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Home > Various January 10th, 2013

Adobe Says Rumored Free CS2 Software Download Isn’t a Giveaway

The Rumor of Free Adobe CS2 Downloads: Where It Came From

This week the web has been buzzing over a rumor of Adobe offering the eight-year-old Creative Suite 2 software for free download to all, including Photoshop CS2.  “Adobe releases Creative Suite 2 for free,” “Grab Photoshop and CS2 Absolutely Free,” and, “Free! Download Adobe Creative Suite 2, Photoshop CS2, or other Adobe software at no cost,” have read some of the headlines around the blogosphere.

The programs in question are 2005-vintage Adobe and Macromedia tools such as Photoshop CS2, Illustrator CS2, InDesign CS2, Dreamweaver MX 2004, Flash MX 2004, Acrobat 7.0, Captivate 1.0, and others. The software is pretty dated, originally written for 32-bit Windows 2000/XP and PowerPC Macs – and won’t run optimally or at all on current computer systems, especially [Intel] Macs.  CS2 is “EOL” (end-of-life), no longer officially supported, and not updateable nor upgrade­able. Nevertheless Adobe has put these downloads out there on an open page – full versions in 15 languages with accom­panying universal serial numbers, and seemingly freely available for what it’s worth – but the company says they’re not.  So what’s the story?

The Background

In fact this tale started back in December, when Adobe decommissioned the online licensing activation servers for all of these old programs due to technical issues. At the time their tech support team added two help pages to assist existing owners who would no longer be able to (re)activate their software, such as in the case of trying to moving it between computers. To remedy this difficulty for those who were experiencing it, Adobe made available full versions that do not require activation.

At the time (December 13th), Adobe Tech Support Specialist Jeff Wright also opened a long Adobe Forums post announcing the solution to the activation problem (“Looking to activate Creative Suite 2, Acrobat 7, or Macromedia products?”), with links to the download pages with system requirements plus assistance for customers needing help in (re)installation of their CS2 programs. Clearly, Adobe’s intention here was to provide uninter­rupted access to people who were still using these prior releases.

There were some holes though.  Premiere Pro 2.0 and Audition 3.0 were provided for those who needed them, but After Effects 7.0 and Encore 2.0 were not… Some users have been stuck and asking about those, but as of this writing no explanation for their absence has been given.

Related: Which option is right for you? Compare Adobe CS6 vs. Creative Cloud

The Current Day

And now, almost a month later, there have been several sites reporting that these downloads were meant to be free for everyone, because that’s what it might appear to some at face value. But the company has issued several clarifications. Their main corporate blog, Adobe Conversations writes:

Update on CS2 and Acrobat 7 Activation Servers

Effective December 13, Adobe disabled the activation server for CS2 products and Acrobat 7 because of a technical glitch. These products were released over seven years ago and do not run on many modern operating systems. But to ensure that any customers activating those old versions can continue to use their software, we issued a serial number directly to those customers. While this might be interpreted as Adobe giving away software for free, we did it to help our customers.

Adobe staff member and Principal Scientist Dov Isaacs clarifies:

> “I just heard the news that Adobe is allowing you to download CS2 for free.”

On behalf of Adobe Systems Incorporated …

You have heard wrong! Adobe is absolutely not providing free copies of CS2!

What is true is that Adobe is terminating the activation servers for CS2 and that for existing licensed users of CS2 who need to reinstall their software, copies of CS2 that don’t require activation but do require valid serial numbers are available. (Special serial numbers are provided on the page for each product download.) See <http://forums.adobe.com/thread/1114930>.

You are only legally entitled to download and install with that serial number if you have a valid license to the product!

        - Dov

And Photoshop Product Manager John Nack adds:

Q:  Is it OK for someone who did NOT purchase CS2 to download this now for personal use?

A:  No, it isn’t. The download link is there only for the benefit of people who’ve paid for CS2. As noted, the old activation server developed problems and had to be retired. To ensure that customers weren’t left in the lurch, Adobe put out this alternate build. It’s not for people who didn’t pay for CS2.

On the Japanese version of the CS2 page, the statement preceding the download links translates as:

The purpose of this measure was not to distribute software free of charge to a large number of people. Rather, the measure was initially put in place in order to make the software as user-friendly as possible for those customers with the proper license. Anybody using it without the proper license is in violation of the licensing agreement. We thank you for your understanding.

And finally, the following text now appears when you visit any of these pages, and must be agreed to in order to proceed:

Adobe has disabled the activation server for CS2 products, including Acrobat 7, because of a technical issue. These products were released more than seven years ago, do not run on many modern operating systems, and are no longer supported.

Adobe strongly advises against running unsupported and outdated software. The serial numbers provided as a part of the download may only be used by customers who legitimately purchased CS2 or Acrobat 7 and need to maintain their current use of these products.

