Fan of creative technology, elearning, instructional design and a little geeky

Moving Adobe software…

It’s something we all do… moving our Adobe software licenses around from one computer to another, and if you’re lucky enough the reason for the move would be the arrival of a faster, shinier, new computer. This post will hopefully provide you with some tips and tricks on “what to do” when you want to move your software from one computer to another…


If you’ve ever moved house, you might have experienced that moving involves a little more than just repositioning your belongings from one location to another… In fact you might even go through the contents of your pantry or cupboards and decide there are things you would rather not move. Over the period of time that you’ve worked with your Adobe applications on your soon to be ‘old’ computer you have likely collected “additionals”,  some of which you might want to keep.

The Additionals…

There’s no better time then right now to do some house-cleaning. As a self-confessed digital hoarder I can relate to finding more than just the files that my Adobe software installs in my Adobe application/program folders 🙂

Third-party plug-ins

Third party plug-ins generally come with original installers and most importantly their own licensing keys. Where to start?

  • Determine which plug-ins you would like to ‘move across’
  • Check on the plug-in developer’s web-site if you have the latest version of this plug-in currently. If not download the latest installer version available for your version of the Adobe software
  • Locate your original licensing key. Sometimes this might be retained in an email that was send out to you when you purchased the plug-in online. In other cases there might be a licensing key on a printed card that shipped with the software when you bought it. The key might even be on the CD/DVD case itself.
  • One additional thing to check is whether the Plug-in requires activation. It would be likely that you’ll need to de-activate the plug-in license before you can activate the license on another computer. In fact, we’ll cover Activation / Deactivation a little later on when we get to the actual Adobe software.


Adobe applications can be expanded through the use of scripts and you might have obtained some scripts for the various Adobe applications that help you improve productivity or even add additional functionality to your application.

  • As with plug-ins I would suggest you first of all determine which scripts you want to keep
  • Then check with the script-developer if you’ve got the latest version, and obtain the original scripts, some even come with installers, although many will come with drag-and-drop instructions only.
  • Scripts could be licensed as well. In that case locate the original licenses keys as you’d do for Plug-Ins.

Colour Settings

Your printer or photo lab might have given you .icc profiles or colour settings to install at some stage. Grab a copy of the settings you want to move across.

PDF settings

As with colour settings, our printer, service bureau or photo lab might have provided you with .joboptions (PDF Settings) files to use when you are creating PDF iles. Grab  a copy of the settings you want to move across for these as well.


The story continues here. Depending on which Adobe application you’re looking at you might have added new Swatches sets, Brush strokes, Filters, Patterns and other gadgets that add to your creativity.

With all the previous preparations complete you’re just about ready for the move.

On to moving your Adobe Software

Most likely there are additional housekeeping tasks to perform, such as reviewing the settings and additions you made to your Adobe software.  Identify them… locate them… where possible take a copy of them to load on the new computer.

I’m thinking of things such as:

  • libraries added to Illustrator’s Brushes, Symbol or Graphic Styles panel for instance, it might be sufficient to just grab a copy of the .ai files that you’ve added to the Adobe Illustrator CS4 / Presets / en_GB (or US) / etc… folders
  • Actions added to Photoshop, you’d need to choose “Save Actions” from the Actions panel menu and generate a .atn file… so that you can choose “Load Actions” on your new computer and have access again.
  • Printer and Document presets you might have added to InDesign.
  • Preferences settings you’ve altered. Note that it’s not recommended you copy preferences files across, instead recreate the settings after the new install.
  • etc.

Activation / Deactivation

Before you install your Adobe software on the new computer, you must deactivate the software on the old computer.  Choose Help > Deactivate.

InDesign's Help menu with Deactivate selected

The deactivation dialog for your Adobe Creative Suite bundle appears. I’d recommend enabling the Erase my serial number from this computer after deactivation completes option, to ensure that your license can no longer be used on this workstation.

Deactivation dialog with Erase my serial number enabled

Click the Deactivate button to commence the deactivation of your software. The dialog box informs you once the process has been completed.

Deactivation completed dialog box

You are now ready to move over to your new computer and start installing the Adobe software. After you’ve installed the software, first of all ensure that you’re also installing all the updates Adobe’s made available. Then test your software before adding the plug-ins, scripts etc. again.

Good Luck!

Have I missed something vital in my write-up? Add a comment below and I’ll ensure I add it in, so this post is as complete as possible. Thanks heaps.

– Cari

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  1. Mary Mary
    February 19, 2015    

    Got a new computer without a cd/dvd drive, how can i install my copy of CS4?

  2. Liz Liz
    January 13, 2014    

    Hi Cari,

    I have a couple of questions related to this if you would be kind enough to answer I would be grateful. I am replacing an old windows computer with a new one

    When we bought elements 9 we loaded it on to a mac and a windows computer. We only have one registration number, when I deactivate the registration on the windows computer it won’t effect the mac will it? I would assume not?

    I would like to upgrade to elements 12 which I am running a trial version of on the new computer Should I pay for and upgrade on the old computer before deactivating? and then use that registration to activate it on the trial that is on the new computer? If not what would you suggest?


