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Adobe Upgrade Policy Changing Soon for CS4 and CS3 Customers

[UPDATE (January 2013) – Existing CS4 and CS3 users can still upgrade to the Creative Cloud and receive a 40%-off discount off the regular price.]

Earlier this year, Adobe made a significant change to their Creative Suite upgrade policy that had been in place since CS3 came out in April 2007…

In a nutshell, they said that the older Creative Suite versions CS4 and CS3 will only be able to get upgrade discounts to CS6 until the end of this year…  Starting soon in 2013, only one major version back (i.e., CS5 and CS5.5) will be eligible for upgrade pricing to CS6. This goes for suite editions as well as standalone products like Photoshop.

Here it is, found on their site:

Special upgrade offer for CS3 and CS4 customers

Take advantage of our special introductory upgrade pricing on Creative Suite 6 for customers who own CS3 and CS4 individual products and suite editions. This temporary upgrade offer is valid through December 31, 2012. After that date, only customers who own CS5 or CS5.5 products will qualify for upgrade pricing to CS6.

Read the details about our Creative Suite upgrade policy »

See the upgrade pricing for your product »

In other words, Adobe’s longtime “three versions back” upgrade policy will last only until the end of this year… Starting in January 2013, owners of any product older than CS5 would have to pay full price, or switch to the Creative Cloud instead.

See the Adobe CS6 Product Family

Why is Adobe making this change? It’s likely that part of their reasoning for shifting from a “three versions back” to a “one version back” upgrade policy is because the major CS releases are now spaced out to once every two years, compared to 18 months in the past – so there’s more time between each one.

This means that if you do get on board with Creative Suite 6 before yearend, then under the new policy beginning in 2013, you’ll have over three years to consider later upgrading from CS6 to CS7 or CS7.5 down the line. You will not have to upgrade every year to retain future eligibility (a popular misconception), if you don’t wish to.

But this does mean that all customers currently running Creative Suite 5 or 5.5 will also eventually have to upgrade to CS6 if they want to later be qualified to move up to CS7.

Going forward, you will be able to purchase future Creative Suite products just like today, as perpetual licenses that will work permanently on your desktop – or you can go with the Creative Cloud, which offers the latest software with a discount on first-year membership for current CS customers… The choice is yours – and if you like, we have a guide for helping to decide.

Not completely sure if you want to upgrade to CS6 yet? No problem, you can easily download the free CS6 trial and install/run then side-by-side with your older software, and see what you think. To get started learning the new tools, check out these free downloadable CS6 ebooks or many hours of free CS6 video tutorials.

You can also see a comparison of CS6 vs. CS5 vs. CS4 vs. CS3, including new features and other changes.

Wondering about your project files? Yes, CS6 should be able to open all your existing data files going back to CS3.

[UPDATE (December 26th, 2012) – “6 Days Left to Get CS6: Set your ideas free and save on the new version of Adobe Creative Suite 6. If you are currently still on suite editions or individual products of CS3 and CS4 you qualify for upgrade pricing on the new Adobe CS6, but only until 31 December 2012. After this date, only users with Adobe CS5 or Adobe CS5.5 will qualify for upgrade pricing. Upgrading to the latest version now will not only save you a lot of money, but you will be able to unleash your creativity to produce irresistible work with the latest capabilities and perform­ance enhance­ments in Adobe CS6. And with only 6 days to go, you must act now, to not miss out. For 1 to 10 licenses, upgrade online.”]

See Also

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48 thoughts on “Adobe Upgrade Policy Changing Soon for CS4 and CS3 Customers”

    • Great question Michele, and the answer is yes, you can (at least until the end of the year)…

      It’s now easy to change your operating system when you upgrade (or “crossgrade”) – and you don’t have to do anything special, just buy the standard Mac upgrade to CS6 from CS3, as normal.

      Then, when you install the new programs on your Mac, the CS6 software will ask you to manually enter the serial number from your older Windows version – which will then validate, and you’re good to go. That’s all there is to it, really.

      One additional note: It’s also possible to buy CS6 upgrades that will install on both Windows and Mac OS, if that’s the capability you need instead.

      Hope this helps!

  1. I don’t use the suite. I have standalone DW CS6, ID CS6, PS CS5.1, AI CS5.1.

    Is there a time window that I need to upgrade PS and AI from CS5 to CS6 in order not to have to buy the eventual CS7 at full price? The policies are not clear.

    • Greetings Pat, thanks for your questions and sorry if we didn’t explain it clearly enough. All standalone applications are also impacted by this upgrade policy change, as well as suites. In other words, if you own Photoshop CS4, you only have until the end of this year to upgrade to Photoshop CS6. After that, PS CS6 will become full price with no upgrade discounts.

