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AIR runtime installer, error 2038

The Adobe AIR beta 1 runtime installer leaves a lot to be desired. Adobe continues the blantant disregard for standard folders and proceedures on the Mac that Macromedia had, and this leads to problems. I had to do quite a lot of tinkering to be able to install it at all.

For me, the installer just failed with “Installation Error: 2038″. No more information. I was stumped.

As this is the beta, I’m ok with not getting better error messages, and I quickly found out that 2038 means I/O error. Unfortunately that doesn’t tell me much. Probably there is a file that can’t be written, but to which directory? and is it because the directory doesn’t exist or is the permissions “wrong”? (I say “wrong” in quotes because I did run fix permissions).

Had the installer been a standard .pkg installer file I could have looked at the list of files that it would install and see which directories were affected, but as they just need to do it their way I can’t do anything.

Having almost given up I realised that I could try installing it as root, then I could rule out permission problems. I launched the installer using the terminal and sudo and it installed fine. Unfortunately it didn’t look as if anything got installed, nothing new in /Applications, /Library/Frameworks, etc. and .air-files didn’t launch. Hmm.

I decided to search for “Adobe AIR”, but spotlight found nothing. So I tried find instead, and found the installed files in /private/var/root (root’s home folder), and finally I had the solution.

It turns out that the AIR runtime installer installs a framework in ~/Library/Frameworks. In a vanilla installation this folder doesn’t exist, but I had one, and the permissions we’re not what the installer expected. I changed the permissions and ran the installer again, it worked fine.

Why can’t I get the option of installing this for all users (which would be the sensible default)? Why does it have to install an uninstaller in ~/Applications (a non-standard folder)? Why does the installer have to be an Apollo application and not a standard installer package? (the Apollo alpha was a installer package).

43 Responses to “AIR runtime installer, error 2038”

  1. Andrei Stoleru Says:

    Hi I have the same problem with error 2038. What permissions have you changed to get it working? I tried running the installer as root but no change. Thanks

  2. Theo Says:

    ~/Library/Frameworks has “drwxr-xr-x”, you can set these with the terminal by running “chmod 755 ~/Library/Frameworks”, if it complains about permission rights add “sudo” and a space before the command, and type your password when asked for it.

  3. Oliver Goldman Says:

    We decided to have AIR install into ~/Library/Frameworks because that location is accessible to each user, whether or not he is running as admin. I’ve made sure a bug is filed on the particular issue you ran into, and I apologize for the trouble it caused.

    We decided not to offer users a choice of installing elsewhere for now because the default location should work (barring bugs, of course) and better not to trouble them with the question. We intend to offer the option of installing to /Library/Frameworks at some later date, although exactly how we surface this option isn’t decided.

    The same logic applies for placing the installer in ~/Applications. Both of these folders are, btw, standard locations and are in fact recommended by Apple for items owned by individual users. See http://developer.apple.com/documentation/MacOSX/Conceptual/BPFileSystem/Articles/Domains.html.

    Finally, we chose not to use a package because we wanted to control the UI. We considered installing from a package silently behind the scenes, but in polling various Mac users and experts, they saw little value in this approach versus simply copying the files directly.

    regards, Oliver Goldman AIR Engineering Adobe Systems Inc.

  4. l.m.orchard Says:

    For what it’s worth: I just had this issue as well, and what turned out to be the culprit for me was that somehow my ~/Library/Frameworks folder had been chown’d to root. Not sure how that happened.

  5. Theo Says:


    Thanks for clearing these things up for us, much appreciated! You are right that ~/Applications is standard, my bad, it’s just that you are the only ones using it. In my experience (since Mac OS X 10.0 public beta) I have not come across any package that used that location. But it makes sense to install there if you want to avoid permission issues.

    However, I don’t agree with the reason for not using a package. You can brand the UI of the installer to some degree (although perhaps not to the degree that you want), and using the installer gives both you and us, your users, benefits. By using the .pkg format users will understand what is happening, they will trust that the package will be installed correctly, users can see which files will be installed before installing, uninstall tools can uninstall the package, and the package can be pushed out via Remote Desktop to administered computers. Those are some benefits off the top of my head.

