While I’ve been a Corel Photopaint user for about 20 years now (!), I’ve recently bought myself a license for Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended, simply because I’ve hit some memory and stability limitations with Corel’s solution when working with very large files (A0 @ 300dpi) and lots of objects (=”layers”), sometimes hundreds of them. Generally, Photopaint tends to become unstable as you keep working with very large files, and things like masks or object copies start failing silently even well before its 32-bit address space is exhausted. Well, Adobe Photoshop CS6 was the last standalone version without relying on the “Creative Cloud” and the last that would work on Windows XP / XP x64, even in its 64-bit version on the latter. So there you have it. I was thinking of migrating.
2. Licensing woes
The first thing that really got on my nerves was Adobes’ licensing system. In my version of CS6, Adobes’ application manager just wouldn’t talk to the activation servers anymore and offline activation is broken as well, as the tool won’t generate any request codes for you (the option just isn’t there anymore). Why is this? During testing I found that Microsofts’ ancient Internet Explorer 8 – the latest on XP – can’t talk to certain activation servers via encrypted connections any longer. I guess Adobe upgraded SSL on some of their servers.
My assumption is that the Adobe application manager uses IEs’ browsing engine to connect to those servers via HTTPS, which fails on anything that isn’t Vista+ with a more modern version of Internet Explorer.
So? I was sitting there with a valid license, but unable to activate the software with it. It’s sad, but in the end, I had to crack Photoshop, which is the one thing I didn’t want to do. Even though Photoshop CS6 officially supported XP, it can no longer be activated on such old operating systems, and nobody cares as it’s all deprecated anyway. It’s annoying, but there was no other choice but to remove the copy protection. But hey, my conscience is clean, I did buy it after all.
3. Language woes
Well, I bought a German version of Photoshop. Which I thought was ok, as Adobe would never do something as stupid as to region-lock their licenses, right? Riiight? [Wrong]. You have to download the [correct version] for your region, or the license won’t work. I mean, German is my native language, but I’m using operating systems and software almost exclusively in English, so that was unacceptable. Thankfully, there is an easy fix for that.
First: Close Photoshop. Then, let’s assume you’ve installed it in the default location. If so, enter the folder %PROGRAMFILES%\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS6 (64 Bit)\Locales\de_DE\Support Files\ (swap the de_DE\ part with your locale, you’ll find it in that Locales\ folder). There you’ll find a .dat file, in my case it was called tw10428.dat. Rename it to something like tw10428.dat-backup. Relaunch Photoshop. It’ll be English from now on!
4. The hardware I used for testing
This is important, as some features do depend on certain hardware specifications, like 512MiB of VRAM on the graphics card or certain levels of OpenGL and OpenCL support, those kinds of things. So here’s the hardware, which should be modern enough for CS6:
- Intel Xeon X5690 3.46GHz hexcore with HT (Westmere architecture, think “Core i7 990X”)
- 48GiB of RAM
- nVidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GiB (Kepler architecture, somewhat similar to a GeForce GTX 780Ti)
Also, the driver used for the Titan Black is the latest and last one available for XP, 368.81. It even gives you modern things like OpenGL 4.5, OpenCL 1.2 and CUDA 8.0:
5. What it looks like without any compatibility hacks
However, even though the 64-bit version of Photoshop CS6 runs on Windows XP x64 (when cracked ), a few things are missing regarding GPU support and 2D/3D acceleration. Let’s launch the application:
What we can see immediately is that the 3D menu is missing from the menu bar. This is because Adobe generally forbids the use of extended 3D features (import and rendering of 3D models) on all XP systems. There was an explanation about that on the Adobe labs pages, but that link is dead by now, so I can’t be sure why it was originally disabled. I’ll talk about that stuff later. First, we’ll look at the hardware we do get to use for now, this can be found under
Edit \ Preferences \ Performance...:
Well, we do get to use a ton of memory, but as you can see, my relatively powerful GTX Titan Black is not being used. Strangely, it says it’s because of me not running the Extended version of Photoshop CS6, but that’s not quite correct:
I’m not actually sure whether it always said that, as I’ve been messing with Photoshop for a while now, so maybe there was a different message there at first. But it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, we’re not getting anything out of that GPU!
And we’re gonna fix that.
6. Getting 2D and OpenCL GPU acceleration to work
This is actually easy. We’ll fool Photoshop CS6 into thinking that my GTX Titan Black (which is newer than the software) is an “old GPU”. You can tell Photoshop to still do its stuff on older, slower GPUs despite them not being officially supported. And when that switch is flipped, it seems to apply to all unknown GPUs and graphics drivers, no matter what. Check out the following registry hack:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
Save that text into a .reg file, for instance AllowOldGPUS-in-Photoshop-CS6.reg. Close Photoshop, then double-click on that file, and it’ll create that dword value
AllowOldGPUS for you and set it to
Note that the registry path will be different for older versions of Photoshop, so the last part might not be
60.0 but something else, like
11.0 in such a case. Just check first if you have to, by launching Windows’ Regedit tool and navigating to that part of your user registry.
