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Home > Tips January 6th, 2012

How to Download or Order Prior Adobe Releases like CS4 or CS5

Adobe’s Creative Suite 5.5 has been out since May, and has generally been well-reviewed and even lauded as a must-have release…  Nevertheless, some folks are still looking for or require older versions of the software, like CS5.0 or CS4.  Why?

Two common reasons are the higher system requirements – 64-bit for some components of CS5 like After Effects & Premiere Pro, as well as cases where the rest of a customer’s site is still running an older version and would like to add a new setup with the same compatibility. And occasionally some folks say they prefer the earlier, simpler versions over newer ones with more features.

The challenge is, once a new release comes out, Adobe no longer officially sells the older version (with one exception). So if you need a prior release, what do you do?

How to Order Adobe CS5 or CS5.5

If you want the trial version to use for 30 days, that’s easy – Adobe actually keeps most older original trials still available for download on their servers – including all of CS4 and CS5, plus earlier releases of Acrobat, Lightroom, Elements, etc… You can find those trials all linked for download here:


But how about when you want to actually buy CS4 or CS5?

If you ask Adobe, they’ll usually tell you to check their official list of authorized resellers & retailers to see if someone still has the version you want in stock. The problem is it’s inconvenient to search as often those stocks are thin or sold out, and no longer available.

So, do you turn to other random sources like eBay or Craigslist?  If you’re smart, definitely not – we strongly advise against eBay et al.  So what do you do?

The Solution: Order “Prior-Version Software”

Fortunately, there is an easy solution. It’s little-known, but Adobe actually sells a special type of license that can be “downgraded.” These unique products come from the Adobe Business Store (and are also known as volume licenses) – but you don’t have to be a business to get them, or even buy more than one copy, and they can be easily purchased online instantly with a credit card.

So these “business” licenses have this helpful capability which allows you to order the latest release (like CS5.5 or Acrobat X) but then optionally receive and use the prior version instead (like CS5.0 or CS4, or Acrobat 9).  Here it is spelled out:

Backward Licensing Policy
Adobe allows program members to order a current-version license but to use a prior version. These members can contact Adobe Customer Service to request a serial number for the earlier version if they do not already have one.

Prior-version software is available via Electronic Software Delivery [download from Adobe]. The program member must follow all guidelines of the current-version EULA.

Adobe has a name for this program (which again, anyone can buy from) – it’s called the Transactional Licensing Program (TLP) and it doesn’t cost extra – in fact customers typically get discounts off the regular price. And there are other nice features of these licenses as well, including the ability to run your software multi-platform on both Windows and Mac OS – which is also not possible elsewhere.

So if this is what you need to do now, then you may want to check this out.

[UPDATE – Good news: there is now also the availability of the same volume licensing solution for education purchases, with up to 80% off the regular prices for students, teachers, and schools.]
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  1. Jaime Moyer

    To Whom This May Concern,

    I was given a version of Adobe CS4 Design Premium back in 2009 to use for my online college course, but can’t find the actual CD to install the program on my new laptop. The program is on my old laptop but I’d like to put it onto my newer laptop as well. What should I do?

    Below is the Serial Number for my version of Adobe CS4:

    Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium – XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX

    Thanks,
    Jaime Moyer

  2. Leanette

    I purchased Acrobat 9 Pro back in October 2008 from the Adobe website after a trial version expired, and I never got the thing to work cause it kept asking me for a serial # of a previous version. I never did anything with it till now trying to get it to work (shame on me). Adobe support team is telling me I bought the Upgrade version of Acrobat 9 Pro and I need a serial # of an older version which I explained to them my older version was a trial order and it doesn’t supply me with a serial #. They tell me I need 1 version of the last 3 releases which are no longer available or I can buy another version Acrobat X Pro for $199 or the full version for $499 and that would solve my problem. I already forked out $170 for a version that never worked, why would I pay another $200+ is beyond me. They should of never let me download a version that was evidently missing a prior version, this is shame on them. Does this backward policy work for me for this situation where it doesn’t cost a lot? I don’t mind paying $30 or $40 to fix a mistake of my own, but $200+ is unrealistic. Any suggestion is appreciated. Thanks for your time

    • Hello Leanette, sorry you’ve had some difficulties… What Adobe Support told you sounds right – you accidentally bought an Upgrade version instead of the Full version. The Upgrade version costs less but always requires the presence of a prior release to install. Adobe can’t restrict you from buying those because it’s possible you had owned a prior release from other sources. When you do buy an Upgrade version, the system asks you which prior release you already own – but since you never owned the free trial version, that couldn’t count.