    To be frank it really pisses me off when software vendors feel that they need to brand their installers so badly that the standard installer isn’t good enough for them, and in my experience it only leads to shaky things that are hard to use. It seems to me that you have asked around and thought about the pros and cons before creating the AIR installer, so this doesn’t entirely apply to you. I realise that there may be legitimate reasons to why you feel that you need control over the UI, perhaps you could elaborate on that?

    The other method you mention is moving the files by hand. If AIR had been an application I would have been mad at you if you hadn’t done that, but since it’s a framework and needs to be in a specific location (and the .air extension registred I presume), an installer is probably the only solution. And I do agree that installing silently is a bad idea.

  6. matthew Says:

    Im getting the 2038 error too. Changing permissions doesnt help.

    And here! here! Use the standard installer. Adobe UI’s are bad enough, add to that their bizzar new icon thing and these helpful error messages – well done Adobe.

  7. Oliver Goldman Says:

    Regarding control of the UI: I believe the major driver of this decision was to have the same installation experience across platforms, which we have achieved. I understand not everyone will agree that this is the right approach, but I hope you’ll see that given that goal, rendering our own UI is a reasonable way to accomplish it.

    In any case, thanks for the feedback. We’re continuing to work on the installation experience and appreciate all of this input.

    regards, Oliver Goldman AIR Engineering Adobe Systems Inc.

  8. matthew Says:
    Regarding control of the UI: I believe the major driver of this decision was to have the same installation experience across platforms, which we have achieved

    Surely that makes NO sense? How likely is it that the same person is installing it on all platforms?

    I understand not everyone will agree that this is the right approach, but I hope you’ll see that given that goal, rendering our own UI is a reasonable way to accomplish it.

    Seems like a nonsensical goal therefore any justification is moot. But hey, thats just MY opinion. Maybe a larger user testing would be appropriate.

    In any case, thanks for the feedback. We’re continuing to work on the installation experience and appreciate all of this input.

    How about the ability to actually install it? On both my MacBookPro and work G5 I get the rather cryptic error 2308.

  9. John Manoogian III (jm3) Says:

    macbook pro [~]# chmod 755 ~/Library/Frameworks macbook pro [~]# ls -ld !$ ls -ld ~/Library/Frameworks drwxr-xr-x jm3 jm3 … /Users/jm3/Library/Frameworks/ sudo open Adobe\ AIR\ Installer.app

    same 2038 error :-(

  10. Matt Says:

    Hmm, this new beta leaves a lot to be desired. The AIR engineer from Adobe has mysteriously stopped commenting and nobody can install it because they are getting the error 2038 (including me). Nice work Adobe.

  11. Shane Glass Says:

    I’ve tried all the routes I can find to install Adobe AIR, and EVERY SINGLE one gives me the Error 2038. Seems like Adobe would have attempted to install their program using their beloved installer to make sure it works? ‘Cuz it don’t do jack.

  12. Al Says:

    Brand new Macbook Pro – all attempts result in a 2038. CHMOD’d the directory, sudo open on installer etc.

    Great stuff

  13. Geoff Says:

    Much appreciation for your posting on this issue. I was able to solve my installation issues after reading your solution. However, while I agree that it doesn’t make sense for anyone but a corporate type to want a similar interface across platforms what else would you expect? It’s not important to anyone but those behind the curtain, but it’s also not really a giant deal either. Though, I would have appreciated being told more about the method before, during or even after the installation. A simple “More details…” button displayed somewhere (should be easy enough in a custom install package) would be adequate.

    Attacking the Adobe guy (intentional or not it does appear that way) probably scared him off. He was here to help out, not get chewed out.

    Anyhoo, thanks again!

  14. annie Says:

    geoff is an adobe guy.

  15. alan Says:

    I also tried changing permissions, to no avail. What finally ended up working, in a very roundabout way, was to create temporary user account, which installed AIR normally, then move the framework and uninstall application back to my user. Kind of annoying, but it worked.

  16. OmarShariffDontLikeIt Says:


    I too am having this #2038 File I/O Error (and after a quick Google, it appears were not along, and that this error occurs on Windows too!).

    I believe the Runtime installed correctly, though as someone pointed out earlier, as this is a non-standard installation method, I have no way of easily checking (this is WHY there is a standard method of installing on OSX, the consistency of your pretty interface across platforms is of NO CONCERN TO ME.)

    I’ve followed the instructions in the Developer Guide to build the HelloAIR app, upon running the code with ADL, I get the error.

