.adobe.com/selfservice/viewContent.do?externalId=kb403151&sliceId=1

The Zune Team has investigated this issue. The issue is that Zune(2.1 and greater, along with many other applications) send input (via virtual keys) prior to setting foreground window. Zune does this at startup…and when a device is connected. Most apps use a specific virtual key for this, and in this case after the adobe app gets this key it will fail to save.

We have contacted adobe support with this information along with a sample repro to allow them to resolve the issue with input handling.

_Zach Johnson(zjohnson@microsoft.com)
Zune Product Team
This posting is provided as-is with no warranties, and confers no rights.

And here is the Adobe response, now seemingly promising that the problem will be fixed simply by updating the Zune software. Kind of strange that the above official Microsoft/Zune response blamed the whole thing on Adobe, no? adobe.com/go/kb403151 .  Also note that the Zune update does not seem to have actually fixed the problem. The Adobe site lists other possible reasons for the Saving error, however if you do not have the problem when the Zune software is not installed, it is fair to say the Zune software is the only culprit.

Here is an older forum post about this exact problem. Some solutions are offered (note that this predates the new supposed Zune software fix, so first try downloading the latest version). http://www.zuneboards.com/forums/general-zune-software/27561-zune-software-v2-0-download-location-zune-adobe-illustrator-conflict.html

Solutions to Fix Conflicts with the Zune Software

  • Try updating to the latest Zune software (as of 6/29/09 this did NOT work for me–problem persists after 1.5 years)
  • Hide all layers before saving
  • Set the Zune software to not run automatically on startup. You may need to go into Control Panel (switch to classic mode if necessary)>Administrative Tools>Services and turn off a number of different Zune processes (not just the main zune.exe) from “Automatic” to “Manual”
  • Save in an alternate format other than .ai (try .eps)
  • Turn off .pdf compatible in the Save options
  • Upgrade to Adobe Illustrator CS4 (I cannot confirm that this problem does not still exist, but I can find no mention of any Illustrator CS4/Zune conflict)
  • Most likely to fix your problem: Uninstall Zune software completely and reboot

Unfortunately in my case (and many others) the end solution was to simply uninstall the Zune software. Whats worse, I had to create an entirely separate installation of Windows XP and boot into this only when I wanted to sync with my Zune. This means I rarely do sync my Zune and I almost never use the Zune software to play music. Microsoft, listen up–time to fix the problem after almost 2 years so your users can actually USE their device. For me, I plan to purchase a different mp3 player in the near future.

My PC setup:

  • Tested with Windows Vista Ultimate x64, Windows XP Pro SP2, and Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 w/ SP2.
  • Tested with multiple Zune software versions from 2.5 to the current 3.x version. Zune software before 2.5 did not seem to cause the problem.
  • Tested with both Adobe Illustrator CS2 and CS3

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5 Responses

  1. cbatybarr says:

    Yes! UGH! I’ve been suffering at the hand of Zune and AI CS3 for a long, long, time as well.

    I do not have my Zune software launching automatically so as long as I do not open it while I’m working in AI all is well. But when I forget I’ve had Zune open and I get burned by not being able to save Illustrator work, I curse them both! Sometimes, very loudly!

    I’ve learned to at least attempt to save my work as ‘save as a copy’ or ‘save as a template’. For some reason, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but I think most often I’ve ended up successfully saving a file in some way – at least I haven’t lost my work (grumble, grumble) but I have to restart my machine, then reopen the file and save it as I want to.

    I hate the conflict. I’ve ready many different solution ideas and I very much appreciate you having gathered and shared many of them here, and as of yet nothing has completely ended the problem for me. I have not tried turning off all layers yet… will try that one now.

    I’ll keep checking back and I’ll keep hoping!


  2. Albright says:

    Thanks for the great comment. I’m surprised there aren’t more angry posts on other forums about this huge issue between 2 mainstream softwares that has been around for almost 2 years.

    I find it interesting that you can still use Illustrator as long as you don’t run the Zune software. I did try turning all the Zune software processes I could find to “Manual” (in Control Panel, going to Administrative Tools, then Services, then finding all Zune related processes). For me, there must have been something still starting because the Illustrator problem still manifested and I was forced to use a completely different Windows installation for each software.

    Could you share the method you used to disable Zune from automatically starting? Thanks for the comment!

  3. Dave says:

    I have had similar problems. I have found the only way to avoid the problem is to restart and not open the Zune software. This is also affecting my pdf printer driver as well. There must be a .dll that is used by Zune that it won’t share with Adobe.

    I am glad to know that I am not crazy though!

  4. Albright says:

    Hi, thanks for posting!

    Yes it sounds like that’s the case and for some reason the software developers can’t (or won’t spend the time–more likely in my opinion!)

    It seems most people have your symptoms and can fix it by doing as you describe–not starting the Zune software. Unfortunately for me it doesn’t help

  1. July 1, 2009

    […] Please see my other article, also covering this subject (more focused on the Zune and Illustrator software conflict) here: Zune Software (2.5 to 3.x) conflicting with Adobe Illustrator CS2 and CS3 […]

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