      Typically when something like that happens the buyer contacts Adobe Customer Service and then returns the product within 30 days for a refund or exchange. Since you didn’t do that, it may be past the window of Adobe doing that – but that’s something only they can tell you.

      We unfortunately can’t offer much advice except to buy the Full version, like Acrobat Standard (less expensive) or Pro. We definitely do not recommend trying to find a “cheap” prior release on someplace like eBay – that will likely end you up with an even bigger problem than you have now. And the technique outlined in the article above won’t help in your particular situation.

      Anyway, hope that helps at least a little – take care and good luck!

  3. Gaby

    I clicked the link that is supposed to enable you to download a trial version of Adobe Premiere CS4 directly from Adobe but when it redirects to Adobe it says “sign in to resume download” and only brings me to the CS5 downloads page. What do I do?

  4. tracy

    I am trying to buy Adobe CS5 Design Standard. I need the older version to be compatible with the company I design for. I do qualify for an education discount, but don’t understand from this post how to do so. I tried calling Adobe directly and the person I talked to told me he could sell me CS5 and I actually bought it. But it’s CS 5.5 not CS5.

    :( please help. I guess I don’t fully understand how to purchase the license and which one to buy.

    • No problem Tracy. We’ll square that up right away.

      First step, return what you bought under Adobe’s Return Policy to get your money back refund rolling.

      Then go to Adobe’s online Volume Licensing Store (for Education here, for regular or Commercial here) – and order the same CS5.5 product – but this time it will be a volume license. (Don’t worry, even individuals can buy a volume license and just one copy.)

      Now that you have Design Standard in a volume license, you can take advantage of Adobe’s Backward Licensing Policy… Follow the instructions in the grey box in the article above, and then Adobe will send you the older version software instead – the CS5.0 that you need.

      Does that help clear it up?

  5. Tracy

    Ok I got my product returned. Now I just need to get the license so I can finally use CS5.

    But I have a couple more questions. First, is it really that much more to get a license over the software? I believe it says the license for Design Premium would be 600 with the education discount, but the regular software was just $320? (im poor).

    Also when I buy the CS5.5 license , but get a serial # for CS5 do I have the ability to upgrade later for free? Thanks for all your help!

  6. Alan

    The CS4 links do not work any more at Adobe. Any other places to get the software as my disc is damaged.

  7. Alan

    Ok sorry, follow the instructions. Got it, downloading now.

    Thanks very much.

  8. Kristen

    Yes, this trick will work, but Adobe isn’t so keen on it. Got the huge run-around from Adobe. I finally gave up.

    Soon after purchasing Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Premium one year ago, I was eligible for a free upgrade to CS5.5. I did not download my free upgrade in time, not realizing there would be a time limit, which in turn creating this future problem.

    They are selling only CS6. This is a problem as I only have Mac OS 10.5.8 on my desktop and my daughter’s laptop. CS6 needs OS 10.6 to run. I did the Business Volume License and created an account, put the correct CS5.5 in shopping cart, purchased it for $20. It states Serial Number Required. I then called to purchase the CS6 upgrade, which I wanted to Downgrade the serial number to CS5.5, as desired. They wanted me to pay $749 for the upgrade! They did also mention that if Adobe comes out with a revised version of CS6 in the near future, the Volume License people will not qualify for special pricing. A full version will need to be purchased.

    I was not able to purchase it from the Educational site either, as I had established a Business License, although I qualify for Educational pricing.

    I am having an awful time when people send me IDML files. I often cannot open them. Adobe was no help. I had three service calls. There was no resolution. The IDML files all opened on the demo version of InDesign CS5.5 and CS6 no problem, but not in my CS5. I opened the file and exported as an IDML just as requested. I did all the troubleshooting they recommended. Going from school to home should be seamless!

