The Only Way to Keep Your Older Versions of Photoshop Alive

The Only Way to Keep Your Older Versions of Photoshop Alive

As the world seems to be moving away from an ownership model in favor of renting, is it time we start asking ourselves what is and isn't acceptable for photographers?

Most of the things we use daily fall into one of two categories: ownership or rental. While both models come with their advantages and disadvantages, many lean towards ownership as it tends to be more clear what can be expected from such a transaction. With rental, you never truly own what you are renting, and as such, the terms can always be changed by the company. In an example of having the worst of both worlds, computer software you own can still often need to "phone home" and be activated on a server to work. The problem with requiring a server for your program to run is that you are at the mercy of the owner of the server for things to always work. This is exactly where users of Adobe's Creative Suite 2, 3, and 4 find themselves, as Adobe has said the activation servers for those particular versions had to be retired. This means users will no longer be able to use a piece of software they originally paid for if they ever have to reinstall it.

Adobe stating that users can no longer reinstall Creative Suite 2, 3 or 4 due to the aging activation servers being retired.  

While I appreciate many will say a program that is more than 10 years old has had its day, why should any piece of software that still works suddenly cease to function just because a company no longer wants to run a server? The cynic in me feels like Adobe has no motivation to help this group of users as they have already had their money during the original purchase. There may only be a small group of users holding on to these older versions of Photoshop, but they should still be able to use the program they bought for as long as they want. I have an old laptop with Photoshop CS4 on it, which I very occasionally use when out in the field. This version of the editor is still more than useable for my needs, and it would be a shame to lose it. For those asking why I don't just upgrade that particular computer, my hands are rather tied, as additional hardware and a newer operating system would also need to be installed for the Adobe Suite to work on it. Unfortunately, that machine has already reached its limitations in terms of upgrades. This means if this machine ever needs my version of Photoshop CS4 reinstalled on it, I wouldn't be able to.

So, What Options Are Available for Users of Older Versions of Creative Suite?

If you want to hang onto Creative Suite 2, 3, or 4, the good news is if you already have it working on your machine, you won't have any issues until you need to reinstall it. This means if you decide to wipe your computer, change your operating system, or do a clean install of the software, you will run into trouble as you will no longer be able to access the activation servers that are needed to finish the new installation.  

Plan A: Clone Your Drives

The only real option available to ensure your older version of Photoshop will always work is if you clone the drives you currently have in your machine. This procedure is fairly straightforward and the costs are not too excessive. The cloning of drives is not a bad habit to get into anyway, as it gives you another backup of your precious data. By making copies of your drives while they have functioning versions of your Adobe programs, you'll always have the ability to "rewind" back to that point in time and never need to "phone home" to Adobe. For those unfamiliar with the cloning of drives, this video is a great starting point to familiarize yourself with the process.

Plan B: Try Offline Activation

To give Adobe credit, the company has offered offline activation in the past for users who can't access the Internet on a particular machine. By logging into Adobe on a device that can connect to the Internet, you can fill in a form and generate a response code, which will help you finish the installation process. The big question is if Adobe will still give response codes to users of the older Creative Suite 2, 3, or 4 which they have now retired the activation servers for. I have asked this very question twice to Adobe but have yet to receive an answer. I would personally file this option in the long-shot category, as there's no guarantee this approach currently works and even less chance of it working in several years' time.

So, there you have it: the incredibly limited number of options available to you when it comes to keeping your older versions of Photoshop alive. While I obviously am sympathetic to companies who have to consider the costs involved to indefinitely run close to antiquated servers, no paying customer should ever be left with a piece of functioning software they can no longer use. In the case of Adobe, there must be a cost-effective solution that would allow users of older versions of Creative Suite to keep using them indefinitely. During my time researching this issue, I've not been filled with confidence that a solution is available. If there is one, it isn't being communicated or broadcast clearly and understandably on their site or when reaching out to Adobe direct.

