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Home > Tips February 17th, 2016

How to Move Creative Cloud or CS6 from One Computer to Another

Transfer Adobe Software Between Two Computers

OK, so your old computer is running out of gas, you’re upgrading or changing systems, adding a new machine, or switching from a PC to a Mac, or vice versa — and you want to move over your copy of CC/Creative Cloud or CS6 (or CS5 or CS4 or CS3) Adobe software — what do you do, and how do you do it? Just follow our complete guide below, which also works for other Adobe desktop products such as Acrobat, Elements, Lightroom, Captivate, and more.

As we’ve covered previously here, you are generally allowed to install and activate most Adobe software on up to two computers, with the restriction that the software can not used on both systems at the same time. So right off the bat, you might be good to go with installing the software on a second computer, although you may wish to double-check the licensing agreement for your product to be sure.

Deactivating Your Old System First

Adobe uses software activation to control how many of your computers are able to run their apps like CC and CS6. So if you’re already at your limit of two computers and want to transfer your license over to a new or different system, then first you should deactivate the software from the old computer. In the program, click Help > Deactivate (for CC, it’s Help > Sign Out), and then follow the instruc­tions to deactivate the software. If you have a suite edition or Creative Cloud, then deactivating any single application on your machine will deactivate them all.

Note: You may see two choices on the Deactivation screen – if so, then what’s the difference between Suspend Activation vs. Deactivate Permanently? The answer is that both will properly deactivate your product on that computer. But the first (“suspend”) will keep your serial number stored in the Windows registry just in case you ever want to quickly reactivate the same software on the same computer later, without having to reenter it. However there is no harm in choosing the second (“permanently”) option, because you can always later reactivate the same product on the same machine by just retyping the license key. In other words, it’s basically a conven­ience factor to store your SN.

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Deactivation is different from uninstallation. If you’re permanently uninstalling Adobe software from a computer, then deactivate it first to ensure its license is freed up. If you deactivate but don’t uninstall, the next time you run Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Acrobat, etc. on that computer, you’ll be asked for a serial number or to start a 30-day free tryout period.

If you can’t deactivate the software because your disk drive crashed or you changed/upgraded your hardware or you otherwise can’t access your program – and you don’t have Creative Cloud – then you may need to contact Adobe Customer Service to deactivate it for you on their end using your serial number.

After uninstalling any version of CS or CC, you can run the Adobe Cleaner Tool if you like to make sure it’s completely removed from your old system.

Setting Up Your New System

Now you’ll need two things: the software installation files (or discs), and the product’s serial number itself. Note for the Creative Cloud, this doesn’t apply – see the next section instead.

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If you purchased the software but lost the serial number or no longer have it readily available, the first place to check is your online Adobe account. You will have one if you ever registered the program, or if you purchased it directly from Adobe… Just log in with your Adobe ID and all your serial numbers will be listed there.  If you don’t see it, then try registering your product now and see if it appears there. As a last resort, you may be able to retrieve it from the computer itself using a free utility like Belarc Advisor (Windows) or Product Key Finder (Mac) – which will recover and tell you the activation keys for the programs on your system.

And if you’ve lost or can’t find your original installation file or CD/DVD, or if your machine doesn’t have a disc drive, then you can download and install a free trial of your application from Adobe servers onto your new computer, and that will convert to a full and permanent version when you enter your valid SN.

OK, once deactivation is complete, you are free to go ahead and enter your serial number key to activate a copy of the software installed elsewhere, or use it to reactivate the same applica­tion on that PC after reinstalling (for example, if you are changing disk drives or upgrading operating systems).  And you should be all set.

Note: When [re]installing an upgrade version of Adobe Creative Suite, if you don’t have your prior release already installed on that same computer, then you’ll have to manually input that older license key when prompted by the setup process. In other words, you’ll need to enter two serial numbers, the old and the new. If you are continuing to use your prior release, then per Adobe licensing requirements it must be on the same computer(s) as the upgrade version.

