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Home > Tips February 10th, 2015

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 terms of use or 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 (CC) 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 the two systems cannot be used at the same time. This policy was designed so that you could run Creative Cloud (or 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.

And there’s similar language in the Terms of Use for CC:

4.1 Use of Software: Subscription-Based License. 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 the Adobe Activation page. However, you may not use the Software on these devices simultaneously.

Important Details – and Key Differences with CC

So 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 one specific platform.

However, now Creative Cloud members and single-app CC subscribers (and that includes all customers of the $9.99 Photography Plan) 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 benefit with Creative Cloud is that it does not use serial numbers like CS did – instead, you activate CC by logging in with your Adobe ID, thereby providing the ability to more flexibly manage your usage. So 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 you’re moving around, or if one of your earlier systems crashed, or if the software is otherwise inaccessible.

Special: Legally download dozens of free Adobe books for a limited time!

How About for Use of Prior Versions?

Worldwide Offer: Get New Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 plus Lightroom 6/CC for $9.99 a Month (Regular Ongoing Price)

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 have full 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!

Keep up with the latest on Adobe software — subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on Twitter or Facebook… You can also enter your email and have new articles sent directly to your inbox.

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Available Worldwide! Get New Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 plus Lightroom 5 Desktop and Mobile for Just US$9.99 a Month
  1. Keith
  2. Greg Efner


    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?


  3. Greg Efner


    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.

    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


    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?


  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 § 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 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

  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?

  9. mili

    I have adobe pro 9 on my desktop that I purchased in 2011. My old computer has gone out on me. How can I redownload the program onto my new laptop without having to pay again. The acrobat pro 9 version from 2011 suits my needs, so I don’t want to have to purchase a new one if there is a way for me to redownload it. I do not have a disk for it, i Just purchased it straight from the website.

  10. Nicci


    I just purchased Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 and have a couple questions I can’t seem to find the answer to… I’d like to know what you’re aware of as far as:

    I’m not sure how long I want to keep my 2010 laptop, and my husband & I would both like to use LR on both of our computers (I should have checked into this prior to purchase, but just bought the Canon Rebel T5i camera & was a little excited buying the photo editing program as a family investment, to go along with it)…

    So, can we load the software unto both of our laptops (more than one computer, basically) AND be able to transfer my work OR at least this software to a new laptop when I acquire it in the near future – and will it be easy to do???

    I’m not a tech person so Any and All Help for this newbie is welcomed and GREATLY APPRECIATED!!!

    Thank You So Much!!

    • Yes Nicci, per the details in the article above, you should be able to run Lightroom on two different systems (more than one computer).

      If you (optionally) want to keep the catalogs shared or synchronized between the two computers, then you would need to use one of the techniques described in this video:

      On your second question – yes, it would be very easy to move the Adobe software to any other machine.

      If you wanted to migrate the Lightroom catalog too, then you could do that as well:

      How Do I Move My Lightroom Catalog to Another Computer?

      Hope that answers all of your questions, if not then just post back!

  11. Sean

    Thank you for this article.

    So I want to purchase photoshop cc via the special monthly plan. I have a desktop pc and a surface pro 3. To confirm, it will be possible to run photoshop cc 2014 on both these systems without purchasing additional licenses?

    Also, must I always be online in order to use these apps?

    • Hey there Sean, as outlined in the article above, you will be able to run the CC 2014 tools on two Windows computers, two Mac systems, or one of each.

      To answer your second question, you definitely do not have to always be online in order to use the Creative Cloud applications… Please see Myth #2 here.

  12. Zoe Hirst

    Hi, Please could you clarify the team licence rules for downloading to a work computer and a laptop to work seamlessly from home. Is this allowed, I can only see reference to allow it for single users?

  13. Cindy

    What is the difference between the Photoshop Lightroom 5 and the student-teacher edition? I am getting ready to purchase one and not sure which would be best.

  14. jena

    If I get a creative cloud membership, can I work in the same application say InDesign on my pc and at the same time have work open in InDesign on my mac?

    Basically if it’s installed on two different computers with two different platforms, will it allow me to work in the same program at the same time? (Mac & PC)

    • Hi Jena, thanks for your question – it’s a good one. With the CS (Creative Suite) tools you never could do that. But with CC, there’s some question as to whether you’re allowed to run the same application on two different computers (or operating systems) at the same time…

      According to Adobe staff talking about CC, “A single user can now use the software on two computers at the same time.”

      And a previous version of the Creative Cloud FAQ indicated, “you can use Creative Cloud desktop applications on two computers at once, regardless of operating system” – but it no longer says that…

      The Creative Cloud FAQ now says, “activation is limited to two machines per individual associated with the membership. See the terms of use for more information.”

      And Adobe’s Activation instructions state, “A single license for Adobe software lets you install the applications on two computers—for example, at home and at the office. However, you can use the software on only one computer at any given time.”