  3. December 6, 2013    

    My sister has a copy of Adobe CS6 and I was wondering if there is a legal way to copy her photoshop/indesign from hers to mine?

    • December 27, 2013    

      you’ll need to deactivate the software on her computer (launch one of the applications, then from Help choose Deactivate). Then uninstall the software from your sister’s computer, and after that you can install it on your computer. As you’re sisters, i’d just leave the license in her name when you install it on her computer.

  4. reece reece
    November 23, 2013    

    I purchased cs6 and cloud earlier this yr. The laptop I installed everything has completely died. no way I can deactivate the software. I need to reinstall everything onto a new computer. I now I can install it on to 2 different computers. sense one of the computers is not working I want to have it removed from my account. as I know I will need to add it to 2 new devices right now.

    • November 25, 2013    

      hi Reece, As far as I’m aware CC automatically deactivates on ‘older’ computers if you exceed the allowed activations. So that would mean your old/broken computer would be deactivated automatically. If that’s not the case, the best thing to do is call Adobe Support line.

  5. James James
    June 25, 2013    

    I have an upgrade version of Adobe Web Premium CS5 that upgraded from Adobe CS2. I recently purchased new computers and would like to transfer the software. I’m getting messages that Adobe no longer supports CS2 and so there is no way to deactivate and reactivate? I cannot load the upgraded CS5 web premium without the CS2 loaded on the new computer. So Am I out of luck and have no choice but to purchase new software?

    Thanks for your help

    • July 2, 2013    

      James, The best bit of advice I can give you on this one is to Adobe Support. It will take some patience and time to explain the scenario. However, what they might be able to do is verify with you that you have the CS2 and CS5 licenses and then give you a special code to enter so you can install your Web Premium CS5 version. You can install the software now, and run it as a trial version until Adobe provides you with a valid code to enter so you can run your licensed version.

  6. March 2, 2013    

    @Bryan, I reckon you’ll be ok moving it. If for some reason you have an activation issue after installing, then you’ll need to contact Adobe Support. And yes, at times it can take quite long to get through to them sadly.

  7. Bryan Bryan
    March 1, 2013    

    Hi Cari,

    I have the education version of CS6 that I just bought through my school a couple weeks ago. I had a computer issues on the one I installed on and I need to move my CS6 to a different PC for school work. Can I do this the same as you described? I called tech support and got the call back and then waited on hold for an extra 45 minutes. As a student with a full time job also time is really important.

    Thank you very much!

  8. February 28, 2013    

    @David if you are on a Macintosh, you can use Migration Assistant to port your files/applications across to your new computer. I know this works nicely on the Mac. On Windows there is something similar I think, but I’ve not worked with it: Hope this helps. — Cari

  9. David David
    February 26, 2013    

    Hey, I have a similar problem. Hope you can help me. I have a new computer and I want to move my Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium onto it. I have my license # but I did the download option, so I never had an installation CD. It appears there is no longer any way to download that version. At least, I can’t find any link to it.

    You can’t be telling me that I HAVE to upgrade to move my software? I am at work and don’t have a way to use migration assistant. I tried copying the files to our server but it tells me I can’t do that. Help?

  10. February 24, 2013    

    @cfmajors, I’d opt for the safe plan… and deactivate 🙂 If the migration is successful, all you’d need to do is reactivate it 😉

  11. cfmajors cfmajors
    February 20, 2013    

    When I upgraded my macbook pro hard drive, I was able to use migration assistant to move CS6 back and forth without deactivating. Now I am replacing the computer. Will migration work for this, too, or should I deactivate and follow all the helpful instructions above?

  12. October 22, 2012    


    Just to clarify: As far as I’m aware Adobe InDesign’s Help menu does not provide access to a ‘System Info’ command, and therefore doesn’t provide access to the serial number. Other software manufacturers might place their serial number in that particular location though. From memory Microsoft does this?


  13. kram kram
    October 17, 2012    

    Go to Help>System Info

    Look for the Serial Number in the System Info list. It is normally in the 11th line.

    You can copy the serial number there.


  14. September 27, 2012    

    @David You can get a proof of purchase through your supplier in that case I’d say, and if you purchased through Adobe and registered they’ll have a record of your purchase and serial. Do you still have the installer media? Adobe support should be able to reset your activations as far as i’m aware.

  15. Username* Username*
    September 25, 2012    

    Hi cari.

    Jo asked a question earlier which I you missed

    If the machine has died, you can’t follow the process above as you can’t get onto the machine. Any ideas?

  16. September 14, 2012    

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for letting me know it (finally) got sorted. Phew!!
    Very glad to hear that 🙂 Time to go and enjoy CS6 and MacOSX now 🙂


  17. Richard Hewitt Richard Hewitt
    September 13, 2012    

    Hi Cari,

    Thank you again. After no less than 8-attempts and countless poor ‘English’ speaking representatives I finally have CS6 up and running on OSX and saying good bye to Windows for good.

    How can Adobe make something so simple so difficult for their own staff and their customers.



