How Many Computers May I Legally Install Photoshop On?

Girl and Illuminated Red Numbers
Photo by MissyH on Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

Photoshop's end-user license agreement (EULA) has always allowed for Photoshop to be installed on up to two computers (for instance, a home computer and a work computer, or a desktop and a laptop), as long as the program is not being used on both computers at the same time. Of course, with the advent of the Creative Cloud, all of the software involved can be installed on only two computers. Adobe is pretty clear on this subject in the Creative Cloud help files.

Creative Suite and Creative Cloud: Product Activation

When Adobe introduced Photoshop Creative Suite (CS) for Windows and Photoshop CS2 for Macintosh and Windows, the company also introduced product activation, which makes the two-computer policy strictly enforceable by preventing you from activating Photoshop on more than two computers. Under product activation you had to enter the license key contained in the software before the application would work.You can still install Photoshop on as many computers as you like, but only two copies can be activated. It is very easy to transfer activations from one computer to another when the computers have internet connections. Without an internet connection, you can transfer activation over the phone.

This information also applies to Adobe's other Creative Suite products: Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive, and Acrobat Professional. This licensing was in effect for all "boxed" versions of Adobe software. With Adobe Creative Cloud versions, a single-user subscription allows you to install the software on unlimited computers, but you will not be permitted to use it on more than one computer at the same time.

No More Boxed Versions

This changed when Adobe switched from selling boxes with CDs to a subscription-based model known as the Creative Cloud. As long as you have a Creative Cloud account, you can install the software on two computers at any one time. The real advantage to this is that those computers can be Macintosh and Windows computers. No longer will you be required to purchase separate Windows and Macintosh versions of the applications. The other advantage to this model is that all updates are free. Your Creative Cloud subscription entitles you to update the software at any time, and when a major update such as a change in version number is available, you no longer have to purchase the update and go through the long process of uninstalling the current version and reinstalling the updated version.

Adobe no longer offers any of the CD-based software suites; in fact, support for these versions is no longer available. Though you can buy used copies of the software privately, you need to approach such a purchase with a high degree of caution. For example, if the vendor has not deactivated the version purchased, the odds are that the software you purchased will not be able to be activated. Some sites offer pirated versions of the software, but the activation code supplied is not likely to work.

Legal Documentation

You can find the Photoshop EULA in the "Legal" section in your Photoshop installation folder. There are several subfolders for different language translations, with a "License.html" file under each one. The English translation for Photoshop on Windows is in C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop \Legal\en_us. If you purchased Photoshop as part of the Adobe Creative Suite, you'll find a "Legal" folder in the Adobe Creative Suite installation folder.

Updated by Tom Green