    After many, many hours (three days!) of trying to get this to work, I finally just purchased a full Educational version on Amazon.com. Much cheaper, and the correct version. All I wanted was to buy the correct version from Adobe so my kids won’t have trouble opening their files from school. You’d think that they don’t have any old boxes laying around! Geesh!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kristen. Yes, it’s true that Adobe will not sell you an old box of prior software – what’s outlined above is really the only way to do it if you want to buy an older release from the company.

      They will also charge you the regular cost to buy or upgrade to CS6, even if you want to downgrade back to a previous version… So that’s why the price was $749 – because that’s the normal cost of an upgrade from CS5 -> CS6 Design Premium.

      But it sounds like you could definitely have done what’s described in the article if you wanted, Adobe wasn’t really stopping you from doing this – they were just following the standard guidelines.

      Lastly, as far as trying to find safe/legitimate old Adobe software from other sources – it’s highly problematic and we very strongly advise against unauthorized places like eBay, Amazon Marketplace, Craigslist, and the like. You probably should read this related story if that’s the route you tried.

  9. Kristen

    Maybe should have read your “related story” thoroughly first. Maybe if the package is unopened, I can return it. I didn’t think of Malware being embedded on it. Ugh! I just hoped there’d be an easier way. I paid the traditional cost for the Educational version, but that would not be worth the price if my computer gets screwed up.

    • Oh that’s good news Kirsten, it sounds you haven’t actually tried to install it yet… Did you purchase it from a “Marketplace” vendor, or from Amazon itself? That is a critical distinction.

      Usually you can’t buy older Adobe versions from Amazon themselves – only from random and untrustable third parties via the Amazon.com site, which is why we so strongly recommend against it… Adobe is trying to address this with their new policy that upgrades can only be purchased direct starting with CS6.

      Sorry there isn’t an easier and safer solution! Here is a list of authorized resellers if you want to try to find an guaranteed authentic older version from anywhere else besides Adobe. It’s a bit like finding hen’s teeth though.

      Note that if you do upgrade to CS6 via Adobe and then request a downgrade to CS5.5, you should be able to jump back up to CS6 gratis in the future at your discretion, if you ever wish or need to. Good luck!

  10. @ ProDesignTools

    I also bought Design Creative Suite in 2009, I have a new computer and I am getting a licensing Error. I have my serial number, I need to download the Creative Suite again but your link does not work.

    I have the serial number but I don’t have the CD.

    Suzanne

    • Hi Suzanne, are you referring to Adobe direct download links? Have you carefully followed the instructions on the page for the version you’re looking for?

      If you have any difficulties with those links, please see the comments and suggestions there… Then once you get the right trial downloaded and installed, entering your valid purchased serial number should convert it into a permanent version.

  11. Dida

    Hi, my daughter recently bought a new Mac Pro laptop with Lion on it and tried to install CS4 Design on it, but it would not even load on her computer.. she was told at Apple store that she would need to get onto Adobe and download a driver for it… is this right, and if so how does she go about doing it please.

  12. Kenn Neyland

    Looking for an InDesign CS program, or something that will allow me to open my InDesign files transferred to my new computer, using Windows 7. I understand that InDesign CS will not work on 7, so what other InDesign program would work, thanx

    KN

  13. Sonya

    I have my active serial number for CS5 Production Premium but I no longer have the CD (thanks to a not so honest friend) and Adobe no longer shows a download for it. I tried to download a trial version and then I would just add my serial number, but I can’t seem to download it. It goes through the motions, but after an hour there is nothing on my computer.

    Any help is appreciated.

  14. Sade

    I have CS4 working on two systems. I recently changed to a Mac and installed the CS4 on Parallels desktop. I deactivated one of the CS4 copies running on the PC systems to activate it on the Mac. It did for the first time I ran it. However the next time I ran Dreamweaver it tells me I need to deactivate on one system as my licence is only for 2 systems. I have tried reinstalling and I cant get it to change its mind. Can you help?

    • I wish we could help Sade, but the only people who can fix these types of licensing issues are Adobe themselves…

      But it’s easy enough – just contact them directly (their Customer Service online chat is usually the fastest/easiest) and ask that they remove all the activations they have for your serial number. Then their database will be reset, and you can reactivate or install on whatever two machines you like.

      Hope this helps!

  15. Lee

    Hi!