  18. August 21, 2012    

    Hi Mike,

    Deactivate on your old computer, then for both InDesign and Photoshop Elements update you should be able to install the upgraded version without first installing the older version as far as I’m aware. You might be asked to enter a qualifying earlier version serial number during the installation (that is so Adobe can verify that you do own the earlier versions).


  19. mike mcdade mike mcdade
    August 16, 2012    

    Hi Cari

    I have indesign cs5.5 and photoshop elements 7.0. I have purchased a new laptop and want to install the upgraded indesign cs6 and elements 10. Am I best to install the upgraded versions on my old laptop, then deactivate them and download them on my new laptop?

    Thanks for your help


  20. Richard Hewitt Richard Hewitt
    August 14, 2012    

    Hi Cari,

    I greatly appreciate your help here. If only Adobe could have provided the answer!

    Kind Regards,


  21. July 29, 2012    

    Hi Richard,

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience with Adobe support. I think the confusion is likely that you’ve already upgraded to CS6 on Windows, as purchasing a cross-grade (Upgrade to different platform) is relatively straight forward (you just need to go through Adobe Sales when doing this).

    An alternate to having access to both platforms would be to have moved to Adobe Creative Cloud membership. You’ll get a serial number in that case that you can use on both Macintosh and Windows software downloads from the cloud.

    What you are looking for though is referred to not as a ‘crossgrade’ but as a ‘platform swap‘ 🙂

    The following web-page provides a set-by-step process for applying for a platform swap:
    Platform swap’ FAQs.

    If you still end up having no result with this, then pls. contact Adobe Customer Care in your country and make sure you have all your case-numbers available.



  22. Richard Hewitt Richard Hewitt
    July 24, 2012    

    Hi Cari, I’ve given up trying to explain that I want to move my CS6 Design Premium license from Windows to OSX with Adobe Support and the incompetent Indian call centre. The same person told me I can’t do it, then I can but need to buy a cross upgrade license, then it is free but I have to pay shipping for a downloads…. the conversation ended there.

    Is there a definitive answer? Lightroom is cross platform cross license, CS6 suites should be too. Can I simply obtain a license transfer and how?

    I shouldn’t be having to ask you directly but Adobe drive people to find any alternative solution than their appalling ‘support’ offerings and lack of contact details.

  23. Dave Dave
    June 28, 2012    

    It doesn’t matter if you have proof of purchase. I have a receipt that I bought the programs spring of 2011, and loaded on only 1 computer.

    I now have a new computer and would like to download the second application that comes with the purchase. Adobe refuses to allow it.

    I gave them more than $500.00 14 months ago. Those greedy pigs will only help me if I spend another $500.00 to upgrade to CS6.

    How shocking people pirate their software when they treat their customers like garbage.

    • July 20, 2012    

      I’m sorry to hear about your Adobe experience Dave. I’m not sure what kind of license or Adobe software you purchased originally, but if it isn’t a subscription license, you own the software outright. It sounds like you have lost the original installer media? In that case you should be able to purchase new installer media as far as I’m aware… Have you tried contacting Adobe Customer Care?

  24. January 22, 2011    


    As long as you can provide Adobe with proof of purchase, Adobe should be able to help you with that, as far as I am aware you can purchase new installer media if you’ve lost yours.

    If you are on Twitter, try posting a question to @Adobe_Care … there’s team of people there that are part of Adobe Customer Care, ready to help you with any questions.

    Good Luck,


  25. Al Al
    January 22, 2011    

    You missed the “I don’t have the CD or the Dowload (iso). Calling Adobe Support is a waste of time and the chat sessions with folks in Bangladesh don’t help either.

    My solution is to buy FLAIR.

  26. November 8, 2010    


    If the issue you are describing is related to having exceeded the number of software activations, then you’d need to contact Adobe support.

    You can reinstall Adobe software, I’ve done it many times myself each time I do a system rebuild. However it is important you deactivate the license first.

    If you are working in a combined box-product and TLP licensed environment, be aware that you install with the correct installers, e.g. box-products have a different installer then TLP licenses. It could be that is what you are encountering, E.g. there’s not ‘one-installer-for-all’.

    See also this FAQ page for more info. I hope that helps out.

  27. Jo Huey Jo Huey
    November 5, 2010    

    I work for an insurance company within the IT Dept. We have numerous issues with de-installing software, sometimes as the machine has died and needs replacing, other times needs reinstalling.. however.. we have spoken to Adobe and they tell us once installed that is it, you can’t re-install. This seems ridiculous, their software is costly and to re buy seems mad.

    If the machine has died, you can’t follow the process above as you can’t get onto the machine. Any ideas?

    We purchase mainly on a TLP agreement but occasionally box product. Even if we have the software and product key and have uninstalled from the old machine, it still won’t let us re-install.


  28. October 22, 2010    

    @John If you purchased your software online with Adobe, there will be a purchasing record. Contact Adobe Customer Service in your country with your purchasing details and they can most likely help you out.

  29. John John
    October 22, 2010    

    How do I locate the serial number before I deactivate? I downloaded InDesign so I don’t have the installation CD anymore – which causes another issue: how do I reinstall on the new computer without the installation CD?

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