Windows Vista Color Management = FAIL, But This May Help You…

UPDATE 9/22/2010:

UPDATE: This article was written well over a year ago, before Windows 7 was even hot news.  I assumed that this ridiculous Vista flaw would be addressed in Win 7, but it has not been.  The article below applies to both Windows Vista and Window 7.  I’m starting to think that this will never be fixed.   Hope this helps some people out there.

If you are having problems with Windows Vista and color calibration and profiles, by all means, read on…

I’ve been on Windows Vista since it’s early beta stages several years ago.  To be honest with you, now that I have been using Windows 7, can honestly say that I HATE VISTA!  Now before you think I’m just riding on the Vista hater bandwagon, please listen to one of my biggest gripes.

I purchased a new laptop recently.  A Dell Studio 15.  I had many troubles with it and decided to return it.  I exchanged it for an HP dv5 series.  A vanilla flavored laptop running Windows Vista SP1.  As a photographer, it is important for me to work in a computing environment that is color correct.  An issue that I was hoping was unique to the Dell perfectly replicated itself on the HP and that was I noticed that my custom ICC profile for used for color calibration kept dropping out of the video card.  I use Datacolor’s Sypder2Pro Suite for calibration.  Strange things seemed to cause my profile to be lost, such as Windows Vista UAC prompts popping up.  Not being a huge fan of UAC, I just turned it off.  Then I noticed that anything that brought Windows to the log in screen would cause the profile I created to vanish such as coming back from the screen saver or powering the screen back on after some idle time.  Even worse, whenever this happened, the only thing I could do was reboot the computer entirely.  NOTHING WOULD RELOAD MY PROFILE OTHER THAN A COMPLETE POWER DOWN AND REBOOT!  This was a huge letdown and actually sort of freaked me out.  This laptop would be worthless to me unless I could figure out a way around this.

Now thoroughly panicked, I went to the web and learned that this exact color issue had been a problem with Vista since it’s conception.  I find it rather strange that after owning several Vista machines, that I only experienced this problem on my two most recent computer purchases.  (I have several Vista machines that DO NOT have the problem I am describing in this article and at the time of this writing, I do not have an explanation for that).

Without going into too much detail, it looks like this problem exists in Vista because of the order that it loads the profile in relation to other display driver mumbo jumbo.  Basically, Vista loads your profile, and then loads the uncalibrated luminance data back over the corrected profile.  I really don’t understand how such a seemingly simple yet critical issue such as color profiling could fly under the radar (or be ignored) for this long.

The good news is that I have found a solution that works for me every time.  Its only a minor inconvenience and has sort of just become part of my work flow.  Will it work for you?  I don’t know, as I have not really had an opportunity to test this across more than just a couple machines, but so far so good.

You need LUT Manager for Windows (download here)
UPDATE 9/21/2010 – The new URL for downloading LUT Manager is here.

lut 268x300 Windows Vista Color Management = FAIL, But This May Help You...
Solve your Windows Vista color profile nightmares with LUT Manager

Once Installed, place a shortcut for this application on your desktop.  As soon as Vista loses your calibration data (for whatever reason), simply launch LUT Manager, load your profile which is saved in C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color\ (you’ll only have to do this the first time or if you want to use a different profile) then in the program, under the LUT menu, select “Load default for device”.  This will magically reload the  LUT (look up table) data from the profile you created using your colorimeter into your graphics adapter.  The change will look dramatic, especially if you have been working without a calibrated screen for a while.  When I load the correct LUT data, I am always shocked at how magenta/dark the screen looks at first but its just because my HP’s screen leans so far toward the cyan, blue, way too bright side of the spectrum.  (Sound familiar Mac people???)  The strangeness subsides after about a minute.

So there it is, my quick, easy solution to solving the ongoing failure of Vista’s color management.  I am interested to know if this solution works for other people.  Feel free to post comments or discuss!

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