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How to fix shockwave errors in Cricut Design Space (or not connecting on the cut screen)

How to fix shockwave errors in Cricut Design Space (or not connecting on the cut screen)


Let me preface this article with the fact that I may have performed more troubleshooting and research on this issue than anyone I know, possibly more than Cricut Support.  If you're unfamiliar with my YouTube channel, I am an IT veteran of nearly 25 years.  The majority of that has been spent troubleshooting issues and making software run well for small/medium businesses.  About a year ago I transitioned my career to my first love, which is programming, so I have a very strong understanding of the issue.  I have helped MANY, MANY people one-on-one with this issue and many thousands more through my videos on the topic.  Other people who have IT experience try to convince me the problem is the software and not any of the things I discuss below, but the fact is that I have HANDS-ON experience troubleshooting this issue with thousands of people and they do not, so therefore they are speculating as to the cause.  You're not really going to "fix" this problem, but there are often ways around it by working within certain parameters.

To make use of this information, you must check each item and do not skip anything.  While this is a long read, plus contains some videos, you will learn what causes about 95% or more of these issues.  

The Power of Denial

If you...

  • Don't plan to read it all.
  • Read this information and skip something with the thought of "Oh, that can't be the problem", without checking it.
  • Think Design Space is the issue because so many people have the same problem.
  • Think Design Space is "overloaded".
  • Think your computer is fine but you don't even know what processor or how much memory is in it.
  • Think your project is simple so it can't be the problem.
  • Think the answer would be an offline program and Design Space stinks.
  • Think you have the "fastest Internet" and it can't be the issue.
  • Think "everyone is having this problem".
  • Think your computer is new so that can't be the problem.

If any of the above apply to you, stop.  Just stop.  I'm trying to help you troubleshoot the problem and find the cause, so keep reading and let me help you.  You had me at "Shockwave" so help me, help you.  If you can't, click that "X" up in the corner, move on and do not waste your time reading this and go back to being frustrated and live out your sad life of denial.  If you actually want to narrow down the problem by troubleshooting it, then read on and maybe watch the videos if you wish.   I know it's a long read but I guarantee you'll spend more time complaining about the issue if you don't read it all.

"I've Cut This Project Before"
Don't respond with "It can't be anything on my end because I've never had this problem before."  About 90-95% of the time over the past 25 years that I've fixed problems for people, they had never seen the issue before.  And guess what? 100% of the time it was a new issue, they had never seen it before.  Also, don't say "Nothing has changed on my end so it has to be Design Space."  because it has whether you know it or not. Windows Updates, anti-virus updates, Adobe Acrobat updates, Flash updates, etc. Virtually no computer is the same today as it was a month ago (unless it was off all that time).  Another reason I hate this is because in 25 years in technology the thing that I learned early on and has made me good at troubleshooting is my #1 Golden Rule--Never Trust the End-User.  Most people don't know what they did or they did change something like installing some software, but then they uninstalled it so they think it should go back to the way it was.  That's not how computers work.  Once you change something when it comes to adding/removing/updating software it will pretty much never be exactly the same as it was (unless you're able to to snap-shot backup/restore which is not normal for consumers).  Unfortunately there are too many variables to say nothing has changed on your end--it has, so stop saying it and see the "Power of Denial" section above.  

Problem Descriptions

  • Shockwave Plugin Error
  • Long Running Script
  • Cricut.com is not responding
  • On the cut screen it will not connect to the machine and you get the spinning circle as in the screenshot below.






The Cause (if you're interested enough to read it)
At the time of this writing, Design Space Version 2 is dependent upon Flash when using it on a computer (Windows or Mac).  Flash has a time limit to complete anything it does and it if doesn't happen within that time limit, the web browser "thinks" Flash is not working or has frozen so the browser actually gives the warning messages.  Unfortunately, that I am aware of, Firefox is the only browser with the capability to adjust this time limit.  I'll explain more about that below as possible workaround.  The conditions described above are all essentially the same problem and symptoms, though the actual cause might vary and it may be more than one thing that combines to cause it.  The three primary causes of the vast majority of the issue are:

  1. The project is complex, even though you may not think it is or it may not appear to be on the screen.  I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard "It's just a simple block of text" and sure enough, the problem ended up being the project.
  2. Your computer is either running slow or has a slow processor.  Even if your computer is new, this can still be an issue unless it's a new Mac (and even then there can be variables that affect it, but much less likely than a Windows computer.  
  3. Your Internet is running slow OR something is affecting Internet performance.

