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How to Move Creative Cloud or CS6 from One Computer to Another

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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) Adobe software — what do you do, and how do you do it? Just follow our complete guide below, which also works for other Adobe desktop products such as Acrobat, Elements, Lightroom, Captivate, and more.

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 CC and 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 > Sign Out (for CS, it’s Help > Deactivate), 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: For CS tools, 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, etc. on that computer, you’ll be asked for a serial number or to start a free trial 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 CC or CS, 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.

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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).  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 short window during which the software should work in free trial mode to give you enough time to contact Adobe Support and get things resolved.

Putting Creative Cloud on More than One Computer

All of this becomes much easier with Creative Cloud memberships as well as with single-tool CC subscriptions, because these products are no longer activated using serial numbers but instead with your Adobe ID login. So moving the software to a new system (multiple machines) is really just a matter of visiting the Creative Cloud Download Center, downloading whichever CC apps you want, and then signing in…

Adobe Creative Cloud Growing Fast, Many Millions of Paid Subscribers (Click to Enlarge)

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 Activation limit reached but just click “Continue” and let the reactivation happen. Just make sure that “Sign me out of the other computers so I can sign in here” is selected.

This makes it straight­forward to switch your CC applications to a different system when needed – like when a computer crashes or is otherwise not available, when traveling or away from home, when temporarily using a third machine, and so on. In addition, you can deactivate using your account page on adobe.com.

For more details on how all of this works, see this CC Help document.

Creative Cloud and single-app subscribers can also skip the next two sections, as your CC products are already capable of flexibly running on both operating system platforms (both Windows and macOS), as well as freely switching between different languages as desired. All Adobe CS products, by contrast, are licensed for just 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’s more complicated, because all CS software was licensed for a single operating system only. So if you are making a switch and would like to take your Creative Suite 6 license with you, then you used to be able to do what’s called a “crossgrade” between platforms, which was no charge to you and could be submitted online directly through Adobe Customer Service.

However, Adobe now states: “As Creative Suite 6 is no longer sold or supported, platform or language exchanges are not available for it.” So unfortunately, CS operating system crossgrades are no longer possible.

But if you require a different operating system version of a non–Creative Suite/Cloud product you purchased from Adobe (such as Acrobat Pro/Standard), then you can exchange your product. 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 that you can only swap platforms to and from the most recent perpetual version available for the product.

How to Change from One Language or Country to Another

Note that this same procedure also works for requesting a change from one language set to another for a given Adobe application… You’d follow the crossgrade process described above – but choose a new and different language on the form, instead of a different o/s 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 sold as multiplatform and multilanguage software, so would not require a crossgrade. The same also goes for all Creative Cloud products, because all languages and platforms are automat­ically included and you can freely and easily switch between them at any time with Adobe CC.

Wrapping Up

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.

And if you’d like to move away from shuffling serial numbers altogether, check out 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 2019 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. Zero

    Is it still possible to ask for a CS6 Platform swap? I use CC but my CS6 turned to be handy on some occasions. My Mac Pro is going to lose MacOS Support (mojave) and my CS6 is for windows (at the time the Windows HDD had more GB since I opted for an SSD for MacOS). Can I ask Adobe to change my license from Windows to Mac? I am a student and the license is educational if that matters.

    • Not sure. Creative Suite 6 is end-of-life and Adobe no longer sells it.

      Their website does say this:

      If you require a different language or operating system version of a non–Creative Cloud product you purchased from Adobe, you can exchange your product. For example, if you now run Mac OS instead of Windows, you can swap Creative Suite 6 for Windows for Creative Suite 6 for Mac. Or you can exchange your product for a different language version. Here’s how.

      So you could ask and see what they say.

      However, if you already have Creative Cloud, then there may be no need because you also already get CS6 automatically included with your subscription at no extra cost…

      Just download and run CS6 instead of (or in addition to) CC for the apps you want, and then you can install and use CS6 on the same computer(s), either on Windows or on macOS or both, as part of your membership.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Hannah

    This worked perfectly! Thanks for sharing this with us, awesome post.

  3. James

    I found this just in time! I was going crazy not knowing how to transfer my files.

  4. Nick

    I’m looking at getting a new computer and want to move my CS6 programs over too. My only concern is that I have the student & educator edition. Will I still be able to deactivate it on my old computer and install it on the new one? If so, what will I need to use to log in to everything and register the new computer so it can run CS6?

    • Yes, the instructions in the guide above work for all the Adobe Student/Teacher Editions as well…

      In the case of CS6, you would need your original serial number (a.k.a. product license key) in order to reactivate the software on your new computer.

  5. John Haslehurst

    The background.
    I currently own and use Photoshop CS6 Extended only on a Windows 8.1 PC. I also use Lightroom 6.14 on the same PC, but also use it on a Macbook Pro for portability. I have read that there are restrictions with the CC versions running on the version of Windows I use. I would therefore like to use the CC Photography package on the Mac Book. but retain access to CS6 on the Windows PC.

