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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!

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  1. Owen

    Hi, we are printing publishing house and intend to purchase the Creative Cloud for Teams. We are currently working on CS3.

    My question is that, we are a team of 4 and usually work in Photoshop, illustrator, indesign, acrobat at one go. do we purchase all four apps for 4 different users?

  2. I am currently using the old CS2. I want to upgrade to CC. I would prefer to buy the “Individual” versions, since I do not need all of the cloud usage on the “Team” platform and it’s less expensive.

    I want to purchase the full CC license for my use on my main computer and my laptop. I also want to purchase just the Photoshop/Lightroom package for my husband. He only uses Photoshop to slice my templates for web design and occasionally enhances a photo.

    What are the steps to make this flawless? I see licensing issues if people use the same email. Also, does using the same credit card, same address, or having been a previous customer make problems with buying one full package, then one desktop app purchase? Will the Single App Photoshop/Lightroom also work cohesively with the full CC package Photoshop?

    I won’t be doing this until the fall of 2015…I just really want to have a good experience and I am doing my research before purchasing.

    • Hi G, you would definitely want to use two different emails when you get two different Creative Cloud packages that overlap in tools, because each Adobe ID can support only one license per CC application.

      Meaning, your husband would want to use his own email to run his Photoshop, so that it can be different from the Photoshop license that you’re running. Otherwise, the licensing would conflict if he’s trying to run Photoshop or Lightroom on his computer at the same time that you’re trying to use any CC app on your computer.

      Other than that, there should be no issues. Using the same credit card or address (or PayPal account even) are not a problem.

      As for being a previous CS customer, if you had CS3 to CS6 then you could get a big discount on CC for your first year… But CS2 is a too far back to qualify for that special offer – sorry!

      Hope that helps! If you have any further questions then feel free to post back.

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