If you run into any problems with the deactivation/reactivation process, you’ll have a 30-day window during which the software will work in trial mode to give you enough time to contact Adobe Support and get things resolved.

Putting the Creative Cloud on More than One Computer

All of this becomes much easier with the new Creative Cloud memberships as well as with single-tool CC subscriptions, because these products are no longer activated using serial numbers but instead with your Adobe ID login. So moving the software to a new system (multiple machines) is really just a matter of visiting the Creative Cloud Download Center and then downloading whatever CC apps you want…

Adobe Creative Cloud Growing Fast, Now Millions of Paid Subscribers (Click to Enlarge)

When the tools finish installing, just log in and the CC software will auto­matically be (re)activated on the new hardware for you, even if you didn’t happen to deactivate first on the old machine. You’ll see a screen that says Maximum Activations Exceeded but just click “Continue” and let the reactivation happen. This makes it straight­forward to switch your CC applications to a different system when needed – like when a computer crashes or is otherwise not available, when traveling or away from home, when temporarily using a third machine, and so on.

For more details, see this CC Help Page.

Creative Cloud and single-app subscribers can also skip the next two sections, as your CC products are already capable of flexibly running on both operating system platforms (both Windows and Mac OS), as well as freely switching between different languages as desired. All Adobe CS products, by contrast, are licensed for a single language on a single operating system.

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How to Switch Platforms from PC to Mac (or Vice Versa)

Now how about if you want to change platforms, like from Windows to Mac, or vice versa? The easiest thing to do is get Creative Cloud, because (as mentioned above) a single CC license will run freely on both operating systems. For Creative Suite, it gets more complicated, because all CS software is licensed for a single operating system only. So if you are making a switch and want to take your Creative Suite 6 license with you (or upgrade from CS3, CS4, CS5 or CS5.5 to CS6), then you can do what’s called a “crossgrade” between platforms, which is no charge to you (except nominal shipping costs) and can be submitted online directly through Adobe Customer Service.

All product configurations (including Student and Teacher Editions) are eligible for exchange.

There are a few provisos. One is you need to have a registered serial number to qualify (but that just takes a few minutes if you haven’t already). You must also be prepared to deactivate and delete the existing software from your computer and destroy any existing copies, as they will no longer be valid. But perhaps the most important is that you can’t cross-grade from a version older than CS6 to the same prior version — you can only move to the last perpetual version (which was CS6), paying any appli­cable upgrade costs.  If you have CS6 already, then there should be no additional cost.

How to Change from One Language or Country to Another

Note that this same procedure will also work for requesting a change from one language set to another for a given Adobe CS6 application… Just follow the crossgrade process described above – but choose a new and different language on the form, instead of a different platform.

And the same goes if you want to move your residence to a different country or region, because the product language will usually be different in your new geography (even for English). For example, in the U.S. the language edition is “Universal English,” whereas overseas it’s “International English,” or another language.

After swapping platforms or languages, you cannot cross back to your original platform or language version. No more than five total (lifetime) cross-platform or cross-language upgrades or swaps are allowed per customer, regardless of the product. Software purchased second-hand or from an auction site such as eBay is not eligible for swaps.

There are some important exceptions here. The Adobe Lightroom and Elements lines are now sold as multiplatform and multilanguage software, so would not require a crossgrade. The same also goes for all Creative Cloud and Adobe CC products, because all languages and platforms are automat­ically included and you can freely and easily switch between them at any time.

Hopefully that should do it!  Please let us know if this article helped you out, or any questions you may have in the comments below.

If you’d like to move away from shuffling serial numbers altogether, check out Creative Cloud for Teams to simplify management instead of single-user copies… With straightforward per-seat pricing, you get a flexible license that includes powerful workgroup collaboration capabilities plus expert support for your entire team.