    I know a lot of people, including myself have given the Adobe guys grief here over the non-standard installer: consider that a separate issue. What we need is to locate the source of this error, and fix it, so we can get to helping the Adobe AIR team with debugging this Beta!

    Other than that, the documentation (and Colin Moocks Actionscript 3.0 book) makes AIR look very interesting and I’m itching to have a crack at it, if possible :)

  17. OmarShariffDontLikeIt Says:

    This is really embarrassing, but I’m gonna suck it up an way and mention it:

    I almost gave up on AIR, I gave it one last go only to realize that the folder I was calling ADL from was NOT the folder that contained my application.xml file. I was in the wrong folder.

    So check that you definitely are in the right folder if you get the 2038 error message.

    Now I’m going to crawl away in shame…

  18. Theo Says:

    I just installed Microsoft Silverlight, and it used the standard Mac installer. The installer window was branded with a custom background and the Silverlight logo and all. If Microsoft can use the standard Mac installer, there can be no reason what so ever that Adobe can’t use it.

  19. Thijs Says:

    Let’s hope they will give us control over the installer’s UI asap because the current installer is definitely missing a good user experience with a confusing, misleading and inappropriate interface.

    Good point about Silverlight Theo, I hope this will wake somebody up at Adobe.

  20. 3stripe Says:

    I still can’t get AIR to install even after reading this very helpful post. Crazy shiiiiiiiiit. Why’s it so hard.

  21. Theo Says:

    Since I’ve successfully installed AIR and don’t want to try to do it again (as you can understand) I haven’t tried the following possible solutions, but for what it’s worth I suggest that those of you that can’t install try these things:

    • If there is a ~/Library/Frameworks make sure it is owned by you and writable by you (“sudo chown yourusername ~/Library/Frameworks” and then “sudo chmod +w ~/Library/Frameworks”)
    • If there is a ~/Library/Frameworks directory then remove it (it will be created by the installer)
    • If there is no ~/Library/Frameworks make sure ~/Library is writable (“chmod +w ~/Library”)
    • If these fail create ~/Library/Frameworks yourself in the Finder, it should be writable by default
    • If none of the above help then it might be the ~/Applications directory that is the problem, repeat all the above for that folder

    It might be yet another directory that has the “wrong” permissions, but as far as I can remember there were only these two that were created by the installer. Perhaps someone with more time could create a new user account and try installing when logged in as that new user. Then we could determine exactly which files that were written and how the permissions were set.

  22. Al Says:

    Theo – thanks!!

    Your first point worked for me “- If there is a ~/Library/Frameworks make sure it is owned by you and writable by you (”sudo chown yourusername ~/Library/Frameworks” and then “sudo chmod +w ~/Library/Frameworks”)”

    I’d never tried installing Air prior (Alpha or Beta versions) and I was getting the 2038 error until I followed the step above.

    Many thanks

  23. David Says:

    Here it is three months after Adobe responded and explained their decisions, and their installer STILL does not work without this error.


  24. Daz Says:

    I have to agree that this installer is woeful. It just took me half an hour to install AIR on a Mac. I even created a new account and tried to install it and I still got the 2038 error.

    To Adobe, please, please use a .pkg! Maybe do some customer research and ask whether your users would prefer the Mac and PC installers to look the same or whether they would prefer that the bloody thing installed at all. If Disk Utility needs to repair permissions, will it be able to determine the correct permissions for this installation when it has used this custom installation method? I’m doubtful.

    By the way, for me the problem was not the permissions on the Library folder but the Applications folder. I’m referring here to the global Applications folder, not the one in my home directory. Once I reset the permissions on all enclosed items in this folder, AIR finally installed.

  25. Brett Adam Says:

    Well, all of my directory permissions are just fine per the above notes. Yet, AIR b2 still will not install – #2038 every time.

    AIR b1 installed fine and works without problem.

    Something as clearly changed, but without logs or debug on the installer, it’s pretty darn hard to figure out what.

    Adobe: if you’re still listening to this channel, please consider that your installer is also beta and needs debug/log output as a bare minimum.

  26. Theo Says:

    This thread over at Adobe Labs Forum just got revitalised:


    (The first part is about problems installning Apollo/AIR applications, but most of the discussion is about the runtime)

    The short version is: AIR beta 2 requires admin privileges to install, but it doesn’t ask for them, so from what I can gather if you have an unprivileged account you can’t install.

