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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.

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. Joe

    @ProDesignTools

    So, I re-contacted Adobe this afternoon. The representative was able deactivate Photoshop. It seems to me that the rep was able to differentiate each installation. One on a desktop, the other on a laptop. Could that be?

    Thanks for your suggestion!

  2. terra lynn

    Question… I contacted Adobe about doing a platform change (going from pc to mac) with the CS5 extended version and was told I can not do this. Any advice? I really don’t want to do a CC membership since I already have LR4 and they said that I can cross platforms with that program…

    • Hi Terra, what Adobe told you is correct, unfortunately you cannot switch platforms with an older version of the software – it has to be a release that Adobe is still selling…

      In which case, that means only CS6.

      The newer (latest) CC version does not need platform swaps because a single CC license can already run on up to two systems, either a PC or a Mac interchangeably.

      Sorry to say we don’t really have any suggestions for you, as there aren’t any other ways around this.

      But besides being multiplatform, other advantages of CC are getting to use Lightroom 5 instead of LR4, plus of course all of the latest new features and enhancements (performance & fixes) in CC vs. older releases.

  3. terra lynn
  4. Tony Jones

    hi, my hard drive crashed, i do have a cc account – can you send me a link to re-install?

  5. Peter Izzard

    I have just downloaded and installed Photoshop cc and Lightroom cc to my windows PC, but I have a space issue. Both programs downloaded to and installed on my “C drive” which is full.

    So my question is,

    1. Can I move the entire installed program from my c drive to another partitioned drive on my PC (ie not to an external drive). So completely remove all trace of it (for both Photoshop cc and Lightroom cc) from my “C drive” in order to free up space permanently on my C drive?

    And

    2. Can I do the above in point 1. WITHOUT having to download the installation files again? I live in a regional area and can only use the internet with my expensive mobile broadband account which was maxed out by the initial Photoshop cc and Lightroom cc that I just did (ie I don’t want to have to download it again)

    And 3. If I can do points 1. and 2. above, can someone please explain it to me step by step as I am an IT novice?

    I have tried calling adobe support for help and have waited hours on the phone only to have it drop out.

    I run my own business from home, and would really appreciate guidance / answers anyone can give me.

    Thanks :)

    • Hello Peter, here are the answers to your questions:

      1. Yes. Generally the most common and reliable way is to fully uninstall the software from C: and then reinstall it onto a different drive… However, we have heard of utilities like Application Mover and Steam Mover that say they can move already-installed programs between two disk drives, without uninstallation or reinstallation. SymMover is another possibility. We have not tested any of these utilities with Adobe products, so cannot vouch for their effectiveness – but they may work for you.

      2. If you download the CC software via the Creative Cloud direct links then you will have a local copy of the installer(s) that you can save, copy, burn to DVD, reuse, reinstall without downloading, etc.  Otherwise, normally, the CC installers are not made accessible to you.

      3. Hopefully, we’ve made it clear enough for you to take the next step to solve your problem!

      Finally, a note for future use – the best and fastest way to contact Adobe Support is generally via live online chat.

  6. Anonymous

    Next question is in response to 2.

    How do you find the cc installation files on your PC?

    Where do you look for them? What would they be called?

    Thank you

    • Well, if you do things the standard way using Adobe’s Creative Cloud Desktop app, then you don’t have access to those files.

      But if instead you use the CC direct download links as mentioned, then the files will be wherever you told your browser to put them when you clicked on the links to download… Typically on Windows computers, that would be in your Downloads folder, or on your Desktop. You can then do whatever you want with the installation files.

  7. Susan

    Hi! I just bought a new ‘rocket’ (solid state drive…. man I can’t wait!!!!) and will be reinstalling CS6 on my new machine. Any tips? or would love to see an article of tips, on how to best transfer preferences, workspaces, custom palettes, graphic styles, customized keyboard shortcuts etc etc etc. I don’t want to migrate everything as I want to do a clean install on my new baby. I shudder to think of setting up all of those things again with my current workload :( In fact, the new machine is sitting there taunting me as I’m afraid of the downtime in getting it up and running! so I’m still plugging away on the old dinosaur. Thanks so much for all the great info!

  8. Susan

    Thank you :) Yes I found that feature in Photoshop other night! But unfortunately still missing in Illustrator and InDesign? I couldn’t see it anywhere.

  9. Ace

    Hi. I have a quick question. Let’s say if my friend wanted to use a certain Adobe Software, and I decided to deactivate my license and give him the serial number. Would he be able to activate it on his computer?

  10. MarkD

    Hi

    Thanks for the article. I’m interested in learning about migrating application settings such as presets for PDF creation and other printing settings. A new installation is fine, but I wish to ensure that the person who uses this can deactivate CS6 on their Windows XP PC and start using it on their Windows 7 PC with a minimum of hassle.

    Does anyone know which folders or files need to be copied to the new installation, please?

    Thanks!
    Mark

  11. Hi all,

    I’m a victim of a SSD crash (!), which means I lost ALL activation keys !
    Including: Adobe Master Collection CS6 !

    I received a message from my vendor, my new drive will be delivered tomorrow.

    But what about the Adobe activation keys ?

    The product will be installed on the same master computer, under the same email address.

    Will it be recognized as a first installation, or ???

    Regards,
    Jeanlou

    • Welcome Jeanlou, sorry to hear about that, and hope you didn’t lose too much data.