See Also

Download New Adobe CC 2015 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. melody

    I am an artist shopping for a used Mac Book Pro, probably, circa 2010 because of budget restraints. I have found some on the Internet for sale with CS6 installed. Is this lawful? What is the skinny on that? How would I guard against receiving stolen property? Are there any other cautions? i.e. Is it legal to buy CS6 or older versions used? How can I be sure that I have the correct security code?

  2. I have two computers (laptop and desktop) I would like Photoshop to run on. I have a CC subscription, but how can I sync actions, workspaces etc between the two machines?

  3. Where it says the feature has been removed…

    After some Googling, I manually copied the preference file from one computer to the other, which seems to have worked, but it is pretty kludgy, and only works one way. I’m also not sure if I just got lucky, or if this could break something…

  4. Chloe

    Hi, thanks for this article, it’s been a great help! However, I’m stuck at the point of having a free trial of Photoshop on my new laptop and the full, registered old version on my old machine: how do I change the freebie to the full version? I can’t find where to put the serial number. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Chloe, which version(s) are we talking about? It’s different between CS and CC.

      But normally the free Adobe trials will let you know where/when you need to sign in or to enter a serial number to activate the software.

  5. Chloe

    Oh dear, I bought my version of Photoshop in 2008, I guess I have no hope of getting it onto my Macbook Air then. Is there really nothing I can do? I didn’t see anything open up when I installed the free trial. Thanks for the quick reply!

  6. Chloe

    CS4 on 2008 MB Pro, El Capitan 10.11.1 on the MB Air – bit of a hardware leap for us! I wondered if it would be possible to bring the two machines closer in order to make the jump across to the new machine: if I updated PS on the Pro and installed an older trial version? Does that make sense?! I can’t see any other way and I really don’t want to have to buy the whole package again: it seems crazy.

    I’m curious about the subscription: I only ever use PS, but I do use it on a daily basis: do you really think it makes sense to subscribe monthly? I hate the idea of an indefinite length of monthly payments, but ti seems the only option if I can’t upgrade on the new laptop.

    Many thanks for your help, it is much appreciated!

    • Well, there’s simply no way you can run old Adobe software like CS4 on a new Mac computer – nor is there any way that you can run new Adobe software like CC 2015 on an old Mac computer from 2008…

      So to run Photoshop on your Macbook Air with El Capitan, really the only way to go is with the latest-and-greatest version via the CC Photography Plan. See here for more details:

      Adobe Gives Ongoing Discount for Photoshop + Lightroom CC Bundle

      If it’s any consolation, to buy Photoshop used to cost $999 upfront plus $349 upgrades, and now you only have to pay $9.99/month for Photoshop CC with ongoing upgrades included, plus you get Lightroom too!

  7. Howard Elton

    I have dual boot windows and linux. When I boot linux, I access the same windows partition via virtualbox (through a tricky disk mount). I have managed to trick windows into not asking for reactivation by setting the physical disk ID in the virtual MBR I have created. However Adobe CC (and Norton) are both smart enough to think the hardware has changed and say they are on trial mode. Do you know what hardware information Adobe CC is looking at to determine if it should deactivate?

  8. Bri

    I want to transfer CS6 from my old desktop to my new one but didn’t deactivate the old adobe first before I switched. What can I do now?

  9. Bri


    thank you for such a quick reply! helpful and appreciated, your customer support is better than adobe itself!

  10. My old Mac Pro 1,1 is rapidly running out of time due to OS Lion running out of support. I bought a used Mac Pro 5,1 on ebay. These two computers use the same SATA drives, so my plan is to deactivate the Adobe software on the old computer, then move the hard drive to the new (used) computer and reactivate the software.

    The programs will all be already installed. Will this work?

    • Sounds like it should work actually Mark. It would effectively be like deactivating/uninstalling on one machine and then reinstalling/reactivating on another. Only it’s the same disk drive, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

  11. Thanks. I’ve got my fingers crossed. Keep yours crossed for me. (i’ll uncross them while I am working on the computer).

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