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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:

Find out more about Creative Cloud for Teams.

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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  1. Staxxx


    My apologies. I was able to find both serial numbers. The serial number for the CS5 product off the original box and the serial number for CS6 from My Adobe account by going into the order history information. Thank you.

    • Yes, exactly right. It’s just that if you already have your older release installed on the same machine, then the upgrade version will search for it and find its serial number automatically… Otherwise, you just have to enter it manually. Glad you got it going!

  2. Michael Zak


    Thanks for the feedback on the CS6 upgrade from CS5 – so I can’t keep running CS5 on a laptop if I’m running an upgrade version of CS6 on 2 desktops. I am wondering if I’d be better of to use the creative cloud if I’m wanting to get it on that 3rd machine or just what would be the most efficient plan money-wise so I’m in compliance.

    Thanks again!

  3. Staxxx

    @ ProDesignTools

    When I started the download from the links page provided a few posts ago, the first .exe file downloaded fine. In the middle of downloading the second file (.7Z), I logged into my Adobe account and closed out of my browser. On returning to re-download the file (as the file did not show up in my Downloads folder even in part) I keep getting an error message that access is denied to my server. What should I do please? Is there another direct link that I could use? Thank you for the help.

  4. Staxxx

    Very frustrated. Cannot find an alternative site to download the 7Z file for Photoshop CS6 for Windows. This one has come up with Access Denied to this Server, which I see from the comments many users get.
    How difficult does Adobe make it for legitimate buyers of the CS6 licence to download a program that they have bought (for a lot of money, I might add).

    The executable file downloaded fine, but I accidentally came out of the browser and of course due to this abort the Adobe servers have frozen out my server. It has been six hours, but I understand that this clears up in a day or so? If not, what are my options please? Thank you for your help.

  5. Staxxx

    Please remove my earlier posts as I was able to download the program later from another point within the Adobe site.

    However, could you please answer one question: What are the pros and cons of downloading both the normal version of CS6 as well as the 64-bit version. Is it better practice to download both? My system is 64-bit and I am wondering why the default is to download both versions rather than a choice based on your system.

    If the 32 bit version is not required I suppose I can go to Uninstall a Program and take it off? Thanks.

    • Hello again Staxxx, Adobe provides both 32-bit and 64-bit versions for many of the CS6 and CC applications, and it’s up to you which you want to install, keep, or run…

      If you have a 64-bit system, then using the 64-bit versions will likely work out the best/fastest for you – and the 32-bit versions are not necessary or required (i.e., you can uninstall or not install them).

  6. Andrea

    Hi there! I have a question, I bought a Wacom tablet and it gave me a serial number for Photoshop Elements, and I’m thinking to give away the code to one of my friends, but I can’t decide to who… Is it possible you can use the same serial number more than once?


  7. Jessica

    I have the adobe creative suite disc and used it on my laptop. That laptop has a virus on it where I can’t even get to the desktop. I tried starting in safe mode and it froze on me :(

    This laptop is around 6 years old, so I am planning to get a new one. If I try to install the creative suite onto my new laptop using the disc, will it work?

  8. Adrienne

    I have a question about CS6 vs CC at work. At work I use a PC with CS6 installed but I have begun to travel more. We haven’t purchased a laptop for me because it would require another license of the full suite. Would CC be a good solution for me? We are also concerned about storage space capabilities with the large files created by Adobe products which is why I am not on a laptop with docking station. I have been researching CC and not sure if it is a right fit for business. Please advise. Thank you!

    • Hi Adrienne, generally laptops these days have quite large disk drives – usually 500 GB or more – so it is unlikely that you will run into any issues with file sizes with Creative Cloud… For example, this new Vizio notebook computer has a 1 TB drive, no problems at all on space.

      Further, the Adobe CC project and data file sizes are broadly comparable to those of CS6, and in fact the CC apps can save back down (export) to CS6 format as needed for interoperability.

      As mentioned in the article above, each CC or CS license sold typically allows installation for a single user on up to two machines. But for a business with multiple users or seats, Adobe recommends Creative Cloud for Teams for maximum flexibility and ease of management.

      Hope that helps answer your questions! Feel free to respond back with any follow-ups.