While I do appreciate this matter may not affect many of you currently, I think it's important we are all made aware that certain products you buy can potentially stop working if a company decides to flip a switch. Many may think this instance with Adobe is not even worth talking about, but if we let companies get away with certain practices, they are much more likely to continue down similar paths in the future. It doesn't take the greatest leap of imagination to think where all this could go as more and more products are connected to the internet in some way. One example that springs to mind are the possibility of future camera manufacturers designing into their products a reliance on some kind of "activation server" for their cameras to work. Those camera makers could just as easily decide to close those servers when they deem a camera has got too old. This all may seem a little overdramatic, but planned obsolescence is alive and well and isn't going anywhere. We as consumers need to be alert to these changes and push back where necessary.

Are any of you still using Adobe Creative Suite 2, 3, or 4? How do you feel about Adobe's decision to retire activation servers? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Paul Parker's picture

Paul Parker is a commercial and fine art photographer. On the rare occasion he's not doing photography he loves being outdoors, people watching, and writing awkward "About Me" statements on websites...

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Seems like the proper solution would be to simply make CS2, CS3, and CS4 free forever if they aren't going to maintain authentication. I highly doubt 15-year-old software is going to cannibalize current software.

Completely agree with you Alex. Still holding out that Adobe will get back with a solution...

The Pirate Bay has one....

CS2 was available and free for a while. I run both a WIN 7 machine and a WIN 10 machine. (I have the base subscription.) All the new versions of Photoshop can only be updated on WIN 10 machines. I was upset when Adobe actually went into my WIN 7 machine and disabled my older versions. I don't mind not being able to upgrade the older version on WIN 7 but I have a real problem with them actually disabling the older programs. I still use CS2 on my WIN 7 machine because I have some old plugins that are awesome and are not compatible with the newer version of PS. I also really like the latest subscription version but I really would like to have both versions on the same WIN machine.

What people might do is just pirate it. Pirated versions only require hacked .dll files instead of activation servers. I've moved on from adobes stupid contracted subscription model because the software runs like garbage. Plain and simple. Light room is the worst. It gets MASSIVE slow down after editing just a few files and Photoshop freezes up while editing constantly. The creative cloud launcher crashes and freezes too. This is on high end hard ware. I called as soon as adobe announced they were going sub model that the softwares performance would tank and it did. they have no incentive to improve performance because they are the industry standard and have you locked into two year contracts like cell phone providers. all they have to do is sit back and rake in the cash. I tried adobe cc software on 5 different computers and it's the same results. I'm not paying money for a product that barely works and locks you into a subscription model through contracts. I've since moved to Capture one and Affinity Photo. At first I felt like Affinity was just another wannabe Photoshop but for retouching I love it even more after spending some time to actually learn it's retouching tools. Capture one was easy to pickup and learn. It handles colors far better than Light room and never slows down. Lightroom would get impossibly slow. Capture One 22 added HDR merge and panoramic stitching functions to really round it out as a complete package. Heck affinity photo has better HDR merge and Pano stitching than adobe products. Best part is that you can purchase these softwares outright for $360 and they are YOURS. No losing access to your files because you forgot to pay or can't pay your sub. Affinity Updates are all free too. I'll never go back to adobe. it would be even better if affinty photo and C1 got linux versions because then i could ditch windows for good too.

"Well, software piracy is illegal, isn't it? "

True but that doesn't stop everyone.

"We, the photographers, agree that we play fairly and don't like our work to be pirated, stolen or infringed in any other way."

I agree but you can't speak for every photographer. That's impossible.

"So why would some of us behave that way towards other creators, even if they belong to a large and successful company like Adobe?"

Because humans are humans and not all of us follow a moral compass.

When I went to web design school half my class had pirated versions of adobe at home. It's the most pirated software on the planet.

I'm just making the point people are going to do what they want to do law or not.

I think you're missing what causes such piracy: "users will no longer be able to use a piece of software they originally paid for if they ever have to reinstall it."

Imagine a photographer wouldn't allow a client to re-hang a frame with a wedding photo after moving to new house -- it is exactly what big software vendors are doing nowadays.

Once again, you're missing the point of this article that people just want to continue using the software that actually already legally belongs to them.