Please Note: Many people post "I get this when I'm just trying to open Design Space!" However, in every case so far I learned the user is trying to actually open a saved project, not when opening Design Space.  It's important to note there is a distinct difference in getting the error(s) when opening Design Space versus opening a saved project.

Steps for Troubleshooting

Step 1 - Checking your Project (the most common cause)

The best and first step for troubleshooting this issue is to create a new project and insert a basic shape such as a circle using the Insert Shapes feature and see if it cuts.  It's important that this be a new blank project in a fresh new browser session.  If so, your project is likely to blame and this is the most common issue, I find. There are contributing factors that can make your project too complex:

System Fonts
Many system fonts are very poorly designed and they can contain a lot of nodes/cuts.  Even though you may not see it on the screen, fonts can be very problematic. Below you can see a comparison of the Courier New (left) and King (right) fonts, both very similar at the surface.  

But look what happens when I view them in Inkscape and show the nodes:

Each little dot is a node.  The Courier New "M" has just a few nodes while the King "M" has perhaps a couple hundred nodes, just in one letter.    

Uploaded Images
It is important to understand image resolution, image dimensions and file sizes.  Uploaded images that can cause this are often poor quality or large, high resolution images.  Poor quality images can present the same issue as the font shown above.  Large or high resolution images are simple too much for the Flash plugin to handle.  Keep in mind that since computer and Internet performance factor into the issue, file quality and size may or may not be an issue for a particular file.  One person who has a fast computer may be ok with a complex file while another person using a $150 Walmart laptop may not even be able to upload the file without problems.The bottom line here is that if you do not understand image quality, dimensions and resolutions, you need to take time to educate yourself or you're going to have problems with this or the quality of your project cuts.  Here are two great videos that explain this issue.

Along with the above problem with image quality and size, I also often see SVG files uploaded that are problematic.  Sometimes SVG files are created by someone tracing a poor quality which results in an SVG with too many nodes.  Most SVG files are also typically small in file size (less than 100-200 kilobytes) so sometimes I'll see SVG files in excess of one mega-byte and this sends up a red flag.  Again, if you are able to cut a simple shape like the test I described above, you need to be looking at your project first.

Purchased or Downloaded Designs/Files
Often times people purchase files from Etsy or other sources or they download files from the Facebook Groups.  Files purchased from Etsy or other sources may be fine while others can have issues or not be optimized for Design Space.  There are MANY people selling designs or files on Etsy and other sources that quite frankly have no business selling their files because they are not experienced and do not know how to create a quality file that is compatible with Design Space.  Likewise, even experienced designers may not understand how to properly create SVG files for die-cutting machines.  The best advice here is to ask the seller if the file can be used in Design Space or if they have tested them, or ask if you have issues with it if they will offer a refund.  A Design Space account is free so the designers can even set up an account to test their files.

Another source for files that can be problematic are Facebook Groups.  Most groups do not vet the quality of the files uploaded to their groups so you very well may download images that are problematic for Design Space.  

Duplicated Images
I have often seen the problem occur from someone duplicating images.  If you have an object and you want to cut perhaps 6-8 of them, do not duplicate the image 6-8 times, you only need one.  When you click GO and move to the cut preview screen, change the number of Project Copies on the top left and click APPLY as shown below  

Too Many Layers
If the project has too many layers, you can experience this issue, as well.  How many is too many?  That's a tough question to answer because it depends on on how complex the layers are, as it relates to the things I've described above.  If you have one layer and it fits into the complexity issue I describe above, just making one duplicate layer may put it over the threshold.  But, if you have very simple layers, you can have more.  There is no magic number of layers, it's a sliding scale depending on the project.  I've seen projects with 40-50 layers with no issue and some with 10 layers that will not work, but if you look at your project and you have a lot of layers, that's another place you need to look for the cause.

I have also seen many SVG files with many, many separate objects which results in a separate layer in Design Space.  One person purchased a rhinestone template from Etsy and the file had over 1000 circles for the rhinestone pattern.  Each circle was a separate object which would have resulted in over 1000 layers in Design Space--obviously an issue.  

