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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Restoring a Deleted Adobe Distiller Printer in OS X

by Ken Newquist / January 14, 2004

If there's one thing I don't like about Mac OS X, it's that it's all too easy to delete a printer. I've done it a few times when I thought I was deleting a print job. At the very least, I'd like to see some sort of "Are you sure you want to delete this printer?" query. Better yet, lock it down and require admin intervention to delete it.

Now normally, this isn't a problem. If you delete a printer, you can just plug it back in again, and OS X will re-discover it. But Adobe's "Acrobat Distiller" is a virtual printer, not a real one. And if you delete it, Mac OS X can't automatically "re-discover" it because technically, the printer doesn't exist. If you are unlucky enough to delete Distiller, as I did, getting it to re-appear is more than a little bit difficult.

Here's what Adobe wants you to do if you unluckily kill your printer (and mind you, this is buried in the "readme" file on the install disk):

Re-installing a deleted Adobe PDF printer

When you install Acrobat, the Adobe PDF printer is created automatically in the Print Center. Here are the steps to re-install the Adobe PDF printer if it is accidentally deleted:

-Exit Acrobat and/or Distiller if running.

-Do one of the following to become "root" user:

-a. Log off the Mac OS and log back in as "root".

-b. Open the Terminal application and log in as "root'.

(If you do not have a "root" login, see Mac Help for instructions to create the "root" user).

-If you just logged in as "root", then open the Terminal application.

-Delete this file (from UNIX): /usr/libexec/cups/backend/pdf

-Log off as "root" and log back in with your user name and password (or any user with Adminstrator privileges).

-Restart Acrobat. You will be prompted for your Admin password and/or your Acrobat serial number.

Your Adobe PDF printer should now be re-created and listed in the Print Center.

Now isn't that a pain in the ass? Log on as the root user? Delete a file in Terminal? Are they nuts? I work in Terminal every day, but I'm a geek -- normal users aren't even going to know what Terminal is (and considering the amount of damage the uninitiated can do, that's a good thing).

Fortunately, I found an easier way to do it. Here's how I got Distiller back on my machine running Mac OS 10.2.8. I've received a report from a reader (1/26/2004) that it works under Panther as well (10.3) (Note: This is a quasi-hack, and I'm not responsible for any ill effects it has on your machine. Not that I expect any -- my machine's worked just fine).

Before doing this, I recommend making sure that your version of Acrobat is updated to 6.0.1 or higher. A reader reported that this technique didn't work when he was using Acrobat 6.0 installed directly from the disk, but it all went fine once he updated to the latest version (thanks Cappy!)

  1. Launch Print Center (Applications > Utilities > Print Center).
  2. Hold down the "option" key and click the "Add a Printer" button.
  3. Scroll down to "Advanced"
  4. Where it says "Device" choose "Adobe PDF (pdf).
  5. For Device Name, add an appropriate name (I put "Acrobat Distiller")
  6. For Device URL, put "pdf://distiller"
  7. Under Printer Model, choose "Adobe". When you do so, a subwindow appears with the text "Adobe PDF 3015.102".
  8. Click "Add"

And there you go. No mucking about with Terminal, no logging in as root. Your printer is back, and it'll now showup in any app you want to print from.

Why Adobe doesn't have people do it this way, I haven't a clue. To the best of my knowledge, this printer will work the same way that Distiller did before it got deleted, but you should test it on your own machine to make sure you get the results you want.

The only possible drawback to my method that I can see is that the printer might not be available to other users who log onto that machine.