  9. Kayla

    What academic information do you need to provide for CS6 if you purchase with student discount?

  10. mev

    My Mac hard disk had to be replaced and my CS5.5 has gone from my system and I am now trying to reinstall it (I bought the CS5.5 from the Adobe website online and thus was a download version – not CD). I’ve tried the same steps through Adobe costumer service chat and phone calls – none of which was helpful – no luck.

    After being in touch with the customer service for 2 days, I am still left not knowing how to be able to simply re-install CS5.5 as I need it for University purposes.

    On the other hand, I could very simply reinstall Microsoft Office – also bought at the same time as the adobe CS5.5 in 2011 – to the same computer.

    Please could someone help???

    • Hey Mev, Adobe will keep the software you purchased available for download from your online account for three full years from date of purchase, which you said was in 2011 – so in theory, it should still be there for you.

      Regardless, it’s best to have another copy or offline backup made somewhere, just to be safe and be able to easily reinstall as needed.

      In any event, we do keep all of the Adobe software direct download links as a convenience for our readers, so you should be able to also find those older applications there.

  11. Vicky


    I currently have CS5.5 Design Standard, 1 CD and activation code. I’m thinking of upgrading to CS6 – as it’s now a download, would I be able to activate and run it on multiple machines?

    I know from Adobe and this post I can install it on 2 machines (as long as they are the same OS) and that Adobe say you cannot run on 2 machines at the same time.

    It’s just I work in a small studio of 3 people and 4 computers – just need to know if we upgrade if 3 CS6′s are needed or just 2… (also if we went over to CC if it’ll be classed as 3 upgrades or 2).

    Many thanks

    • Hello Vicky, for both CS6 and CC you can install on up to two systems… It doesn’t matter whether the software comes via download or disc.

      The major differences between CS6 vs CC are that a single license for Creative Cloud can be used on both Windows and Mac OS – plus with CC, both computers that you install to can be used at the same time, however only by a single user.

      In other words, CC is more flexible than CS6 – however in all cases it is still against Adobe’s licensing terms for two different users to try to share a single license at once…

      What you really need instead for that is Creative Cloud for Teams, which allows you purchase the maximum number of simultaneous seats you want, and then flexibly manage and assign those as needed for whoever needs to use the software at any given time. It also gives other additional benefits as well, over and above CC for Individuals.

  12. Jim

    I know I can use CC on 2 computers as long as it’s not at the same time, however can 1 be used on windows based desktop and the 2nd be on my apple laptop? I am a student.

  13. Ruth Nicholls

    Hi, please can you help. I am trying to de-activate CS5 before uninstalling. I have CS6 and am upgrading to Creative Cloud. When I de-activate, under the Help tab, it works fine, I chose not to remove the serial number, just suspend activation. The ‘De-activate…’ button under Help then becomes greyed out as you would expect.

    However, when I re-boot the pc and re-open CS5, the ‘De-activate ..’ button is no longer greyed out. I can go through the de-activation procedure again, but after re-starting CS5 it still appears to be activated, not de-activated. I don’t want to lose the opportunity to use CS5 again in the future, either on this PC (Win7 Pro) or another machine. Can you advise please. Thanks.

    • Hi Ruth, try removing the serial number entirely from the computer, it cannot hurt as you can always manually re-enter at any time on any system…

      In other words, choose the “Deactivate Permanently” option instead of the “Suspend Activation” option. Don’t worry, it doesn’t ever do anything bad.

      But that way, the software won’t automatically reacquire its serial number when you start it again the next time! (which is what’s happening on that computer) Instead, it would enter “free trial” mode.

      For more information, see our Guide to Moving and Deactivating Adobe Software.

      Then once that’s completed, you’re fully deactivated on that machine so just uninstall the program as normal using your operating system, and reboot.

      If you want to be completely “clean,” you can also run Adobe’s Creative Suite Cleaner Tool after uninstalling.

      Hope that does it for you!

    • PS – Note that it’s not a requirement of CC to uninstall any previous versions… All Adobe CS/CC releases are separate and in fact can install and run side-by-side on the same computer, if desired.

      So what that’s saying is that you can keep CS5/CS6/etc on the same machine if you want to, or not – it’s completely your choice.

