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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) 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.

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

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

How About for Use of Prior Versions?

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.

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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