    This information can also be found in the release notes:


    What can I say, as most of you have pointed out all the problems could have been avoided by using Installer.app instead. It seems so pointless to develop your own custom solution.

  27. moojix Says:

    had the same issue with AIR b2, needed during install chmod 777 /Library/Frameworks chmod 777 /Applications after install, redo with chmod 755 Adobe: why do you ignore customer feedback for months ?, first experience during install is important for framework success (the same issue with amd64 and flash ….)

    users will ignore those frameworks if they fail during setup and have no transparent developer bug/feature handling (error Ids MUST ever be linked to a public error database or faq of you need to give user a “More details” link with a log extract) -> use the users help to debug your applications. in this manner it is unprofessional software development.


  28. tom newton Says:

    I’ve tried everything too… can’t get it to install.

    2038 everytime!

  29. Didier Prophete Says:

    All right boys, I got the exact install steps for AIR b2 figured out (in case anybody tried the last download).

    So, like everybody else, I was getting this stupid #2038. Now, it turns out that the installer needs to be able to create directories under /Library/Frameworks and /Applications.

    It might be fine for most users who run as admin, but with my os x config, my default user is not an admin and so this would just fail.

    So, basically just sudo chmod 777 /Application and /Library/Frameworks, then run the installer, and sudo chmod back to 755.

    Et voila !!

    Btw, for those interested, the trick in discovering this was to use ktrace (system call dump) on the exec file inside the .app installer (the .app/Content/MacOS/Adobe AIR Installer file). And after that, I just looked at the errors and found out the exact directories the installer was trying to write to…

  30. Chris Lamothe Says:

    Didier – thank you for this info – much appreciated.

  31. Michael Graves Says:

    I’m stuck on the install problem for AIR Beta 2 – #2038. I’ve completely eliminated the permissions as a source of the problem for both ~/Libary/Frameworks and ~/Applications.

    What I’ve found (will post this over at Adobe to see if it might trigger something useful there) is that the installer is generating an error on a file copy command, apparently having to do with extended file attributes in the file system. From my /private/var/root/system.log:

    Oct 11 14:54:00 Mike-Mac /bin/cp: error processing extended attributes: Operation not permitted

    I get that error inserted in the log each time I run the installer, and with watching via ‘tail -f system.log’ it’s clear this is a clue to the problem. Doing some research on that error message didn’t turn up any quick answers (#$#&^$#!), but links like this suggest there’s just some outdated code in the Adobe installer that cannot handle certain copy operations for the file system configurations of some Macs (like mine, of course!):


    This is not a fix, but just an observation, maybe someone else can use this to unravel the details for this problem.


  32. Theo Says:

    Michael: thanks for joining the discussion, check out Didier’s comment above. As of beta 2 AIR installs in /Applications and /Library/Frameworks and not in ~/Applications and ~/Library/Frameworks, make sure the permissions are “right” there too. You will also need to install as an administrator. It’s different, but just another version of bad compared to the beta 1 installer.

  33. Rob Says:

    Thanks all for the info. I can confirm that the 777 permissions works for me on installing the B2 air.

    What an incredible drag. I upgrade the Flex Builder 3 beta2 at the same time and this whole process has been categorically unfun.

    Maybe it is easier on the PC. Makes sense. Adobe doesn’t have a lot of following in the Mac community.

    And Boston is not really a college town. ;)

  34. Theo Says:

    For those of you still having problems installing AIR beta 2, have a looke here


    Also, according to Oliver at Adobe AIR beta 3 will ask for admin privileges when starting.

    All according to this thread:


  35. Theo Says:

    Oliver Goldman, of Adobe, wrote a comment above about how Adobe wants to keep the same installer look and feel cross patforms. I read a post from his blog today where he says:

    “Installation of both Adobe AIR itself and AIR applications is done via Windows Installer–more commonly referred to as MSI. Using MSI is the doing the “right thing”, but it certainly isn’t the easy thing.”

    Which is very odd since they don’t want to use the installer on Mac OS X (which is quite simple to work with). What rationale is there behind this? Don’t use the simple installer on Mac, but use the hard-to-use installer on Windows, because that’s “the right thing”. Come on Adobe, you can do better than this nonsense.