  14. Ruth Nicholls


    Thank you for your helpful explanation and advice, and the links. Yes I think permanently de-activating is the safest way to go. My operating system drive is a bit small (although image storage drives are huge), so I thought it better to free up the space. Thanks.

  15. Jennie

    Hello. I use a Macbook (the discontinued white model) as my main computer and purchased CS5 for this in April 2011. I have now just purchased a Macbook Air to use out and about as it is much more portable, but it doesn’t have an optical drive so I can’t install CS5 on it from my CS5 disc. I know you can install it on two machines under one licence (but not use the software on both at the same time) – is it possible to download CS5 for my Macbook Air using my licence? Apologies if this answer is already somewhere on your site.
    Many thanks.

  16. Ruth Nicholls


    Hello again, bit more advice needed please. I am trying to use the CC Cleaner tool as you suggested, having permanently de-activated and uninstalled CS5.1 (I have CS6 and CC installed)

    When I get to the screen options to clean up, CS5-5.5 is listed as number 6. So I typed in 6, enter, and the next screen says ‘List of products installed on this machine’ and there is only one. 1. Clean All. ‘Please enter the option number of the product you wish to remove, or q to quit’.

    I am concerned to be sure that if I type 1, it will only clean up CS5 and not my other versions.

    • Hello again Ruth, you’d need to run Adobe’s Cleaner Tool for each different release you want to remove… So, if you want to take off multiple versions, you’d run it multiple times for each one.

      It does them separately so that people can use precision in removing and leaving exactly what they want.

  17. Antoine


    According to the CC EULA, it is not that clear:

    2.1.5 Dual Boot Platform. The Software is licensed for use on a specific operating system platform. Customer must purchase a separate license for use of the Software on each operating system platform. By way of example, if Customer desires to install the Software on both the Mac OS and Windows operating system platforms on a device that runs both of those platforms (i.e., a dual boot machine), then Customer must first obtain two separate licenses for the Software. This is true even if two versions of the Software, each designed for a different operating system platform, are delivered to Customer on the same media.

    Could you help me clarify the situation? Thanks.

    • Hey Antoine, the answer to that is simple – according to the licensing terms, that clause (part of Section 2.1) applies to CS6 and earlier, but does not apply to CC:

      “This Section 2.1 applies to Customers who have purchased a license to the Software but have not purchased a membership-based license or service such as the Creative Cloud membership (as described in Section 2.2).”

      In other words, you can run up to two installations of an individual Creative Cloud license on one or both operating systems (Windows and Mac) and even simultaneously, which is confirmed by Adobe here.

  18. Hi,

    Is there a way to prevent other people from using the same CC for Individual? Lets say a new worker that used CC for Individual quit after a month. How do I prevent he or she to use the CC for Individual from home?

    Thanks in advance!

  19. Diane

    I purchased Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 for my PC and now have a new Macbook Air which I plan on using for all of my photo editing. Is there any way Elements can be transferred from PC to my Macbook Air?

  20. Miles


    Very useful info in your posts above. For CS6, just want to be clear about what Adobe considers to be simultaneous use if CS6 is installed on two computers that I own…

    Can both be activated concurrently but then just used at different times, e.g. on an office machine during the day and a laptop at home in evening?

    In other words, does the limitation on use “at the same time” just mean you can’t run CS on both machines simultaneously? (which would be rather intensive anyway)


  21. john

    I have photoshop elements 12 on two discs and have only ever used the windows version on my laptop, I have presently obtained a copy of photoshop 7 and wish to know if my son could use the copy of elements 12 on his computer.

  22. Sandra Walton

    I’m from the UK and currently taking an extended tour of America. While here the laptop I brought over from England crashed and I’ve bought a new one here in America. I had Photoshop Elements 11 on the ‘dead’ computer but decided to buy Photoshop Elements 13 and Premiere Elements 13 here.

    My question is, can I install the program on my laptop here and also on another one when we get back to the UK?

    • Yes, you should be able to do that Sandra – because the Adobe Photoshop & Premiere Elements line also allows up to two active computer installations per copy of the program, with similar terms.

      Sorry about your laptop but enjoy the rest of your trip!

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