Quite different from stealing, isn't it?

This guy. Just absolutely WOOOOOSH. Right over his head.

I cannot see how finding an alternative manner to use software you paid for and own is stealing. When that user originally purchased the software it was for a perpetual license, to use it indefinitely.

I am confused as to how you consider unlocking a software package that someone purchased and OWNS, "piracy"? Isn't the piracy being perpetrated by Adobe? Someone bought the software with a perpetual license. That means someone has the right to use it for as long as that person desires. If you purchased an automobile and 10 years later the manufacturer announced that you could no longer start the engine would you feel that was ok?

Really though. If somebody paid for the software, and can’t run the paid copy because the company doesn’t support activating it anymore, I’m not going to fault that person for using the tools available to circumvent the problem.

@Chris Rogers You did not mention it but Adobe support is total garbage. Those people do not care about helping anyone.

Oh yeah that's true hahaha. They don't have to care. The customer is locked into that two year contract so adobe gets paid if their software works or doesn't work.

Actually, I had great interactions with the Adobe support, twice. Once, they logged in remotely to my computer, while also being in the chat do a lengthy cleanup and reconfiguring and whatnot. That was with the background that I was using a combo of my own account with some software, with another "account" (which was not licenced through a normal account but through some other servers) with other software, from the institution I work in. Not really their job, but they did it. The other time, I don't remember, but both experiences were good.

Maybe something to do with Advanced Photoshop Training you offer?

Anyone will the time and knowledge to do all that would surely be better off putting those skills to a better, more high-valued use than avoiding a $10/mo. fee.

I purchased the CS 6 MasterSuite. I use Illustrator and InDesign about 5 or 6 times a year and Adobe Acrobat Pro often. For me to have access to those tools in the subscription model is considerably more that $10/mo...

(1) I think you misunderstand how the subscription model work. It is NOT a cloud/sever based software. The software run locally in your computer. The fact that it is subscription based do NOT slow down or degrade its performance. For a cloud/server based software you may have a point. The performance of some cloud/server based software does suffer from slow internet speed and/or internet traffic "congestion" connecting to the server. But this is not the case with Adobe's subscription model. In Adobe case, as explained, it doesn't turn the software into cloud/server based. They just sell you the license on a monthly basis instead of a one-time purchase. Now, you may find the newer versions performing poorly (I don't find it to be the case) but it is incorrect when you link the performance issue to the subscription model. They are in principle unrelated, independent from each other.

(2) You assert things like "locked into two year contracts" and "locks you into a subscription model through contracts" This is incorrect. There is NO contract whatsoever with the Adobe CC subscription. You pay monthly as you go. You may start and stop the subscription any time.

(3) You say "losing access to your files because you forgot to pay or can't pay your sub." This is also incorrect. Unless you are talking about the CC Cloud Storage service. But
(a) The cloud storage service has nothing to do with the software subscription model. You can subscribe to the license to use the software without subscribing to the cloud storage service. It is not mandatory.
(b) Even if you choose to subscribe to Adobe's cloud storage service, there is nothing to stop you from storing your files ALSO locally on your computer or external hard drive.

(1) I know this. That's not what I was talking about. What I was talking about is Adobe has little incentive to insure the performance of their software is adequate BECAUSE of the subscription model. They don't have to care. They got you by the balls with contacted subscriptions and are the industry standard. If you're heavily invested in their eco system with terabytes of working files, if you don't pay that sub you have no access to your files. The performance of the software running locally is pure garbage. I paid for the service and it is unbelievably slow on a ryzen7 32gb of ram 1tb SSD and an RTX 2070. Their code is bloated and makes the programs run like molasses. The CC app manager is even worse. I've never seen such horrible performance of a "Professional grade Application". I had to reboot my computer 3 times to get that app manager to down load Photoshop and then i had to do it again for lightroom. Geeze I work IT I know the difference between locally run and server run applications.