      Generally Adobe programs will need reactivation after the change of a major system component like the disk drive, motherboard, etc. It probably won’t continue with the old activation and would believe it’s the first installation for that setup.

      In which case, if the system crashed unexpectedly then you probably did not have the opportunity to deactivate the software first (per the “Deactivating” section above).

      Typically up to two activations are allowed per Adobe product, so that you can run it on up to two machines.

      If you were running the new Adobe CC instead of CS6, then it would automatically sense when you are going over that two-computer limit, and remotely deactivate any other systems as necessary (including crashed or unavailable units).

      However, with all other Adobe programs – including CS6 – the only way to force a deactivation for a computer you can’t access is to contact Adobe directly, give them your serial number, and ask them to reset your license on their end.

      That would bring your official installs down to zero and then allow you to reinstall the software wherever you want, from scratch.

      Meaning, you could then put it back on to your restored or upgraded machine.

      Hope this helps! If that isn’t clear enough, or doesn’t fully answer your question, then just post back.

  12. MarkD

    Re: “Migrate…Import…Export Presets”

    @ProDesignTools

    Thanks a lot :) Are these tools available for the other parts of CS6? For example, Microsoft Office has a very handy ‘Save Your Settings Wizard’ that can export/import settings for all the programs included in MS Office. I was hoping that something similar might exist for CS6.

  13. Hello,

    Many thanks for your detailed and very positive answer.

    But, looking at the link you gave me, don’t find the appropriated [ Adobe Master Collection CS6 ] to select between the options !

    The list in proposing lots of choice, except my CS6 !

    So, I clicked at some product, but it stay without reaction ?

    Can you please (?) find the time to indicate the full address to the appropriated link for the CS6 Pro ?

    Take you time, I will start installation only coming Monday.

    Best regards, and have a nice W.E.
    Jeanlou

  14. Hello MarkD,

    My apologies for your time, but i don’t find the right link !
    Going to :
    Contact Customer Care > 1. What product or service do you need help with ? >
    - Select a product or service !

    But no Adobe Master Collection CS6 included into the proposed list ?
    So, i decided to test [ Creative Suite ] but nothing happened ?
    Do i need to click one of the options on the right side ?
    I did, but no reaction ?

    I’m a little bit puzzled and wonder if i will succeed one of those days ?

    Best regards,
    Jeanlou

    • When contacting Adobe, after selecting your product you need to answer the second question below there:

      “What topic do you need help with?”

      In your case, you’d select, “Activating my product, or serial number issues.”

      …and then, “Still need help? Contact us.”


      Alternatively, you can chat with them from this page:

      Help with Adobe Activation & Deactivation

      “Don’t have access to your previous computer? Did you upgrade your computer’s hardware, replace a hard drive, upgrade your operating system, or format your computer before deactivating your software? Ask Adobe Support to help you deactivate from a machine you cannot access.”

  15. Hi all,

    Just to let you know I succeeded and received the opportunity to install my CS6 Suite on two computers.

    Best regards,
    Jeanlou

  16. Jody

    I have a MacBook Pro at home. I purchased and installed CS5.5 on only one computer. I do not use the Creative Suite enough at home to justify spending the money for the Creative Cloud monthly subscription. I would like to order the CS6 download to use in the future. I have to order the CS6 download by the end of May, after that I will have to subscribe to the Creative Cloud.

    I called Adobe twice to find out if I can purchase the CS6 upgrade and still use CS5.5. They said NO, the CS5.5 license will be nullified once the CS6 download is sent to me.

    My computer at work has CS5.5 and the CS6 upgrade. I can use either version. The CS6 is the upgrade, not the full version.

    I would like to know if it is possible to have both versions available for use on my home computer just as they are on my work computer (Mac).

    Also, is the CS6 upgrade only available as a download or is it available on a CD?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Hello Jody, regrettably you received some incorrect information… When purchasing an upgrade version (like CS6 from CS5), you can (always) continue to install & use both versions on the same computer.

      Per the terms of the Adobe licensing agreement, your original version (CS5) and your upgrade version (CS6) are tied together because of the discounted pricing you received – they are one unit and therefore would need to be installed on the same two systems

      In other words, you couldn’t have your CS5 and CS6 installed on different computers if the number of total machines activated was greater than the two machine limit.

      So one license does not nullify the other; however, you couldn’t decide to later sell or transfer your older software version to another person, if you upgraded from it.

      Finally, Adobe no longer makes the DVD versions of CS6; they discontinued boxes about a year ago. The only release you can get disc media for is CC.

      Hope that answers all your questions, if not then just post back!

  17. Jody

    Thank you very much for your reply! Your information is extremely helpful!!

    In response to your first comment: “regrettably you received some incorrect information” I am thrilled the information from Adobe was incorrect but wonder why Adobe customer service is giving out false information not once but twice?!!! I’ve been told Adobe’s customer service is horrible. Unfortunately that seems to hold true.

    • Hey Jody, glad to help. It’s not that Adobe customer support is horrible, it’s just that we’ve been doing this for nearly 8 years, and most of the reps there haven’t… There’s really a lot to know about Adobe software, and even good agents (or we) don’t know everything.

      But, happy that you got the answers you needed!

  18. Adobe is getting to big. They make it impossible to get a hold of anyone. Seriously, not every question can be answered by a forum. Combining this with not ever being able to have a physical copy of any products I am really disgusted with big business.

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