  36. Grant Says:

    I can confirm Didier Prophete’s approach:

    “So, basically just sudo chmod 777 /Application and /Library/Frameworks, then run the installer, and sudo chmod back to 755.”

    NO “~”

    Worked for me with B2 in Mac 10.4.11

  37. Alexandru Dutulescu Says:

    I confirm too, that what moojix said works:

    before install sudo chmod 777 /Library/Frameworks sudo chmod 777 /Applications

    after install redo the same lines, with chmod 755

    Best, Alex

  38. Oliver Goldman Says:

    Hello all,

    First: apologies for not coming back to this thread sooner.

    Second: Please try the beta 3 installer, now available from http://www.adobe.com/go/getair. We believe it’s much improved, but would appreciate your putting it through the ringer. (Which I’m sure you will!)

    Let me try and respond quickly to a few points in this thread. I’m sure I’m leaving some out, but here it goes:

    1) We really do listen to customer feedback. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean we can address all of it, for a variety of reasons–including not enough hours in the day.

    2) The AIR installers, for both the runtime and applications, will now perform logging. See http://blogs.adobe.com/simplicity/2007/10/air_installer_logging.html. Yes, we should have done this sooner.

    3) Yes, on Windows we use MSI under the covers, but we still display our own UI on top–same UI as on the Mac. Just to clarify.

    4) We didn’t use packages under the covers on Mac because (a) we couldn’t find a supported way to do that and (b) when we asked Mac admins (yes, we asked first!), they said they didn’t care anyway. (Apparently none of those Mac admins have posted to this thread…)

    5) We of course do test these things before we let them out the door, but the whole point of betas is to get the feedback we can’t get any other way. So while I am truly sorry the beta experience wasn’t better for you folks, I’m glad the beta releases are working to improve the product.

    Thanks again for your feedback.

    regards, Oliver Goldman Adobe AIR Engineering

  39. Theo Says:

    Thanks Oliver, I much appreciate your commenting here.

    I still do not agree with your installer policy, but it’s good to know why it is as it is.

  40. Rachel Says:

    I had the same exact problem, thanks to your tips and the comments I was able to install. I checked the owner of the library/framework folder and applications folder and both were set as the system and not me(I am the admin user) so I changed these to my account and all was well. If you don’t know how to check who the owner of a folder is, right click on it and go to get info then click on Owership and Permissions and then look under details, if you are the admin user you can change the owner under the Owner option.

  41. Jorge Muza Says:

    Finally, you have to do the following ( under Mac OS Snow Leopard ):

    -Uninstall ALL air applications. -Uninstall AIR, using the Uninstaller App ( located in /Applications/Utilities )


    -Delete the following directory:

    sudo rm -rf /Users/YOUR_USERNAME/Library/Application\ Support/Adobe/AIR/

    And BINGO! after doing that, reinstall adobe air, and tweetdeck!!!

    There you go, at least that worked for me, hopefully it works for you!

  42. Brian Topping Says:

    I tried all this and was starting to get very frustrated. I’m a very experienced *NIX dev and all the permissions were precisely correct on my machine (a relatively new MBP with Snow Leo 10.6.5). Then I tried Jorge’s routine… uninstall everything AND delete the Application Support folder for AIR.

    Interestingly, I needed sudo privileges to do that. I should have paid attention to what was in there that was improperly set up. ALSO, someone that tries this should pay attention to the dates of the files that are improperly set. I’m going to guess that that the dates are the same as the date that Creative Suite was installed, and this problem primarily affects people who install CS5 before they install AIR.

    HTH, Brian

  43. Ludovic Pauchard Says:


    Thank you very, very much for your solution ! I had Lightroom installed before Air and I had the same “error 2038″

    Following your instruction : 1 – I ran the AIR Uninstaller App 2 – I put the Users/YOUR_USERNAME/Library/Application\ Support/Adobe/Lightroom/ in another file for a while (the system asked for my password) 3 – then I deleted the entire Users/YOUR_USERNAME/Library/Application\ Support/Adobe (password again) 4 – I ran the AIR installer App : IT WORKED !!! (at last) 5 – I put back the Lightroom file in the /Application\ Support/Adobe/

    Again thank you VERY, VERY MUCH for your help. I do not congratulate Adobe for this …


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