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How Many Systems Can You Use Adobe Products (CC, CS6) On?

This is one of the most common questions we get, and the answer may pleasantly surprise you…  The place to look to find the answer is the Software License Agreement, also called the EULA. This agreement governs the use of your Adobe product, and is translated into 28 languages within each document. It also covers some basics about product activation.

See the Adobe End-User License Agreements (EULAs)

So, in general, how many systems can you install Adobe software on, including the Creative Cloud and CS6?  The answer for individuals (as opposed to businesses) in most cases is two.  The catch is that both computers must be used only by you and (for CS software) the two systems cannot be used at the same time. This policy was designed so that you could run (say) Creative Suite at home on your desktop PC, as well as while traveling with your laptop. But the types of computers and their usage has blurred so much now that you can just pick any two you own and the product should install and properly activate on both…

For example, here is the key text from the EULA for Photoshop CS6:

2.1.3 Portable or Home Computer Use. Subject to the important restrictions set forth in Section 2.1.4 [having to do with volume licensees], the primary user of the Computer on which the Software is installed … may install a second copy of the Software for his or her exclusive use on either a port­able Computer or a Computer located at his or her home, provided that the Software on the port­able or home Computer is not used at the same time as the Software on the primary Computer.

Important Details – and Key Differences with CC

So for CS6, the primary user may install another copy on a secondary computer for their own use, but the two installations cannot be used simultaneously.  Generally, for Creative Suite and Adobe Acrobat, the two machines should also be of the same operating system (Windows or Mac), because the software is licensed and delivered for use on a specific platform.

However, now Creative Cloud members and single-app CC subscribers can install and run their tools on up to two machines of either operating system, including both a Mac and a PC.  Other Adobe products like Photoshop Elements and Lightroom are also always sold multi-platform, making it easier to mix-and-match Windows and Mac OS for your two installations.

Another key difference with the Creative Cloud tools is that a single user can now use the software on two computers at the same time… This is possible because CC does not use serial numbers like CS did – instead, the CC activation mechanism is based on Adobe login IDs, providing the capability to more flexibly manage your usage.

A further benefit of the flexibility with Creative Cloud is that if you install the CC apps onto a third computer, it will ask you if you want to automati­cally deactivate the other two… Just hit “Continue” at the Maximum Activations Exceeded box, and it will handle activation of your new system and deactivation of the others for you. Afterwards, you can reactivate again on one additional machine. This can be useful if, for example, your one of your earlier systems crashed or if the software is otherwise inaccessible.

Special: Check out Adobe’s Black Friday deals – or win our new CC 2014 Giveaway!

How About for Use of Prior Versions?

What Are the Differences Between Adobe CC vs. CS6 — What's New?

There is one additional requirement for upgrade versions of Adobe software: If you upgrade but want to continue using your prior release, then per Adobe licensing terms the older product must be on the same computer(s) as your newer upgrade version.

And new since 2013: all Creative Cloud subscribers now have access to download and use previous major releases such as CS6 – instead of or in addition to the new CC version – together on the same machines.

Related: Trying to decide which is right for you? See Creative Cloud vs. CS6 Comparison

Licensing for Education Editions

Note that the above policies work exactly the same for Adobe’s Education versions – there is no distinction for those here…  However, one major difference in restrictions for all the Student and Teacher Editions is they can be run only on the customer’s privately-owned computer(s) and used by the eligible licensee.

Licensing for Virtual Machines and Servers

Importantly, Adobe defines a computer as “a virtual or physical device,” not just a CPU – so that includes running on virtualization platforms such as VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop, Citrix XenApp, and Oracle VM VirtualBox. The same thing goes for a dual-boot system with a product installed on both partitions, including Apple Boot Camp.

So each virtual machine you install the software on would count as a single product activation per the rules described in this article. However, this does not mean the software can be installed on a server and accessed by multiple users that are more than the number of licensed seats that have been purchased (see Section 2.1.7 “Server Use” for more details).