    I appreciate that there may be file compatibility issues, but intend to keep the original files (from Camera) on a portable hard disk, so it should not matter if I process them on either device. I have been led to believe that once I subscribe to CC, my CS6 version under my account name will be disabled – is this true? This of course would limit me from using both versions. The reason I believe this is that when CC was first released for some unknown reason, I was offered a trial of it and accepted. Once I had done this, CS6 was disabled and I needed to contact Adobe to allow me to remove the trial and re-activate my CS6, at that point in time I could not see the point of CC for my level of usage, I now feel that some of the features would be useful to me.

    Whoever responds, Thank you.

    • Hi John, the complication with trying to run CS6 perpetual with CC subscription on the same machine was simply because CS6 was included as part of a CC subscription, therefore the licensing converted over to subscription. If you later stopped CC, then as you discovered, you needed to reactivate the CS6 perpetual licensing on that system.

      But there is never any “disabling” of your CS6 version in any permanent sense. So there’s no cause to worry about that.

      Also, there is no conflict at all if the two different versions (CC and CS) are installed on two separate computers… That seems to be what you are talking about, so there should be no problem for you with your plan.

  6. John Haslehurst

    @John Haslehurst
    Just a bit of additional information to this… What I do not understand is that the version of CS6 that I use shows a license number with the word trial after it. This number is not the same as the license media that I have, on a second PC where the software is installed it does show my correct license number from the media but says it is unlicensed; not sure what is going on.
    Thanks John

    • Not sure either, but again if you are installing and activating CC on an entirely different system (your Macbook) from where CS6 is (your PC), then there will be no affect to your current licensing setup.

  7. John Haslehurst

    @ProDesignTools
    Thank you for your reply, I was concerned that the whole thing was managed by adobe by way of my user ID. Looks like I will be going ahead then.

  8. FRIEDA

    My old PC laptop’s screen no longer works, and I need to reinstall CS6 onto new PC laptop. I have the original installation CD, however I purchased it from a reseller, not Adobe. On my now defunct laptop, I was getting messages from Adobe about this being “pirated” software with threats of disabling the program if I did not stop using this copy of CS6 and switch to CC. Can I reinstall CS6 from original CD on new PC laptop without subjecting myself to Adobe’s threats to disable my program? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Unlikely. It would go through the exact same activation process with Adobe’s servers, whether installed on your old PC or onto a new one.

      A couple of questions:

      1. You said you bought CS6 from an authorized Adobe reseller. Which one exactly (name), and do you still have the receipt? Was it a physical store, or an online website?

      2. Do you know if the reseller was Adobe-certified and legitimate? Did you check against Adobe’s official reseller list?

      If these questions are not able to be answered clearly, then you may have gotten ripped off by an unauthorized vendor or other scammer… For more details, see:

      Why Never to Buy Adobe Software from an Unfamiliar Seller

  9. Terry Grey

    Creative Cloud desktop app can only be uninstalled if all Creative Cloud applications (such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro) have already been uninstalled from the system. It means you have to keep Creative Cloud on your computer whether you need it or not. :(

  10. William

    I have a new macbook pro and have just migrated my photoshop from one to the other seamlessly.

    Both versions of photoshop CS5 work on both computers currently. What happens when I want to sell my older computer with the photoshop on it?

    Do I need to deactivate it on my old computer or I lose it on my new one? Or can it be used on both macs? Will the CS5 on my old comp still be linked to me and the new purchasers of my old mac have access to my license and key? and potentially make me lose my CS5 on my new mac?

  11. Gea Meijering

    Thank you, this info was just what I needed. I have one more question. I have CS6 (DVDs) and one is installed on a mac and the other on windows (that I can’t deinstall anymore because that computer is gone).

    I need a new laptop and am debating switching from Mac to Windows. Would my deactivated/uninstalled mac version of the software be usable on a new windows laptop?

    And do you know if I stay with Mac, is the CS6 is still able to run on the newest Macs?

    • Hey Gea, with CS6 the software was sold for one platform or the other, but not both. So the version you have running on the Mac cannot be switched to Windows.

      You used to be able to do what’s called a “crossgrade” between platforms, which was no charge to you and could be submitted online directly through Adobe Customer Service.

      However, Adobe now states: “As Creative Suite 6 is no longer sold or supported, platform or language exchanges are not available for it.” So unfortunately, CS operating system crossgrades are no longer possible.

      But if you stay with macOS, note that you cannot run CS6 on the newest Macs. Creative Suite 6 from 2012 was mostly written as 32-bit applications, which are not supported on newer macOS versions, especially Catalina (the latest version):

      Why Don’t My Adobe Apps Work in macOS Catalina v. 10.15?

      Hope that fully answers your questions; if not, then just post back.

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How to Move Adobe CC or CS6 Between Computers, or PC to Mac
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