Importing (placing) .psd images into Illustrator in a 64-bit Windows environment has been a problem for some time now.
Since you report having this problem (previously afflicting many 64-bit Win XP and Vista users) in Win 7, I am now more inclined than ever to think Adobe is at fault here. Moreover, it is unclear which Illustrator and Photoshop versions are affected. (CS3 for sure, it seems. CS2 and CS4? Maybe).
Regardless of who is to blame, you should be able to uncover many discussions and suggested workarounds on this topic in this forum via a search. For example, some users have reported success by running AI 13 (CS3) in Win XP SP2 compatibility mode. Since AI is still a 32-bit application, I don't think you'd be giving up performance by running it in a compatibility mode.
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"For example, some users have reported success by running AI 13 (CS3) in Win XP SP2 compatibility mode. Since AI is still a 32-bit application, I don't think you'd be giving up performance by running it in a compatibility mode."
Can anyone explain to me how to do this?
I struggled with this issue, reading multiple forums and FAQs but without any solution. It's a 64-bit issue. I solved my problem of not being able to place a .psd file with transparency by performing the "place" on a dummy file on a 32 bit machine. I embedded the .psd, saved the dummy .ai file on a flash drive, re-opened it Illustrator in my 64 bit machine. I could then copy/paste the object, including transparency, into my desired artwork.
I have both Vista 64-bit OS and Win7 64-bit OS and am running CS4 and CS5 suites. I have had not a single problem Placing files into Illustrator CS4 or CS5 from Photoshop (32-bit) CS4 or (32-bit) CS5 [CS4 to CS4 and CS5 to CS5]. I cannot vouch for CS3 and I cannot troubleshoot earlier versions of CS such as CS(1) since CS(1) doesn't operate on 64-bit platforms with much success.
I was having the same issue with a windows 7 machine running CS5. Bringing in a PSD to an Illustrator file. For me, I had set the primary scratch disk to the secondary or d:\ drive. I also set the secondary scratch disk to the c:\ drive. I have done this on all XP machines for years. When I switched them back (primary = startup and secondary = d:\ drive) all was well.