    I know this is an old post and all but I have a few questions…

    Firstly, I have Creative Suite 2 Premium (student if that matters) and want to upgrade it to the highest available level due to the fact that I have a 64-bit Windows 7 laptop and NOW am having problems with the software. It worked fine up till I had to recently re-install my OS due to a faulty driver download from Windows that crashed my computer, but now with Photoshop CS2 especially, it will start up fine and work for a little while then something happens and it won’t let me open ANY menu options, it won’t let me save either from keyboard shortcuts or from the Menu (due to the menu drop-down won’t open at all), when I try to close the program via the ‘X’ it just gives me a Windows error sound and the ‘X looks greyed out, I use a Wacom tablet and when i right-click to get a tool option half if not most of the option window is COMPLETELY blocked out by the BG colour of the main program, and when I try to re-size a document in the window the scrollbars don’t resize, instead they stay put and the space to the right of them turns a light grey and the widow doesn’t resize. I figure my problem is the programs’ incompatibility with Windows 7… It just confuses me due to the fact that my computer was Vista before the upgrade to 7 and my Creative Suite worked just fine and after the upgrade it worked too! But then I had the reinstall of the OS and now I have this problem…

    Secondly, can I upgrade to a normal version of CS5 or 5.5 even though I have CS2? Or do I have to start new and buy CS in full…again? or do I HAVE to stay with Student software?

    Thirdly, I can’t find the programs on Adobe’s site and the links I find are for CS6. I don’t want to go to Amazon.ca to buy the programs…I would PREFER Adobe but I can’t find the programs, or the pricing!

    Fourthly, I know I’m probably too late but, is Adobe still offering the option to upgrade for free to CS6 when you purchase the CS5 or 5.5? I didn’t have internet for majority of the year from Oct last year to about June of this year due to me moving around and now FINALLY settling down here in Saskatchewan. So, I have just heard about these offers from Adobe about the 20% off and 50% off when you purchase an older version of the program (CS5 or CS5.5) and get a free upgrade to CS6.

    Any help will be GREATLY appreciated…I have been battling with this for a while now.

    Cheers,
    Lee

    • Welcome Lee, CS2 is almost eight years old and apparently Windows 7 does have issues with it, and whether you can get yours working we cannot say.

      But as you read in our article, Adobe will only sell earlier versions of Creative Suite software when purchased as described above – basically buying CS6 through the Volume Licensing program and then ‘downgrading’ it.  Outside of that, you will only ever see the current release mentioned and sold on their site.

      Regardless, CS2 is too far back to qualify for discounted upgrade pricing any longer – that ended when CS6 came out… and the grace period for free upgrades that you mention also finished at that same time.

      (The reason is Adobe’s Upgrade Policy which goes up to three versions back from CS6 – although this is about to change to only one version back.)

      So you’re thinking, maybe I can still locate an older upgrade somewhere else? Well, trying to find legitimate prior Adobe software like CS5 is difficult and dangerous, and we emphatically recommend against it.

      But there’s good news. It sounds like you’re still a student – and while you can never upgrade to later Adobe education versions, you can still purchase full new CS6 academic editions for up to 80% off the regular price. So that would definitely be your best option in our view – and you will like CS6 a lot better than CS2.

      Anyway, hope this helps – and answers all your questions!

  16. Lee

    Hello,

    Almost 8 years old! Wow I didn’t think it was that old…definitely time for an upgrade!

    Anyway, thank you for all your help, I will take it into consideration and head to Adobe and get the upgrade.

    Thank you again for everything!

    Cheers,
    Lee

  17. So I am teaching some technology classes at my school and would like to buy either the Design Standard or Design and Web Premium. The prices I’m seeing for education (for CS6) are $350 and $450, respectively. According to your article, though, I’m able to get a downgraded license key and save even more money? I wouldn’t mind getting CS5 or even CS4. I have two questions…

    1) How much money would it save? Is there any way to find out before actually buying it?

    2) At what point do you downgrade… after you “buy” it or beforehand?

    Thanks in advance!

  18. Or I’m assuming it doesn’t save any money…?

    • Hi Chris, thanks for your questions. Here are the answers:

      a) The prices you quoted for the CS6 Student & Teacher Editions sound right.

      b) By downgrading the release as described above, you don’t save any money – you just get an older version instead, if that’s what you need to be compatible with your office configuration or classroom setup.

      c) Trying to see if you can save a few bucks by looking for old Adobe software is fraught with peril and definitely not recommended.

      d) If you want to get the prior version product per the procedure above, then you would order the downgrade after you buy it from Adobe.