      In the future, Adobe’s plan will remain “one major version back” for upgrades. So when CS7 comes out, only owners of CS6 at that time will be able to buy a CS7 upgrade.

      So what does that mean for your current CS5 or CS5.5 products – when do you need to upgrade them by so that you don’t need to pay full price for CS7?

      The answer is, you need to upgrade them to Creative Suite 6 at some point before CS7 is released. That way you’ll retain the discount eligibility.

      And when will that be? See here for more:

      When Will Adobe CS7 – and CS6.5 – Be Coming Out?

      Bottom line, what most folks are saying – if you’ll need to upgrade to CS6 at some point anyway in order to be eligible to get CS7 down the road, why not do it sooner rather than later to enjoy the maximum benefit now in terms of improved features, productivity, speed, and workflow.

  2. Thank you. I was going to update my two CS5 versions and was very shocked to see how expensive it has become. $249 for Illy update. $199 for PS. And I’ve learned there is no longer a path to give into the “suite” edition from standalones. I guess Adobe is hell-bent on the cloud subscriptions. This is not acceptable to me at all. Not a happy 15-year customer who has been a faithful updater.

  3. I just don’t want to do the cloud. Thank you for all your responses. Very valuable.

    I am paranoid about a cloud subscription. Once you leave the Disc In Hand mode, you are at their mercy for price changes. What if Adobe gets 50% of its users to buy into the cloud at $X a month. You are captive if they decide to raise it to $XXXXX a month. You have no recourse.

    What if you can’t get online for whatever reason (storm, etc) for the update period of time to reactivate the subscription? You are dead in the water. You can’t work.

    I will never do the cloud. I would try to find other programs to replace Adobe products if I must.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Pat. You’re right that future monthly pricing for the Cloud is subject to change (after your initial contract is up), and you do need to be online at least once per month (when requested) for revalidation of your subscription. Some folks also don’t like that if you cancel your membership or stop paying, your software will no longer start and you can’t open your project/data files.

      But that said, there are a lot of advantages as well, and Creative Cloud is getting five-star reviews from users so far. So really, it depends on your circumstance, needs, goals, usage, and so on – each customer is different.

  4. Good points, all. But I am going to be a Luddite here and refuse to ever do the Cloud.

    My paranoia with Adobe is based on what they did to GoLive Dynamic Content after they bought MM. At version GL6, they dropped DC and left a lot of us hanging. I had to go to Dreamweaver, which was a painful transition since early DW was less than good code. So I do not trust Adobe any more to do best by its loyal customers. I own nearly all of Adobe products, and current versions (except for Flash which is ancient history). I switched to Indy when Quark failed its customers.

    I hope Adobe doesn’t try to bully its loyal customers into the Cloud. It looks like they are trying to, which is sad.

    • Well from everything we’ve heard, going forward Adobe says they will continue to offer the traditional/perpetual Creative Suite licenses as well, even as some customers switch over to the Cloud… So, not to worry – notwithstanding the upgrade policy change described above, we generally have more options, not fewer – sort of like now having the choice to either buy your house or rent your house.

      And for those who own or upgrade to CS6 now, with the new policy you don’t have to consider upgrading again (if you don’t want to) until just before CS8 comes out in 2016.

  5. :-) Ok… so I should invest in the CS5 to CS6 upgrade for the two standalones I own now soon… Timeframe I am guessing is end of year. Concur?

    • Not at all! We can’t change their policies or offerings, so the best we can do is inform and help our readers navigate their ways through them to find the best path for each user…

      If you don’t feel that way after seven personal replies, well, that would be a disappointment. Sorry we couldn’t help further.

    • Not at all Pat. After over three years of running this site, we’ve seen everything. The bottom line is we hope we helped get you the answers you need – because as you mentioned at the outset, it can be confusing.

      If we did that, then let’s call it a success. Good luck, and feel free to stop back anytime.

  6. I am happy that you are independent. That is what I thought when I found your site. I am just so disappointed in Adobe after owning so many of its products that I don’t trust it anymore.

  7. Thanks for the quick reply. So the only option would be to purchase the full Adobe Acrobat XI version? Or do you think it would make more sense to upgrade to CS5 or CS6? I am just wondering from a cost standpoint, what you would suggest?

  8. Sorry, but I was told that by Adobe’s advertising agency, who confirmed it with Adobe. Exact words: “Adobe’s special introductory price for CS3+ customers has been extended into 2013. We have not announced an end-date for this special price.” Please advise your readers accordingly.


