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Home > Tips February 17th, 2015

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 copy of CC/Creative Cloud or CS6 (or CS5 or CS4 or CS3 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.

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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, 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 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.

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 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 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 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 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…

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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 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.

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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 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 want to do both a CS6 upgrade plus a native platform swap, then 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 (old) platform.  For example, if you currently own CS5 on Windows and want to get 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.

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 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 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 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. Choco

    Hi, My school installed the photoshop software for us into my computer, but my computer have been very very slow and I bought a new one recently.

    can i “transfer” the photoshop software to my new computer?

    i do not have any disk or product key with me as the school installed everything for us…

  2. Edwin New


    I have CS6 single-user Win 64 license.

    Can I install CS6 Premiere Pro, After Effects etc on one PC and Adobe Media Encoder on another? I’d like to take the encoding load off of the PC I use for editing. I am hoping I can use a watch folder on shared storage to submit jobs to AME.


  3. AO

    At my job, we want to free up a CS6 license from one of our desktop computers to put on a laptop. The problem is that we have multiple licenses for CS6 on our adobe account. When I click deactivate and then login, will it show me which license I’m deactivating? Or how else can I figure out which licenses we have that are freed up?

  4. amy

    I tried the Product Key Finder app and it didn’t show me the cs6 license (did not deactivate it yet)

  5. Mona

    I had adobe suite installed on my PC through a licensed copy from work. My computer had issues with lack of space and two drives – so I needed to format it which, I have done. Before doing this I copied the files onto a usb, however to reinstall there are lots of folders and no file showing as setup, 13 folders in total, had tried just copying them all across but this didn’t launch the applications.

  6. Mona

    Any advice would be appreciated, unfortunately on logging into my account I hadn’t registered the version.

    • Hi Mona, just copying the existing installed directories between two machines or disks won’t work for moving Adobe software… Generally, you would have to reinstall from scratch onto the new system or disk with your original program installer. If you don’t have your product installer handy, then you can redownload it using our Adobe software direct links. We have both the recent CC releases as well as the old CS versions available there.

      If you also need to recover your serial number for reinstallation, then you can try using the methods described in the article above.

  7. Tim

    In the past, I’ve used an automated tool to transfer CS and other programs from my old PC to a new PC.
    Now that Windows 10 came out, used it again and again successfully.

    You still need to deactivate the license on old machine, of course, but it saves a lot of trouble and transfers settings as well, very useful.

    They actually have a very nice tutorial, even has a video:

    • That’s a very cool new tool, thanks for sharing Tim! You wonder why Microsoft never came up with anything like that.

      Note however it is not free ($119 + tax), so no doubt there are folks who will continue to opt for the old-fashioned failsafe way of transferring programs between computers.

  8. rara

    I have a friend and he has a cs6, I asked him if I could get a copy from his file. When I downloaded the software, it needs a serial number and I don’t know the serial number. He doesn’t also know the serial number. Where can I get a serial number and how? How can I validate it in just 7 days?

  9. Radoslav Dimitrov

    Hi i have a problem. i needed to change my motherboard on my laptop, and after this change when i open adobe product it says that trial is expired. how can i fix this?

    i have registered cs6 photoshop and illustrator and want them to work again :) thanks in advance and have a nice day

  10. NCS

    Hello, Thank you for the nice information. I would like to know, if I move a PC that already has CC license to another country (from Belgium to Bahrain) and add the PC to new domain in Bahrain will it disqualify my license?

    Thank you in advance.

  11. NCS


    Thank you very much for the update.

  12. Trukrebew


    Are InDesign PDF job option settings agnostic between operating system platforms? I’d like to migrate multiple joboptions files from InDesign CS6 on a Mac and load them into InDesign CC (v9) on a Windows cloud server. Will this work or do I have to manually create new files on the server version?

  13. @Trukrebew, yes, joboption files are completely cross-platform. Go right ahead and copy them from one machine to another.

  14. Mike

    I use Adobe CS5.5 and I want to transfer my settings (favorites, keyboard shortcuts etc.) on to the new computer I just bought. How do i do that?

    Thanks for the help!


    • Hey Mike, which programs(s) are you talking about? Before CS6, there usually wasn’t an automated way to transfer or migrate settings within the tools themselves – with a few exceptions, it typically involved copying specific program files from one installation to another. You could google the procedure for the application(s) you want, and see if you can find something.

  15. Mike


    It’s Adobe Audition CS5.5

    I didn’t find anything when googling.

  16. imaad bukhari

    thanks so much. this was really helpful

  17. Alan

    I want to deactivate and remove myself from my licenses entirely. I have CS4 Master Suite and will be doing the CC in the future. I wish to sell my existing program suite and move into creative cloud. grabbing only the ones that I truly use. By selecting “Permenantly Deactivate” will that free up the programs for someone else?

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