      Hope this clears it up – if you have any further questions then just post back!

  19. Michael

    If I already have a serial number and all I need are the discs to load CS4 on my new computer, just as long as I’m sure the disc sold on Craigslist or eBay or a garage sale is the correct media, won’t my old serial number be able to activate CS4 if I still have 1 license activation available?

  20. Christina

    From what I understand, CS6 Student & Teacher Editions are now subscriptions, rather than a one-time purchase. I would prefer to have CS5 or CS5.5. While I’m still a bit unclear about the process of buying the software and downgrading it, if I managed to do that, would I still have to make subscription payments to keep CS5?

    To further complicate matters, I have one Mac and one PC that I would want to install the software on. Since one license purchase comes with at least two activations, is there any way to buy a multi-platform version instead of buying two different versions and paying twice the price?

    Thank you for your help.

    • Hey there Christina, this is a common misconception – it’s not true that CS6 is now a subscription. In fact, you can still buy all of last year’s original CS6 versions direct from Adobe with traditional/perpetual licensing, either for students and teachers with the standard education discount, or for regular commer­cial home/office customers

      What is true is that the all-new Adobe CC release (which follows CS6) is now available only via Creative Cloud membership or through a Single-App subscription. And there are also academic or student/teacher editions of CC offered which receive 60% discounts on the regular price.

      Which you choose is up to you – and here is a very helpful comparison chart of the two options (with all the pros & cons) that should assist in making your decision.

      Importantly, you do get two machine activations in each case. Note however that with CS6, you cannot run on both Windows and Mac systems and would have to buy two copies; however with all CC apps and Creative Cloud you can install and use on both operating systems with a single purchase.

      Hope this helps, and if you have any further questions then just post back!

      PS – In any event, you do not want to try to find older versions like CS5 or CS5.5 – it’s highly problematic, unsafe, and you will likely be ripped off (or worse).

  21. Debbie

    I manage a team consisting 11 employees and we are currently using CS3 standard. A team of two whom we work with uses CS4 Standard. This totals 13 people. Is it possible to get the CS5 Standard software or CS5.5 Standard software as user licenses for 13 people? Or buy the full version of CS5 or CS5.5 and 12 licenses?

  22. PJ

    Hi there, hope you can help! I have CS3 Premium on my Mac, and a friend just discovered they have an un-opened upgrade pack to CS5.5 Design Standard which I’d love to be able to use because I want to take some courses and require at least CS5 for them.

    Thing is, the box says it is an Upgrade from 4 to 5.5 and I must have CS4 – “To install the following, you must have one of the following: Adobe Creative Suite 4 -Design Standard, Design Premium, ..all the various permutations to.. Master Collection).” Is this strictly true? I’ve seen a lot of forums talking about jumping straight up from CS3 to 5 and nothing about there being an enforced stepped upgrade, where you have to have CS4 to get to 5. Adobe, predictably, just wants to sell me CS6 and isn’t very creative in helping me continue using their products the way I’d like….

    It’s a full version, not an edu/student one and it’s plastic wrapped, so I need best guess info – because if it’s not right for me, my friend would like to try to sell it. What say you??

  23. PJ

    PS: The product is real – the packaging checks out against your posted images with the hologram

    • Hello PJ, thanks for your questions. First off, just because it looks real doesn’t mean it is… But if your friend is sure he bought it from a known, reputable vendor then it’s probably safe.

      However, if it’s an upgrade from CS4 to CS5.5, but you only have CS3, then you can’t use it. Adobe codes and prices their suite upgrades based on how far the distance is between the versions. So, a CS4 to CS5/CS6 upgrade would cost less than a CS3 to CS5/CS6 upgrade.

      Your friend could try to sell it, but probably won’t have much luck on eBay, which is terrible for Adobe software.

      So what are your other options?

      For you, personally, you’d need a specific CS3-coded upgrade – or just upgrade to CC where you still get a discount because you’re a CS customer.

  24. Sharon

    I have a copy of indesign cs3, but no key code. I have it installed on my desktop, but need to put it on my laptop. Can I get a code to install this program. I don’t need a later version for what I do with this program as i don’t use it all that often.

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