    Chris Dickman

    • Thanks Chris, appreciate your trying to help here, but we’re in contact with Adobe frequently and that’s not what they’re telling us. In fact they reconfirmed this afternoon that the CS3/CS4 upgrade offer ends December 31st, 2012, and earlier this week published new banners with this:

      Hurry, upgrade and save! Adobe upgrade pricing only available to CS3 & CS4 owners until December 31st.

      If you have any doubt, we’d suggest you contact Adobe directly and get the information straight from them rather than a third party.

  9. As I indicated, I was told this by Adobe’s advertising agency of record. I was also told this by an Adobe product manager last week. The link you provided doesn’t support your claim, only that the Creative Suite offer is ending. Please point me to where on the Adobe site the Creative Cloud offer is ending. Or perhaps we’re mixing apples and oranges here? If so, my apologies.


    • Ah, OK. You’re talking about an entirely different offer Chris. This page and all discussion above is about Adobe’s offer for Creative Suite 4 and 3 owners upgrading before year-end in order to receive the discounted upgrade pricing to CS6. After that it becomes full price.

      What you’re referring to is the offer for existing CS product owners (anything from CS3 through CS6) to join the Creative Cloud for $29.99/month for the first year. That offer was originally due to expire on August 31, 2012, but was extended indefinitely and will continue to be available.

      So this is apples and oranges.

  10. Hi

    I am a photographer for NILMDTS (Now I lay me down to sleep), and the work we do is free for the parents who have lost their child. Could we qualify for an educational version of Photoshop? I have bought Photoshop CS5 and would just need the upgrade.


    • Gosh Gary, if there were any way we could we would, but unfortunately we don’t have that power… You could contact Adobe directly to see if they could help.

      One other avenue you could try if you are using Adobe software for non-profit work is, who may be able to offer you a low-cost license.

      Best of luck, and thank you for helping those folks!

  11. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with Adobe. I barely was able to upgrade my iMac to be able to run CS6, I’m running CS4 Design standard at this point. Now I find out I can’t upgrade. Shame on Adobe, I think this just to push your cloud service on us. Many artists struggle to pay for this software and after 15 years of using your products I feel like I’m being squeezed for every dime I have. Guess I’ll be forced to stay with CS4 until I can figure out a way to come up with more money.

    • Hello Rich, thank you for sharing your thoughts. While some may find it disappointing, actually previously Adobe had an upgrade policy that was far more generous that most other major providers in the software industry. Manufacturers like Microsoft and Corel do not grant any discounts for programs that are 5 or 6 years old. In fact with Microsoft, the largest software company in the world, upgrade discounts for any version – even the last one – are no longer offered… full price is the only option for those.

      So the new plan here is really not out of line with peers in the software field today. Note that Adobe is retaining upgrade discounts for older versions like CS4 when moving up to the Creative Cloud ($29.99/month for everything), and if you just want a single tool instead then individual product subscriptions like Photoshop CS6 for $19.99 are also available.

  12. I used to receive a newsletter or promotions from Adobe by email. But for quite some time, I have not received any email from Adobe.

    I just found out yesterday that my CS4 Design Premium cannot upgrade to CS6. I did not know the upgrade deadline was end of last year. I just called the customer service at Adobe. They told me that I was on their mailing list (but I have not received any email from Adobe for quite some time). She told me that it was written on their website about the deadline for upgrade too. Well, if I don’t need any questions answered or upgrade, I will not visit the Adobe site. Anyway, she pushed me to subscribe to Creative Cloud. Yes, the first year is a good price but the following years I’m less sure. I am just a freelance graphic designer and try to save as much as possible.

    Would someone advise me where I can upgrade to CS5? Is it worth it to do it?

    Thank you!

  13. Ok… I’m way late in finding out about CS3 upgrade deal. I understand it’s too late for me to do the upgrade at a discount. My question is what about the CS6 upgrades that are on hard copy disk. If I purchased one of those would I still be upgraded? Would it register and upgrade?

  14. Hi,

    I use CS5.5 Production Premium both at work and home (home copy I’ve paid for myself just for the convenience of not having to be at the studio if I want to work late).

    Now my work is talking about signing up for the new CC release.

    I’m fine to upgrade once in a while to keep parity with work but think a personal Cloud account’ll just be too expensive.

    Question is, will I be able to use my work’s licence to run CC at home (given that I won’t be using the work licence at the same time). Hope this question makes sense.

    Thanks a lot for any advice.

    • Hey Dennis, the word originally was that older Adobe applications had “no known problems” running on the latest Mac OS X v10.8 “Mountain Lion” – but subsequently various issues were reported

      So really your mileage may vary, and unfortunately there’s no way we can give you a firm assurance.

  15. And what can you tell me please about the advisability of upgrading to Lion? After reading those comments Mountain Line appears out of the question.

    I look forward to your response.



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