Cut Using the Mobile App
The mobile app for iOS and Android(beta) is not dependent on Flash, so many times you can successfully cut a project using the mobile app that you cannot cut using the browser application on a computer.  You will need to save your project in order to open it on another device and you must have the Explore Air or an Explore/Explore One with a Bluetooth module so you can pair it with your device.

Step 2 - Checking Your Internet Speed

You cannot determine your Internet is working ok just because "other sites work fine."  Design Space is very dependant on fast Internet, especially upload speed.  I frequently have people who say "we have the fastest Internet", yet they do not have any idea what that means or what speed they are paying for. Things such as signal quality or other factors can cause your Internet to not perform well.   Internet speed is not like electricity where it's on or off.  Things like signal quality can affect Internet speed just like it can a cell phone conversation.  And Internet speed when working properly works more like your water supply.  Once it comes into your house, if you flush the toilet in most houses while someone is in the shower it's going to be a bad scene.  Now, imagine that person in the shower is actually not in the shower but using Design Space, and that person flushing is actually on an iPad streaming a movie in full HD format--or it's one person watching Netflix, while another teenager is using Facetime or Skype while someone else is sending an email with a large attachment at the same time.  That would be like someone taking a shower and someone flushes while some else starts washing the car at the same time the sprinklers kick on outside.  

First, find out what Internet speed you are paying for with your ISP.  Normally you can check your bill or find out what package you have and look it up on their website.  For example, your bill may say you have something like "Turbo50 Internet" or some other package name.  Then you can go to their website and see what that package includes and you may find that it is a 50mbps download and 5mbps upload.  You can check your Internet speed by going to Speedtest.net.  Click on the green BEGIN TEST button when it appears and you'll see a speedometer type display and it will check your speed.  Compare it to what you are paying for.  It's important to do this from the computer you use Design Space on so you can get a real idea of where the issue lies.  I will often check the speed on my phone while on WiFi and compare the two, as well.  Keep in mind that WiFi may be slower than you expect depending on your router and the network card in your computer.  An example would be that if you are paying for 100mbps Internet but your router is several years old, your WiFi may only be capable of 54mbps or slower speeds.  The best option to test is always to plug in using an ethernet cable for the test.  If you do not have a cable handy, you can buy them at places that sell computers, such as Staples, OfficeMax, Best Buy, etc.  

Upload speed is often where problems come in because if your upload speed is less than 1mbps, you are going to be more prone to issues.  Many providers also have their devices configured in such a way that if you consume all of your upstream bandwidth, your download comes to a crawl.  Time Warner Cable is one system that works this way.  I currently pay for 200mbps download and 20mbps upload.  If I consume all of my upload bandwidth, NOTHING will work on the download side.  Why would this affect it?  Let's say you have 10mbps download and 1mpbs upload.  In most cases Design Space will work ok, but then someone else in the house sends an email with a 12mb file attached.  Until that file is finished sending outbound, it's like your Design Space is going to crawl or have these issues.

A good habit to get into periodically is also to restart your Internet modem and router as part of the troubleshooting process.  These devices are really a computer so they can experience some of the same performance issues a computer does if they are on too long.  

Here is a quick video on how to perform the speed test.

Step 3 - Checking your computer performance

Processor and Memory
Computer performance can be a cause or a contributor to this problem just as Internet speed and project complexity.  The first two things you should check are the processor and memory.  If you are on a Windows computer, go into Control Panel, then System and look at the specific model of the processor as well as how much memory you have.  Design Space and Windows in general, requires a minimum of 4GB to work "ok", but I highly recommend 8GB or more.  You would be amazed at how much upgrading from 4 to 8GB of memory will enhance a computer's performance if it's a 64-bit operating system, which you should also see on this screen.  If your version of Windows is 32-bit, it can only utilize 4GB so upgrading would be wasted money.  As far as the processor, here's a video that explains the specs you should really have for a computer to use Design Space and minimize issues.  The short answer is that if you have an E1, E2, Atom, or Celeron processor, you're going to be much more prone to issues, especially E1, E2 and Atom.  If you want to check your computer processor and compare how it performs, you can use this page to enter your processor model number and look at the column marked "CPU Mark".  In my opinion, anything less than 2500 is going to be much more likely to have issues, while modern i3 and i5 processors may be as high as 7000-8000, to give you an idea.  Some E1 and E2 processors will be as low as 600 which is quite horrible.