      Finally, the current Adobe Terms of Use say, “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 … However, you may not use the Software on these devices simultaneously.”

      We’d tend to believe the latter is more accurate since it’s the legal licensing agreement of record, and we will be updating the article above to reflect this.

      The good news is you can definitely install and run Adobe CC 2014 on both a Windows/PC and a Mac (two platforms) – but just may not be allowed to use them at the same time.

  15. Brandi

    Hi there,

    I’m looking to buying an older version like InDesign CS5.5 so it is not with the cloud. My question is, if I buy this software, how many computers can I install it on? I’m looking to be able to use it on a laptop and a main desktop computer.

    Something like this: « link removed »


    • Welcome Brandi, the previous CS (Creative Suite) tools are discussed in the article above, and generally you should be able to install them on up to two systems (either Windows or Mac but not both), provided the software isn’t used simulta­neously on both machines at once.

      However, we definitely do not recommend trying to find or buy old Adobe software like that – it is too dangerous:

      Why Never to Buy Adobe Software on eBay, Craigslist or Amazon Mkt

      If you still want to buy a non-CC version of InDesign (or any other Adobe application like Photoshop, Illustrator, suite, etc), then actually Adobe still offers CS6 for sale direct… It’s the original release from 2012 so it’s not the latest and greatest creative software available, but it is a perpetual license and does not require the Creative Cloud (if that’s what you prefer):

      Purchase Creative Suite 6 Products Direct from the Adobe Store

      If you want to download a free trial to try it out first then we do also have the direct links for CS6 as well.

      Hope that helps!

  16. rick

    hi, thanks for the explanation.
    may i ask, so it can be activated up to two computers but owned by 1 user.

    i purchased the adobe CS6 creative suite.
    how does adobe know that two computers are using same software/product key at the same time? i mean adobe CS can be offline not like adobe CC.

    is activation on the second computer using the same key or a different key ?

    i have a PC and laptop.
    does it have to be same operating system/OS ?

    thanks so much

  17. Keith Thompson

    Hi, I am thinking of using Photoshop CC. I already have Elements 11 and Lightroom 5 installed, so would I have to remove them before downloading CC?

    • No, not at all Keith – virtually all Adobe software installs independently, so you can have different products -and even different versions of the same product – all running on the same single computer…

      In other words, there’s no problem at all with running and using Photoshop CC, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom all on the same machine at once.

  18. Joshua Xiong

    Hi, I just recently bought Adobe Premiere Elements 11 and it came with both Mac OS and Windows DVD installation. So my question is, do I have two installations on both different systems (4 essentially) or two of only Windows or two of only Mac OS installation?

  19. Joshua Xiong
    • Hey Joshua, good question. Photoshop Elements (like Adobe CC or Lightroom) is multiplatform software, meaning you can activate up to two of your computers – and those systems can be either two Windows machines, two Mac OS, or one of each.

  20. TipRex

    but how are they gonna check if the programs run at the same time? Do they always connect to the net to check or what? If yes how can I use the program offline?

  21. Alex


    I am getting an error message that my Adobe log-in failed and activation limit reached when I try to use my software…… I thought I was only using it on two computers.

    What do I do?

  22. Kate

    Want to install cs6 on third laptop just purchased. Have on existing laptop and desktop. Can I purchase another license?? Or how would I go about doing??

  23. Jodee

    I bought a MacBook Pro recently that has CS6 installed as well as Elements 11 and various other programs. I don’t have the original disks for the software. I backed up everything from the laptop onto a Seagate hard drive in case anything should happen and I need to reinstall the software in the future.

    My question though is this: can I install the software on another computer (I am looking into possibly purchasing an iMac) and still keep the software on the MacBook Pro? Both devices (should I get the iMac) are strictly for my own personal use. Thank you!

    • You might be able to Jodee – but it sounds like the history, usage, and ownership of the software (and perhaps even the legitimacy) might be in question…

      If not, then you’d need to contact the original owner of the system you purchased and ask them to legally transfer the programs into your name.

      At that point, then, yes – you should be able to install the products onto a second computer using our guide here.

      Final note – you can’t reinstall the applications from the contents an existing hard disk where they are already installed… You actually need the original Adobe installer files or DVDs.

  24. Adam w

    Hello, I want to run Adobe CS6 on two different profiles on the same machine. Is that possible? This is at home so that my wife and I can use the software but on our separate profiles.

  25. Kevin Dickinson

    I see that it looks like CS6 is allowed to run on 2 computers by the same user. I have CS6 installed on my Imac.

    But I am going on holiday and would like to have access to it on my Laptop. But my Laptop is Windows. I wasn’t sure with the 2 computer part. Whether it needs to be 2 Apple or 2 Windows PC/Laptops? Or it can be one of each?

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