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How to Move CS6 or Creative Cloud 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 purchased CS6 (or CS5 or CS4 or CS3 or CC/Creative Cloud or any other) Adobe software — what do you do, and how do you do it? Just follow our complete guide below.

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 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.

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, or any of the other CS6 applications 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 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, you can run the Creative Suite 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.

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

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 software, 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 from XP or Vista to Windows 7 or 8, etc.).  And you should be all set.

Note: When [re]installing an upgrade version of Adobe software, 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 are no longer activated using serial numbers but instead with your Adobe ID login. So moving the products 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…

Try the Creative Cloud Completely Free

When the tools finish installing, just log in and the software will auto­matically be (re)activated on the new hardware for you, even if you didn’t happen to deactivate 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 apps to a different system when needed, like when a computer crashes or is otherwise not available, when traveling or away from home, etc.

Creative Cloud and single-app members can also skip the next two sections, as your 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.

Special: Check out Adobe’s Black Friday deals – or win our new CC 2014 Giveaway!

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

Now how about if you’re also changing platforms, like from Windows to Mac, or vice versa – and want to take your Creative Suite 6 license with you, and/or upgrade from CS3, CS4, CS5 or CS5.5 to CS6 while making the switch? After completing the deactivation process above it gets a little more complicated, because most Adobe software is licensed for a single platform only. But you can do what’s called a “crossgrade” from one to the other natively, 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 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 you can’t cross-grade from an older version to the same prior version — you can only move to the latest perpetual version (the last one being CS6), paying any appli­cable upgrade costs…  If you have CS6 already, then there should be no additional cost.

So if you need to do both an upgrade and a platform swap, the fastest and easiest way is to first buy the upgrade online and then submit the crossgrade onlineGood news! It’s simpler now with CS6, you can easily change platforms when upgrading as normal – just select the correct operating system when purchasing the upgrade. Then when you install that upgrade software on your new platform, it will ask for the serial number of your previous version from the other platform.  For example, if you currently own Photoshop CS5 on Windows and want to get Photoshop CS6 on Mac, then just buy the CS6 upgrade for Mac OS, and manually enter the serial number for your older Windows version when installing it.

To get started right away, you can simply download and run the 30-day free trial while you’re waiting for the new box and serial number to arrive – and then later just convert the trial into a permanent full version with the license key for your new platform.

Of course, if you purchased CS6 within the past 30 days and got the incorrect platform or language version of your product, then it’s even simpler – just return the software and get the right one instead.

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.

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 the new 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 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. Arif

    @ProDesignTools

    Thanks for your reply. Actually I have a 2 user paper volume license, the serial for both the software is same. If Adobe resets the license activation, then I have the reactivate both the machines?

  2. Karl

    My laptop fried and i have a new computer – how do i redownload the programs? Every time i try to do it, it says i have to either buy or do the trial version

  3. Paula

    I purchased a refurbished Macbook mid-2010; I never even thought to how much VRAM I would need. Consequently, I am unable to run Creative Cloud on my macbook; I still have a copy of CS5 and have deactivated the serial on my windows laptop, but when I try to enter the serial number on my macbook, it says the serial number is not valid for that product.

    I do notice that when I log in to my Adobe account, I seem to have two serial numbers: CS5 and CS5.1 so I’ll try the other serial and see if works.

    But I do want to say that I could not find the “Get Support” option to apply for a crossgrade anywhere. I followed the instructions on the link given above, but there is not “get support” option from the page when I log in.

    • Hello Paula, sorry you’re having difficulties. With CS6 and earlier software, you cannot run a Windows license natively on a Mac, nor run a Mac license natively on Windows – you will get that “invalid serial number” message if you try.

      Instead, you have to do a crossgrade or platform swap as you mentioned. But importantly, you don’t need to get any special support to achieve that any longer! You just go ahead and buy the CS6 upgrade direct from Adobe for the changed operating system that you want… CS6 will then install and run on the new platform even if your older serial number (CS5 in your case) is coming from the other o/s.

