[UPDATE (June 2014) – See this comment below for an important update on this article.]
[UPDATE (Jan. 2017) – Adobe just stopped selling CS6 entirely – here’s why.]
Adobe’s Creative Suite 5.5 has been out since May, and has generally been well-reviewed and even lauded as a must-have release… Nevertheless, some folks are still looking for or require older versions of the software, like CS5.0 or CS4. Why?
Two common reasons are the higher system requirements – 64-bit for some components of CS5 like After Effects & Premiere Pro, as well as cases where the rest of a customer’s site is still running an older version and would like to add a new setup with the same compatibility. And occasionally some folks say they prefer the earlier, simpler versions over newer ones with more features.
The challenge is, once a new release comes out, Adobe no longer officially sells the older version (with one exception). So if you need a prior release, what do you do?
If you want the trial version to use for 30 days, that’s easy – Adobe actually keeps most older original trials still available for download on their servers – including all of CS4 and CS5, plus earlier releases of Acrobat, Lightroom, Elements, etc… You can find those trials all linked for download here:
But how about when you want to actually buy CS4 or CS5?
If you ask Adobe, they’ll usually tell you to check their official list of authorized resellers & retailers to see if someone still has the version you want in stock. The problem is it’s inconvenient to search as often those stocks are thin or sold out, and no longer available.
So, do you turn to other random sources like eBay or Craigslist? If you’re smart, definitely not – we strongly advise against eBay et al. So what do you do?
The Solution: Order “Prior-Version Software”
Fortunately, there is an easy solution. It’s little-known, but Adobe actually sells a special type of license that can be “downgraded.” These unique products come from the Adobe Business Store (and are also known as volume licenses) – but you don’t have to be a business to get them, or even buy more than one copy, and they can be easily purchased online instantly with a credit card.
So these “business” licenses have this helpful capability which allows you to order the latest release (like CS5.5 or Acrobat X) but then optionally receive and use the prior version instead (like CS5.0 or CS4, or Acrobat 9). Here it is spelled out:
Backward Licensing Policy
Adobe allows program members to order a current-version license but to use a prior version. These members can contact Adobe Customer Service to request a serial number for the earlier version if they do not already have one.
Adobe has a name for this program (which again, anyone can buy from) – it’s called the Transactional Licensing Program (TLP) and it doesn’t cost extra – in fact customers typically get discounts off the regular price. And there are other nice features of these licenses as well, including the ability to run your software multi-platform on both Windows and Mac OS – which is also not possible elsewhere.
So if this is what you need to do now, then you may want to check this out.
[UPDATE – Good news: there is now also the availability of the same volume licensing solution for education purchases, with up to 80% off the regular prices for students, teachers, and schools.]