This document describes how to enable and run a special mode in Adobe Illustrator that can be used to troubleshoot inoperable documents. The document recovery feature resaves the Illustrator document so that it can be reviewed in a text editor. Document recovery deletes bad data, enabling Illustrator to open the document.

This procedure is not simple. Perform it with care, and at your own risk to your files. Always work on a backup of your files when using this method.

Enabling Document Recovery

Perform the following steps to enable a special content recovery mode in your current version of Illustrator:

  1. Quit Illustrator.
  2.  Find the Adobe Illustrator preferences file, for example:
Mac: <user name>/Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator [version] Settings/en_US/Adobe Illustrator Prefs
Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator [version] Settings\en_US\AIPrefs
Windows Vista: C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Local\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator [version] Settings\en_US\AIPrefs
Windows 7: C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator [version] Settings\en_US\AIPrefs

Note (for Windows OS): If you cannot see the folder ensure that Windows shows hidden files. For more information, see Show hidden files, folders, and filename extensions | Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 (kb402324).

  • Open the preferences file in a plain text editor such as Text Wrangler (Mac) or UltraEdit (Windows). Or, use a more traditional word-processing application and save the file as plain text without allowing a hidden .txt extension to be added. Find the section that includes the following text:
/aiFileFormat {
/PDFCompatibility 1
enableATEReadRecovery 0
/enableContentRecovery 0
/enableATEWriteRecovery 0
/clipboardPSLevel 3
  • Change the enableContentRecovery value from 0 to 1. If the /aiFileFormat section does not have an enableContentRecovery line, add one:
/enableContentRecovery 1
  • Save the preferences file without allowing a name or extension change. 

Starting Document Recovery

For each file you believe is damaged, perform the following steps:

  1. From within Illustrator, use the File > Open command or press Command + O. 

    Do not double-click a file or use the Recent Files list or drag a file onto the Illustrator application icon. Run the Open File navigation dialog and use the Open button with the modifier keys noted below.
  2. Select the file that you want to repair in the file navigation dialog, but do not open it yet.
  3. Holding down Command + Option + Shift (on Mac), or Ctrl + Alt + Shift (on Windows), click the Open button in the Open dialog box.
  4. This command opens a blank file window. Close it without saving.

In the Finder or Windows Explorer, look in the same directory that contained the original file. Look for a duplicate copy of it preceded by an underscore. For example, open "" and see a new file named "". This recovery-enabled version of the file can be opened in a text editor for modifications.








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