      Note that crossgrades themselves are becoming obsolete because the newer Adobe releases (CC & Creative Cloud) will run flexibly on both Windows and Mac, for up to two computers and even at the same time. However, if you want to do a crossgrade for the older Creative Suite versions, then you must be talking about running or upgrading to the last one (CS6) as it is not possible for anything prior, like CS5, CS4, etc.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Mick

    Hi,

    I intend to buy CS 6 Master Collection and have just found a Mac version (at a trustworthy, established shop) which is quite a bit cheaper than the Windows version I actually need.

    Is the crossgrade option still valid as of now? I would buy the CS6 MC for Mac at once in that case, but at the moment I am a bit worried that I will be either forced to upgrade to CC (“latest version”) or – even worse – to not be able to crossgrade at all and then having spent much money on a version unusable for me.

    Thanks in advance for your answer!
    Cheers,
    Mick

  5. JY

    Hello,

    I’m currently running CS6 on a PC – and will be switching to a Mac OS X soon. Is there no other option but to upgrade to Creative Cloud? I bought the entire CS6 suite less than a few years ago, and it does everything I need it to (therefore no real need to upgrade), besides switching platforms. I don’t need the software on both operating systems, as I will not be using Windows anymore.

    It seems a bit ridiculous to have to pay 360 for the first year of CC, and then 600/year for years to come (nearing almost 3K in payments after 5 years), for a slightly updated version of software I already own. I was told that Lightroom 5 can be used cross-platform, but I do not have that version (running LR 3.6), which means I will have to either again, subscribe to CC and pay monthly, or fork over 100 for a download (still available).

    Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated — thanks

    • Greetings JY, in fact Adobe’s latest CC 2014 release of creative software is significantly evolved from CS6 – it’s been 2½ years with over 1,000 new features and improvements since CS6 in early 2012…

      Nevertheless, you can’t miss what you haven’t been running, so we understand your perspective. Please see our previous replies to Mick and Paula above, just ahead of your comment… If you are on CS6, then you may be able to do an operating system swap to change platforms from Windows to Mac.

      As for Lightroom, it is indeed multi-platform already – yes, even Lightroom 3 from 2010. So you should be able to run that version on either Mac or Windows.

      Hope that addresses your questions in their entirety; if not then just post back!

  6. Mick

    @ProDesignTools

    Thank you very much for your answer. I don’t worry much about my health :) as this indeed was a “real”, certified shop – and neither Craigslist, nor Marketplace, nor eBay or anything else which might be considered fishy. As a matter of fact, however, the price they offered has been caused by an error in their database as I was told, and now has returned to its normal (uncomfortable) amount.

    So I’ll have to go with the normal Windows version, directly from Adobe, after all. At least that way I don’t have to worry about crossgrades and the like.

    Thanks again!

  7. Vicki Kendrigan

    Hi.

    I need to do a reformat on this computer. After deactivation of Adobe PS CC and Lightroom do I need to uninstall them as well. I am running Windows 7.

    Thank you

    • Hi Vicki, good question. No, you don’t need to uninstall the software if you don’t want to… The key thing for moving/keeping the licenses is doing the product deactivation or sign-out (from the Help menu), as you did.

  8. Vicki Kendrigan

    @ProDesignTools

    Thankyou for your reply, I have successfully re-installed all my programs…phew :)

  9. Bart

    Hello, I got a question that combines different types of issues. I have a MacBook Pro and a desktop PC @home. So it is not possible to use the license on both?

  10. Bart

    @Bart

    Sorry, I have found the answer here…unfortunately it is ‘no’ :p

  11. Steve

    I mainly work in illustrator and Photoshop. Many of my illustrator files have multiple placed .psd files within them. I just purchased a new 5k iMac.. What is the best way to transfer the files to my new machine so that they retain their linked image information? Illustrator is looking for the placed .psd files, even though I’ve placed them in the same spot on the new machine. This could mean hours of looking for and re-linking Photoshop files within my illustrator documents.

    Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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