(2) That's false. I read the contract on THEIR website. Literally copy pasted from their website " Should you cancel after 14 days, you’ll be charged a lump sum amount of 50% of your remaining CONTRACT obligation and your service will continue until the end of that month’s billing period."

(3) how are you going to access your PSD, AI, ect. files if you don't pay the sub?
(a) I don't care about adobes cloud storage so I never mentioned it because it's not what i was talking about. You are taking things out of context. Stop licking adobes boots

(1) I don't wanna discuss the performance issue anymore as it is different for different people, I suppose. All I know is that I and everyone I know have not had the issue you describe here.

(2) Here is the Adobe webpage regrading subscription: You have the choice of either a yearly plan or a month-to-month-pay-as-you-go plan. You are not required to sign a yearly contract. You have choices. I have the month-to-month subscription for years, I can literally, go online to cancel it and restart it any time I want. It's NOT like a cable TV subscription.

(3) I have no idea what you mean. Of course, if you stop the subscription, you cannot use the software to generate NEW files. But all the files you HAVE generated before are available to you if you store them locally in your computer. Stopping the subscription doesn't erase the files IN YOUR COMPUTER! You mention you use Affinity software. Affinity can open and edit .psd and .ai files. So even if you stop your Adobe subscription, you can still use those files.

Regarding #2, it is a false choice. I was on the month to month plan and was forced to pay the remaining months equivalent to the yearly plan when I wanted to cancel.

Never Mind

Anything Adobe is outrageously overpriced.
I use, Gimp & other softwares. All free! Gimp is about to launch their version 3. No need to pay endless mortgages to Adobe.

I don't mind paying $10 per month for PS and RAW. Adobe keeps the programs up to date and whenever Nikon upgrades their cameras and with a new RAW file format, Adobe RAW is updated and also able to open them.

Still running CS2 on Win 7. The only reason I keep it is I occasionally use LAB.

Cloning quite possibly will not work with a new computer if yours fails physically. You can virtualize your computer, which will to some extent future-proof it.

I have had a legal copy of CS2 for a dog's age. What this is telling me is that I don't blame anybody for pirating anything and everything Adobe. They are not honorable company. It's just software. 100% guaranteed they could issue a permanent unlock dll or something. They chose not to.

A D O฿ € $OF ₮₩AR€
Their last acquisition (October 7th 2021) was for US$ 1,275,000,000.

They want to push what few customers are left that are not on the sub to get the sub model so they can squeeze out that extra cash. They absolutely could do what you say but they see potential dollar signs in locking people out of something they already paid for.

From my personal perspective. In the past purchasing photoshop was a huge outlay. I use it quite a lot. Upgrading was very expensive. I much prefer the subscription model. In fairness to Adobe they are continuing to develop the software. I was concerned they might not. Yes Lightroom is a bit bloated but still works. I’ve no interest in using a decade old version. There have been significant improvements. In terms of photography it’s the cheapest aspect, camera’s and lens are a far bigger outlay.

Yep! For about the price of a 128GB CFexpress card, you get PS and LR for a year.

What I was thinking is that Adobe PS or Lr is the ONLY thing that EACH of my pictures goes through. Everything else, the camera, the lens, the flash... all that is never the same, and yet it is the biggest expense. So paying 100-120$ per year (or 600$ for 5 years) for a thing that is crucial for everything I do is not the end of the world. Especially when comparing it to the price of the macro lens I have and use twice a year (as an example).
Most people will never complain about their 1000$ lens they use here and there, but the amount of people complaining about 10$ for a software that is the centerpiece for most... oh well...

No matter how affordable it may be it runs like garbage and you're locked into a two year contract. Why would adobe need to lock you into a contract if their software is so cheap and good?

Shades of everyone saying how the price of film is reasonable.

Value is subjective to the consumer. Anything is only worth what someone will pay for it.

So you're implying that the fact that Adobe chose to be in the software development business gives them the right to disable software that they sold at the time of purchase with a perpetual license? Automotive development is expensive too. Does that give car manufacturers the right to, let's say, disable a cars ability to start after 10 years? Medical devices are expensive to develop too, maybe pace makers shouldn't just need their batteries replaced, the person should have to buy a new one instead.