Here is a video where I explain the specifications you should search for when buying a computer.  You can also use this as a guideline to compare what you have, currently.

Hard Drive Activity
Computer performance can also be impacted by other variables, so you can have a high-end computer with an i7 processor and 8GB of RAM, but if Windows Updates are installing at a particular time, your computer can be running slow.  One key indicator of this or something else slowing down your computer is high amounts of hard drive activity.  On almost all computers there is a light that flashes when the hard drive is active, sometimes it will have a small icon of a cylinder next to it.  If this light is constantly flashing, especially if you're not really doing anything, something is causing your hard drive to "thrash".  Another culprit for this could be your anti-virus software scanning the system.  Many anti-virus program by default will set up a scheduled system scan which is a very bad thing for performance.  During this scan, the anti-virus software scans your hard drive and inspects nearly every file.  This feature should be disabled (but real-time scanning should remain enabled).  The hard drive is the slowest part of the computer as far as the main pieces that affect performance so if the hard drive is thrashing, it's going to slow down the whole computer.  

Sometimes programs get hung and processes spin out of control and consume memory and they continue to just eat up resources.  This can in turn cause the hard drive to thrash, too.  Sometimes browser plugins/extensions can cause this and you might notice that even if you have only one Chrome tab open, if you view your task manager you may see 10-20 chrome.exe processes.  

Sometimes restarting the computer will clear up out of control processes that may be causing these symptoms.  If you are like most people, you probably leave your computer on 24/7 and only reboot when you have an issue.  It's not a bad idea to restart the computer every day or two in order to prevent these issues. 

Step 4 - Other things to check

Scan for Malware
Remember, having anti-virus software is not enough.  I always recommend scanning for malware using Malwarebytes from malwarebytes.org.  In most cases I do not recommend running it as real-time protection as it just adds to the overhead on your computer.  I keep it installed and I scan my system about once a month and let it remove anything it finds.  

Clear Cache
Clear your browser's cache (temporary downloaded files) by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + DEL while in the browser.  Here's what to look for in Chrome:

Check Proxy Settings
The proxy setting re-routes your browsing traffic through a server or device. This usually gets turned on by (a) malware that wants to steal your traffic (b) hotels that use a proxy (c) businesses that use a proxy server for filtering and monitoring and (d) anti-virus software that wants to "protect you". With anti-virus it's common with things that have "Internet security Suite" protection that installs all kinds of crap that does more harm than good. Most offenders I encounter are Norton, McAfee, Webroot and Avast but there are others.  To check this setting in Windows 10, it's really easy.  Simply type "proxy" in the search box next to the start button, then click on Configure Proxy Server at the top.  In other versions of Windows you can get to this by going into Control Panel, then Internet, and click on the Connections tab.  Click the "LAN Settings" button and on the next screen make sure the "Use a proxy server" setting is unchecked.  You can also uncheck the other boxes on this screen to prevent the setting from being turned on in certain network environments.  


Recoverying a Project You Can't Open
If you have a saved project and you want to "rescue it" because you now know the problem is that it has too many layers or something you may be able to use this workaround to open the project and save it 3-4 times in separate files to simply the project into separate parts.

Reinstalling Design Space
One of the things that has solved various issues for a few folks has been to uninstall and reinstall Cricut Design Space.  To do this in Windows go into Control Panel and then Programs and Features.  Right click on Cricut Design Space and uninstall it.  It's a good idea to then reboot before reinstalling. To reinstall open your browser and go to http://www.cricut.com/design.

Closing Arguments
Design Space 3 is in beta and slated to be released this year and is written in HTML5, so no more Flash limitations--but that doesn't mean people don't have to continue to be responsible with the issues I have mentioned. I still would not recommend an E1/E2/Atom/Celeron processor, I will still recommend 8GB of RAM or more, I'd still recommend at least 1mbps upload speed and I'd still recommend people educate themselves on how to manage image sizes and quality. The more knowledge you have, the more capability you will have to work with any issues that arise.

Troy's Definitive Guide to Design Space Shockwave Plugin Errors
Here is my in-depth video explaining these things.  I explain it all very well, but most people tend to understand the written instructions above better.