Same here. I have been trying to get an unlock code for the best part of a year but none get sent through so although I can see the thumbnails behind, I cannot actually access the photographs - so so frustrating and irritating
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Not sure if the problem is the unlocking code or something else, but I have a few tips that might get you around the problem.
First, Starter Edition does not have any files 'in' it; it is an index of pictures that you've imported into the program. What gets imported is the path to the file, not the file itself. What you see in Starter Edition is a preview thumbnail of the file that was drawn at the time of import, but it's not the actual file.
Some of the other data that you may have added after importing the file IS only accessible from within the program; stuff like captions, tags, and dates, if you've reassigned them. That information is stored in a catalog file, which can be imported into Photoshop Elements. More on that later.
But it's important to understand that the files are not locked into the program in any way, other than the custom data that you added to it with Starter Edition. It also means that if you are needing to get at the files that you used to browse using Starter Edition, you will have to use Windows Explorer, or even Picasa (which works similarly to Starter Edition; as an index of files you have on your computer).
The first strategy I would employ to find files is to look in My Pictures for files. If' you imported files using the Photo Downloader, then it might have copied files into a Digital Camera Photos folder. Browse there and see if they are in there. It is possible that you may have pointed the Photo Downloader to some other location for downloading photos, but that's an advanced feature, so look for the Digital Camera Photos folder. While you're there, look for any other suspicious folders in your My Pictures folder; who knows where files could have gone, but I'd dig through all the folders there, just as I would turn the house upside down to find my car keys. Hopefully, you will be able to successfully locate the files you used to see within Starter Edition.
If you would like to carry forward all the tag info that you've added to the files using Starter Edition, you could import the Starter Edition catalog into Photoshop Elements 8 (there is a risk-free trial that you can download from https://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?loc=en%5Fus&product=photoshop%5Felements).
I am trying to help another customer who ran into a snag converting a catalog from version 2 of the program, but if you have 3.0 or 3.2, I can say I fully expect that to convert. Then you would have 30 days to try that out, and see if you would be willing to pay the $99 or so that it costs.
If you don't want to pay, but you do want to save all that tag info that you've added to the file so that some other program could use it, you can select all your files in the Photoshop Elements Organizer, and use the Write Info to Files command to embed tag info to the files.
Note that the Photoshop Elements Organizer works in the same basic way as the Starter Edition program; it indexes the files, but it doesn't copy any files INTO it. Also note that if you attempt to convert a catalog into Photoshop Elements, but the links to the pictures have been previously severed (as a result of moving the file from its original location), then the file will NOT be created in Organizer; it can only work with files that it finds.
Since you mention that the program is crashing, if you still have the installer, you could try reinstalling; sometimes that helps, and if it's not a problem with the unlocking code, a new install might do the trick.
Let me know if something doesn't add up; you should be able to preserve your catalog and import it into Photoshop Elements, even if you can't launch Starter Edition.
Thank you SO MUCH for your very clear and concise answer. PLEASE please let your company know that much time and frustration would have been saved if someone through the online/email customer service or the 800# customer service would have told me that. It makes total sense. It is likely the files are damaged, if not lost. Fortunately, I did find some of the images on a flash drive I had tucked away so all is not lost. This seems like basic information that the customer service techs should have known. I am glad you have been cruising the forums and found my question!! You will renew my trust in Adobe but please let the bosses know that the CSR's lack of knowledge about all the programs could harm how other customers view your company. Most of us are computer idiots, and when you purchase what we see as a complex program like Photoshop, we want to trust that there is adequate support even if the program is no longer in use by the company. Thanks again for your information. I'd suggest you go help the CSR's but I suspect you are a little above their department! Best wishes...
I'll share the information internally so phone reps have it, and I can look into getting an alert added to the top of the forum that contains this info. Sorry it's been such an adventure.