Final Word

So there’s your answer for most current Adobe software, although we recommend confirming the terms for your particular product or suite because the license agreements are somewhat different for each package (including the Creative Cloud, Creative Suite, Acrobat, Lightroom, Elements, etc.) and version (CC, CS6, CS5.5, CS5, CS4, CS3).

If you’re part of an organization, group, business, or school, and/or need more than one user or computer running the software at the same time, then take a look at the flexibility and ease of maintenance available through Adobe’s new Creative Cloud for Teams. There you can save time, money, and headaches for multiple users, while benefiting from direct expert support:

Learn more about Creative Cloud for Teams and how to easily manage multiple copies.


See Also

Download New Adobe CC 2014 Free Trials (Direct Links)

Do you have any questions about CC or CS6?  Just ask them below and we’ll get you answers!

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  1. Keith
  2. Greg Efner

    Hi,

    I want to use Photoshop and Lightroom CC on my desktop and my laptop.

    My wife also uses the laptop and uses her name to sign into it.

    Does that present a problem for me?

    Thx

  3. Greg Efner

    Hi,

    please also notify me of your answer to my previous question via my e-mail address

  4. Greg Efner

    As I understand it, the individual photoshop + lightroom 5 cc program allows someone to install the programs on two of their computers. IE laptop and desktop.
    Is that not correct?

    My question is if my wife signs into one of those computers is that a problem?

    I also understand that the same program may not be running on both machines at the same time.
    But what if that is not the case?

    And what if I am using Lightroom on my laptop and PS CC on my desktop at the same time?
    Which I might see myself doing in my workflow.

    Thanks,
    Greg Efner

    • Hello again Greg, sorry for any misunderstanding – for your wife just signing into either computer, that’s no problem.

      Here’s what Adobe says about it:

      Adobe’s single user license allows installation of a single product license on two machines (such as one work machine and one home machine) provided the same individual uses the software, and not concurrently on both machines.

      However, reading carefully you see that would not preclude running one product (like Lightroom) on one machine, and a second product (like Photoshop) on another machine, at the same time.

  5. Shaun

    Hello

    I do have PS CS6 installed on my desktop and on my MacPro.
    Now I am getting Mac Air.

    Question: Can uninstall the PS from my MacPro and install on my New MacAir?

    thanks

  6. Roland

    Yet another question about private copy installation of Adobe CC for Teams. If it’s clear in the EULA (§2.1.3 Portable or Home Computer Use) that a home computer use is OK for purchased licenses (§2.1), it’s not that clear for membership-based licenses (§2.2) where nothing similar to §2.1.3 is stated.

    I know it’s technically feasible to install two copies for a CC account and I also found comments on adobe’s forum … but I want to have a clear understanding of where in the EULA this is authorized.

    Anyone an idea? Many thanks.

    • Hey Roland, in that case §2.1.2.3 Subscription Edition should apply [For the Software available on a subscription-basis (“Subscription Edition”)].

      But it looks like you are quoting the older EULA terms, which were confusing… For CC now it’s different, as it uses the newer Adobe General Terms of Use, which was last updated June 18, 2014 and replaces the October 16, 2012 version in its entirety.

      This current EULA states:

      “You may activate the Software on up to 2 devices (or virtual machines) at a time, if these activations are associated with the same Adobe ID for the same individual, unless stated at http://www.adobe.com/go/activation. However, you may not use the Software on these devices simultaneously.”

      We are trying to get guidance on the last part, because we had heard from Adobe that a single user could now use the CC / Creative Cloud software on two computers at once. We will update further here if/when we receive clarification.

  7. Maria Rodrigues

    I have the adobe CREATIVE SUITE 3 -DESIGN PREMIUM, some programs (dreamweaver i don’t use). My question is, can i use the serial number to activate it on 2 computers?

    Many thanks
    maria

  8. James

    I’m trying to buy Photoshop Elements 11 & Premiere Elements 11 disks online, but I don’t know if they were previously installed on another computer. Both CDs (one for Mac, the other for PC) are supposed to be brand new. How do I know that they are not installed on another device?

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