The Future

So what does this all mean or add up to? It appears to us as if Adobe’s efforts to help a small subset of users of older products “got out of the bag,” so to speak, and was misinterpreted as giving away largely obsolete software to a broader audience. Here it looks like a case perhaps of unintended consequences.

Will these old CS2 direct download links and keys being “out there” now hurt the company going forward? In our opinion, probably not. Adobe does an enormous business in software upgrades from much more recent versions. There are hundreds of thousands of customers who have been thrilled to buy an upgrade for just one major release from Photoshop CS5 to CS6, considering all the new features added there, and with more improvements since… Most would consider CS2 to be ancient history compared to that, in terms of performance, featureset, formats & standards supported, workflow efficiency and time savings to get your job done – just look at all the differences between CS6 and CS3, which is newer.

You can get a Creative Cloud membership for $1-$2 a day, giving full access to nearly all of Adobe's latest and greatest products including the complete CS6

The customers who would still use CS2 are not likely to be folks who would buy CS6 from Adobe any time soon. The software industry evolves so quickly that Adobe’s latest hobbyist offering for photos and imaging – Photoshop Elements 11 which sells for under $100 – is more current, capable, and compatible than eight-year-old programs.  Meanwhile, today’s students and teachers can already get the new Photoshop CS6 Student & Teacher Edition for 75% off the regular price – while anybody at all can pay just $1-$2 per day for full and complete access to $10,000 of the new best-of-breed Adobe tools by simply joining the Creative Cloud.

Finally, some make the case that this situation could even help Adobe’s sales.  Obviously there’s the buzz and general interest generated here. But further, the company doesn’t have a great deal of strong competition – so if someone used CS2 instead of competing program then that could reduce the demand and development of alternate options, while bringing a new user on board with the Adobe brand and possibly a future paying customer for a modern product such as Creative Suite 7 or the Creative Cloud.


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  1. Chris Dickman

    Regarding the quote from John Nack. Please keep in mind that the disclaimer on his blog clearly says that: “The views expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Adobe Systems Incorporated.” So this and the other comments on Adobe blogs are not official statements from Adobe. I’m afraid in the absence of such a statement, the confusion will continue.

  2. This has better information on this post in regards to the Photoshop Free Giveaway or Photoshop NOT Free Giveaway deal. Many people thought that this is a free for all on Photoshop CS2 and other programs in the same time-frame as CS2, but now it appears it is not the case.

    Since Adobe have released the universal product ID keys for all of these packages in the same date range, I can only think how would they stop someone from downloading especially since it appears to have been made available on other sites too. I suppose Adobe could always block the download, which in my case after 10 MB of downloading and whilst logged in to my Adobe account I get a network error and this happened on two occasions. Maybe now Adobe has set up something up so the people who have CS2 only can download. That would make sense but it appears for a short time there must have been a loophole. If anyone else managed to download this CS2 full program you can post it here. Although, that being said I don’t have the same version so for the CS version I shall just wait until I really need a different version.

  3. Daniel

    Chris Dickman: Regarding the quote from John Nack. Please keep in mind that the disclaimer on his blog clearly says that: “The views expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Adobe Systems Incorporated.” So this and the other comments on Adobe blogs are not official statements from Adobe. I’m afraid in the absence of such a statement, the confusion will continue.

    I know, even now I’m not sure myself but having said that, I rather use my CS5 anyway.

  4. TinTin

    McKenzie Voice: This has better information on this post in regards to the Photoshop Free Giveaway or Photoshop NOT Free Giveaway deal. Many people thought that this is a free for all on Photoshop CS2 and other programs in the same time-frame as CS2, but now it appears it is not the case.

    Since Adobe have released the universal product ID keys for all of these packages in the same date range, I can only think how would they stop someone from downloading especially since it appears to have been made available on other sites too.

    There ARE things they can do. Whether demanding a current license to trade for the universal one, or simply SAYING this is for CS2 owners ONLY… on the “blog” page where Adobe Corporate Communications has decided to make its very vague point.

    Instead, a bunch of apparent reps for different Adobe products are trying to convince people.

    To the millions that have downloaded and installed this ancient software over the past month….. it is very “free.”

  5. so

    I own CS2 and downloaded the serial numbers knowing I was legal, no matter what Adobe intended. But they also had a free download with serial number for Photoshop Elements 5, which I never owned. I registered the serial number and Adobe accepted my registration with no questions asked, so I don’t think they were too worried about people sneaking in on this deal. Maybe they saw them as potential new customers.

    • No, that’s not it. It’s simply that the product registration system was not changed to reflect what’s happened here… Software registration has nothing to do with the legal aspects of licensing.

      So Adobe would tell you that doing that does not indicate your legal ownership or right to use, sorry.

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