Maybe Skylum has the better business model. No subscription, but a new software every year :)

Thing is you don't have to buy it if they add something you don't want in the next years version AND you can keep on using the previous version you already paid for. It's why I skip Capture one versions every two or three years. There usually isn't anything worth upgrading for, for at least two years. I bought C1 outright at version 20 for $200. Two years later they added some upgrades I felt was worth upgrading for so I upgraded for $143.10 to version 22. If I had paid the subscription for two years I'd be out $576 instead of only $143.10 with a difference of $432.90. Even if it was one year of subscription I'd be out $288 from the 143.10 with a difference of $144.90. Affinity photo you pay $50 once and get free updates forever. Shoot if they released a version for linux I'd totally buy it again. I also used to use illustrator but I don't have to pay a sub for that anymore because affinity has Designer also $50 and free updates forever. If i want Lightroom, Photoshop and illustrator I'd have to pay $371 per year for month to month or $359.76 if paid out the full year. Buying C1, Affinity photo, and designer outright would cost me $400 one time with two of the software getting free updates forever and I can upgrade C1 when I please and still be well under Adobes subscription plan. Adobe does have the even more expensive option of just renting everything for 635.88 for the month to month and 599.88 with the added bonus of garbage class performance.

That is in now way relevant to the fact that they are making software that people bought under a perpetual license useless. I agree, people should get paid for their work but this is entirely different than that. It is entirely their right to no longer sell perpetual licenses to anything. It is sleazy to cut off people's ability to use what they paid for.

How about my 8yo educational version of Lightroom? How can I keep that running?

Sounds like my 20-year old car. I paid for it and own it, but it occasionally stops working, and soon I fear it will no longer work at all. What a rip-off! And it was a LOT more expensive than my old PS CS6, student version.

Yes, cars die. But your logic is not sound. How would you feel if the manufacturer remotely disabled a car you purchased and told you it would not start anymore? There is a difference in a machine wearing out, and one that the manufacturer disables...

Haha I can see that coming in the future with electric vehicles.

Well...two words immediately come to mind. Planned obsolescence.

I have CS4, bought when I was learning to design small web sites for local businesses over 12 years ago. I am now retired and just use Photoshop to play with, edit a few photos and so on. CS4 is all I need and I'm too old to want to start paying subs for fancy new programs, half the capabilities of which I will not use. Planned obsolescence rears is ugly head.

As someone who writes code for a living I can guarantee you that you don't want to be using old code (on an unsupported operating system nonetheless) no matter how butthurt you get about licensing. It's thoughts like this that keep bot-nets alive.

As someone else who has written code for a living and managed hundreds of coders I can guarantee you that you don't know what you are talking about no matter how butthurt you get about thinking your code deserves to be paid for over and over and over. This is an issue where many many people confirm older versions of the software work just fine. How the software is working is totally NOT the issue here. It is Adobe stealing the keys tot he car.

It would seem that this also applies to Photoshop CS6. As of this morning I am no longer able to authenticate my "perpetual" copy of Photoshop CS6 which I duly purchased from Adobe in 2012. The software works just fine for my needs and until a few years ago never required an internet connection to operate properly. Is there a way to roll back to when the software worked without an internet connection? Why can't Adobe let me use the software I paid for using the installation key that came on the CD? This is a total ripoff.

(1) Throughout the article you keep referring to "owning" a piece of software. But that is incorrect. This is not how software purchases work. Never. You don't buy the software and when you pay for the software, you don't own the software. What you buy/pay for is the license that allows you to legally use the software. This is not just pedantry, It is an important concept one must understand when it comes to software purchases.

(2) The article is over sensationalized. The truth is that the software will remain functional. It resides and runs from your local computer. It doesn't need to "phone home" in order for it to work. The only time it needs to connect to the internet ("phone home", as you put it) is the initial authentication process when you initially install it or when you need to reinstall it for whatever reason. It has absolutely nothing to to do with the subscription model (or "rental" as you put it).

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