ERROR: "Acrobat Failed to connect to a DDE server"

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Can Be Caused By Disabled Services

I have encountered a problem viewing PDF files using Adobe Acrobat Reader.  For the longest time, PDFs might launch or might not.  Sometimes they took about 15 minutes to appear after launching them.

After some Googling I was left without a concrete solution.  I do believe there are multiple possible causes for this error, that certainly seems to be the case according to the myriad bits of advice I've turned up from the search engines.  None of the prescribed solutions helped me out though.  I came upon my required solution somewhat by accident.

Recently I saw this error pop up on my screen:

    [Fatal Error:]  "Acrobat Failed to connect to a DDE server"

I'd not seen this particular error before, but it was the clue I needed.  For lack of a better place to showcase the solution I found, I'm writing this article:
Realizing that Acrobat was failing (or timing-out) due to a DDE request, (DDE is Dynamic Data Exchange) I considered why a DDE request might fail.  There could be many reasons for DDE failure, which accounts for lack of a good one-size-fits-all solution within the googlespace.

I checked my system to make sure that my DDE services were all running, and they were not.

Specifically, there are 2 relevant services.  I had disabled them in an earlier effort to optimize my PC performance.

Under Windows XP Pro SP3, these 2 services are:

Network DDE
Network DDE DSDM
The Network DDE service depends upon the Network DDE DSDM service in order to run.
The Network DDE DSDM service has to do with sharing "conversations."  If the Network DDE DSDM service won't start, then the Network DDE service won't start.  If that happens, it can lead to Acrobat acting flaky.

Once I had these services enabled and started, my Acrobat Reader was able to quickly launch and display PDFs.  Since then I have had no problems viewing PDFs.

I realize that Acrobat (at least older versions) can be controlled using DDE, but I do not know why Acrobat should initiate any DDE activity on its own when I try to view a PDF.  That is a topic for another article.

Brian Withun
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