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FactoryTalk View Protected HMI Files
Fixing protected files in FactoryTalk
By Jeremy Pollard on 2 August, 2019 - 6:47 pm

I have a client who needs some PanelViewPlus changes made, but the developer protected the runtime (MER file) so that the graphics files cannot be brought into the dev environment. The original developer is not known or not in business anymore.

I understand that there is a work around but cannot find anything about it. Can someone confirm that there is a workaround?? I don't think it would be a good thing to spell out in a public forum... so private info transfer will be the method of choice..

Thanks in advance:)

Cheers from: Jeremy Pollard, CET The Caring Canuckian!
Crisis, necessity, change

Integrator, Educator, Consulting, Columnist Control Design

The older *.MER files were not modifiable, and you'd have to have the *.APA backup files in order to make changes to the terminal. Only in the latest releases (I believe from FT V6.00 and higher) the *.MER can be edited and modified. I was told this by an AB development engineer during a conference, but I have never tried this so far. If there's a workaround, have never heard of it. I have some customers like yours, and the other alternative proposed is to reverse engineer the application, at a substantial cost, as there's a lot of work involved.

By Jeremy Pollard on 6 August, 2019 - 7:50 am

Thank you Tony .. appreciate your guidance.

Cheers from: Jeremy Pollard, CET The Caring Canuckian!
Crisis, necessity, change

Integrator, Educator, Consulting, Columnist - Control Design

That info below is correct. The white bezel'd Panelview plus that only goes to v5.1 is not edit-able without the original project on somebody's pc or having the .apa file. There was a sorta workaround if you could get the compactflash card out of the panelview plus(by taking the logic module off of the display) and copy/import the .gfx and other files in the folder structure to another project that you had already started in Rsview Studio. I think you still have to create a lot of the data like the tag database, but you at least have the "layout" of the hmi. I believe there is a knowledge base article on this as well.

I actually am going to have to try this out on a panelview here as there was some confusion over what we needed for a backup, so we didn't get an apa file from the programmer for the current version of the project. We do have an older apa file, so I'm hoping to merge the projects.

>The older *.MER files were not modifiable, and you'd have
>to have the *.APA backup files in order to make changes to
>the terminal. Only in the latest releases (I believe from FT
>V6.00 and higher) the *.MER can be edited and modified. I
>was told this by an AB development engineer during a
>conference, but I have never tried this so far. If there's
>a workaround, have never heard of it. I have some customers
>like yours, and the other alternative proposed is to reverse
>engineer the application, at a substantial cost, as there's
>a lot of work involved.

I hadn't heard of that one. Just to clarify, the flash card mentioned here is inside the HMI, or putting it in other words, you would get the *gfx files straight from the terminal's solid state hard disk. I have never tried this, because no one would let us fiddle with the terminal's hardware, unless it was dead. Most modification jobs are required on a running terminal. That's not the same flash card that is pluggable from outside the terminal.

By Jeremy Pollard on 11 August, 2019 - 3:17 pm

I will be playing around with this:) thank you for the guidance.. totally gapped about the CF/SD card internal for program storage.. will report:)

Cheers from: Jeremy Pollard, CET The Caring Canuckian!
Crisis, necessity, change

Integrator, Educator, Consulting, Columnist - Control Design

Sorry for the misleading information. I just took one apart today. The file is stored as a .mer file on the internal CF card as well. I'm not sure where I heard that files were unpacked on that CF card, but they are not.

The internal CF card is handy if you have a hardware issue (like a broken touchscreen) and you have a very similar replacement unit in hand. You can swap internal CF cards around and get the new unit up and running without needing a laptop or files on a flash card.

By Jeremy Pollard on 12 August, 2019 - 5:22 pm

Thx Carl ... darn eh!!

Cheers from: Jeremy Pollard, CET The Caring Canuckian!
Crisis, necessity, change

Integrator, Educator, Consulting, Columnist - Control Design

Shoot, I forgot to mention that v5.1 and below (for sure), and I believe v6, that the the .mer file is always protected from being imported by Rockwell. Their software at the time had to have the .apa to get a project started on your development pc. After that version, it's up to the developer to check that box to protect the runtime version when they created the .mer. Unfortunately, that box was checked by default for a couple of versions. So check the firmware version to get an idea of your potential "success" rate.

That info below is correct. The white bezel'd Panelview plus that only goes to v5.1 is not edit-able without the original project on somebody's pc or having the .apa file. There was a sorta workaround if you could get the compactflash card out of the panelview plus(by taking the logic module off of the display) and copy/import the .gfx and other files in the folder structure to another project that you had already started in Rsview Studio. I think you still have to create a lot of the data like the tag database, but you at least have the "layout" of the hmi. I believe there is a knowledge base article on this as well.

I actually am going to have to try this out on a panelview here as there was some confusion over what we needed for a backup, so we didn't get an apa file from the programmer for the current version of the project. We do have an older apa file, so I'm hoping to merge the projects.

>The older *.MER files were not modifiable, and you'd have
>to have the *.APA backup files in order to make changes to
>the terminal. Only in the latest releases (I believe from FT
>V6.00 and higher) the *.MER can be edited and modified. I
>was told this by an AB development engineer during a
>conference, but I have never tried this so far. If there's
>a workaround, have never heard of it. I have some customers
>like yours, and the other alternative proposed is to reverse
>engineer the application, at a substantial cost, as there's
>a lot of work involved.