Very interesting developments.
Windows application logs in event viewer lists a corresponding error message "Activation context generation failed for C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Premiere Elements 12\Plug-ins\Common\SmartSoundAdobePlugin64.prm". I confirmed that this file does not exist
On the contrary, I do find that a "SmartSoundAdobePlugin64.prm" does exist in the Premiere Elements 12 files in Windows 7 64 bit and Windows 8.1 64 bit. It is found in the path:
Local Disk C
Adobe Premiere Elements 12
and in the Common Folder is this "SmartSoundAdobePlugin64.prm".
I see this same file in versions 10, 11, and 12, but not in versions earlier than 10.
I would suggest
a. Deactivate your Premiere Elements 12 via its Help Menu/Sign Out
b. Uninstall via the usual Control Panel Route
c. ccleaner run through (regular cleaner and registry cleaner parts) - to get rid of leftovers from incomplete installs and/or uninstalls
d. reinstall with antivirus and firewalls turned Off.
If that does not work, then it looks like Hans' suggestion might be the next to explore.
Curious turn of events.
We will be watching for your results.
Thank you for the advice. I tried Han's suggestion of installing Smartsound SonicFire first since it was much quicker than completely reinstalling PrE (which entails many hours of re-downloading on a DSL line for the program & cloud content).
After installing Smartsound, the "SmartSoundAdobePlugin64.prm" file did appear in the C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Premiere Elements 12\Plug-ins\Common\ folder. However, it did not resolve the "No Disk" error or the application error logged in Event Viewer. The source of that error is listed as "SideBySide" and Event ID is 33. The full text of the message is as follows:
Activation context generation failed for "C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Premiere Elements 12\Plug-ins\Common\SmartSoundAdobePlugin64.prm". Dependent Assembly Microsoft.VC90.MFC,processorArchitecture="amd64",publicKeyToken="1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b",type=" win32",version="9.0.21022.8" could not be found. Please use sxstrace.exe for detailed diagnosis.
I did a bit of research and this answer suggests that the error is the result of an incompatibility between the installed version of Microsoft Visual C++ and the version used by the program:
Based on this Microsoft article, it appears that the missing C++ 2008 version 9.0.201022.8 is an IA-64 version while the 9.0.30729.x versions on my machine are x64 versions:
This is all way over my head and I may leave well enough alone until I have more time to spare, given that the "no disk" error (which could even be entirely unrelated) is annoying but not crippling.
FWIW, the machine is a Dell XPS8700, Windows 8.1, 64-bit, and PrE was sold by Dell it, bundled with Photoshop Elements.
Sometimes it's too easy to overlook the obvious. After sending the above reply I realized that there was in fact no firm evidence that the two errors were related. The original error asked me to insert a disk in Drive E, which is a Compact Flash card reader. So I dug up a 16MB CF card from a 10 year old camera and stuck in in the card reader, and the "no disk" error was cured! Remove the CF card and the error returns. Nothing was written to the CF card and I have no idea why PrE cares if it is there, but apparently it does. The only pertinent settings I could find were for scratch disks, and none of them are set to E:. Strange...
The Smartsound error persists, but I care less about it now!