After that, launch Photoshop, and again look at
Edit \ Preferences \ Performance...:
Aha! Looking better. But if you click on that “Advanced Settings…” button, you get this:
Almost everything checks out – even OpenCL – but we still don’t get to use the advanced OpenGL rendering mode that is supposed to make things even faster. But most of the GPU accelerated 2D functionality is there now, it’s just not working at maximum performance, at least according to Adobe. You’ll get to use stuff like Oil Paint and Scrubby Zoom etc. now though.
But, the 3D stuff that’s been disabled on XP is still missing entirely. And we’ll get to that final part now!
7. Getting 3D and the advanced level of OpenGL 2D acceleration to work
This is a bit more tricky. This stuff is blocked by Photoshops’ operating system detection routines. You can check their results by clicking on
Help \ System Info... and looking at the top part of that report:
Adobe Photoshop Version: 13.0.1 (126.96.36.199 20131024.r.34 2013/10/24:21:00:00) x64 Operating System: Windows XP Professional 64-bit Version: 5.2 Service Pack 2
So we have to fool it into thinking that it’s sitting on a more modern operating system. The tool for the job is Microsofts’ own [Application Verifier]. It’s a software testing tool meant to be used during testing phases of a software development process. It’ll do just what we need though. Download the 64-bit edition (32-bit one is included in that as well, you can ignore that for our purpose), and run it.
Right click into its Applications pane, and add two applications that you can find in your Photoshop installation directory, Photoshop.exe and sniffer_gpu.exe. The latter is a command line tool that detects GPU VRAM, driver version, OpenGL / OpenCL versions etc. You can launch that on a terminal window as well, it outputs everything right to
stdout, so you can see what it’s reporting right on the terminal. This program is launched by Photoshop every time during startup to determine GPU and graphics driver+API capabilities.
Well, uncheck everything in the Tests pane, and check just
Compatibility \ HighVersionLie. Right-click it, and pick Properties and enter the following:
So we’re reporting an NT 6.1 kernel (Windows 7) with build number 7601 and service pack 2, which would be current as of today. Keep it like that, and launch Photoshop. You’ll see this:
And there we go, our 3D menu is active on top, right between the “Filter” and “View” menus. But that doesn’t mean that it’s tools are really working… Anyway, the System Info will now report a different operating system:
Adobe Photoshop Version: 13.0.1 (188.8.131.52 20131024.r.34 2013/10/24:21:00:00) x64 Operating System: Windows 7 64-bit Version: 6.1
Oddly enough, the service pack 2 part is missing, but who cares. Let’s take a look at the graphics settings!
Alright, we can use advanced OpenGL effects after applying our Windows 7 fake! Very good. That means all 2D OpenGL / OpenCL accelerated parts are working at maximum performance now! And as a first indicator of 3D also working, we can now access the 3D settings as well, look at this:
For the 3D test, I decided to download a 3DStudioMax sample model from GrabCAD, [here] (that website requires registration). A complete render of that model can also be seen there, looks like this:
So, let’s create a new document, import that model via
3D \ New 3D Layer from File... and switch to Photoshops’ 3D view! And…
It’s totally working! Strangely you don’t get anti-aliasing even though the card can do it, but at least it’s something. I’m almost feeling like sitting in front of some kind of CAD software now, with all that realtime 3D rendering. Photoshop does interpret the material properties a bit weirdly however, so it’s not glossy enough and the color is wrong for something that’s supposed to be “steel”. I didn’t fix it up though, just left it as-is and clicked “render”! Then, after lots of waiting, you get some nicer output:
Please note that the above screenshots are 8-bit PNG, so they’re not true representations of the source at all. Still, should be good enough.
One disappointing part is, that the final render – or rather raytracing output – isn’t being crunched on the GPU. Instead, it’s using a lot of CPU cores. In this case, my hexcore Xeon with 12 threads was loaded up to 70-90%. But it would still be a lot faster if done by an OpenCL or CUDA raytracer on the GPU. I will need to check whether there are any plugins for that.
Anyway, this means that the full potential of Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended can be unlocked on Windows XP Professional x64 Edition SP2! Cheers!
8. What about Windows XP 32-bit?
No idea. I haven’t tested it. According to users on the web, the OpenCL part wouldn’t work on 32-bit at all, no matter which operating system. It’s supposed to be “by design” for whatever reason. I’m not sure if its just disabled like with 3D, or whether the libraries using it are really not there for the 32-bit version of Photoshop CS6. You would need to test that by yourself, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up with that. At least the other parts should be doable, including 3D.
Now, all that remains is to learn how to actually use Photoshop CS6. It’s probably going to be a bit painful coming from the Corel side of things…