Adobe Photoshop does not need any introduction. It has been the professional image-editing standard for decades, and we use it as a verb for photo manipulation. In addition, countless amateur users have searched for a free Photoshop download. While there are several alternative applications, on this guide we will download Photoshop legally and for free from Adobe.
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Table of Contents
As you probably know, Adobe Photoshop is a commercial program, the price of which used to be quite high. The last standalone version, CS6, started at $699. The extended CS6 edition could go all the way up to $2,599.
Since 2013, Adobe changed its pricing model, turning Photoshop into a pay-as-you-go service. The latest Creative Cloud (CC) versions are only available as Adobe subscriptions.
If we want to use Photoshop for a single month, it will cost us $29.99. We can get discounted options for a monthly commitment of one year, or if we prepay for the whole year.
It's certainly more cost effective than buying the CS6 version. However, if we are not earning money from our work with Photoshop, it's hard to justify the cost just for the occasional crop, resize, or filter.
So, how is it possible to download Photoshop for free from Adobe?
The key to this whole deal is that Adobe allows a free Photoshop download only for an old version of the app. Namely Photoshop CS2, which was released in May 2005.
CS2 was one of the first versions of the Photoshop, if not the very first, with Internet activation. It needed to communicate with an Adobe server to activate the program.
Around 2013, Adobe had to disable the activation server for CS2 products, 'because of a technical issue.' The company has not provided any additional information on the nature of this problem.
Since there is no server to activate the program anymore, this posed a problem for Adobe clients who had bought Photoshop CS2. The company had to provide an alternative method for activation.
The 'technical issue' would suggest that this would be a temporary solution. However, it has proven to be anything but. Since it is an old version of Photoshop, Adobe hasn't bothered to re-launch the CS2 activation server and probably doesn't plan to do so.
As a result, it is possible even today to download Photoshop CS2 from the Adobe website. CS2 might be more than a decade old, but it sure beats risking any illegal method for Photoshop download, especially for occasional users.
After all, how many casual, non-professional users use even a 10% of Photoshop's functions? And how many need the latest version instead of CS2?
To download Photoshop CS2, we'll first need to create an Adobe ID account or sign in if we already have one.
If you have to sign up, make sure you type the password right, because the sign-up process won't ask for confirmation.
Having completed our Adobe registration, we can download Photoshop for free at https://helpx.adobe.com/creative-suite/kb/cs2-product-downloads.html?promoid=19SCDRQK
We scroll down the page and select the language of our choice.
We will find several different CS2 products that we can download for free. For this guide, we will only download Photoshop. Of course, you are free to download whichever applications you want.
The English version of the Photoshop CS2 installer is 340MB. It should download in less than five minutes with an average ADSL line.
For a faster download experience, we can use a download accelerator, such as BitComet.
Even though there is a version for Mac, Photoshop CS2 only works on PowerPC Macs, the only version of Mac that existed in 2005. We can not install it on current models with Intel CPUs. So, it's only possible to download Photoshop CS2 for Windows.
Coincidentally, 2005 was the year that Steve Jobs announced the transition for Macintosh computer to Intel CPUs, and the first Intel-based models went for sale in January 2006. So, if CS2 had come out a year later, there would probably be compatibility with Intel Macs.
After we have downloaded the installer, we locate it in our downloads folder and run it.
The installation is simple. At the serial number prompt, we copy and paste the following:
The most observant among you have noticed that is is the serial number Adobe provides at the download page. Apparently, it's a special serial number that does not require an internet activation.
Soon afterwards, the installation is complete.
When we start Photoshop, we will get a 'Registration' screen, which we can safely ignore. However, no matter if we select 'Register Later' or 'Do Not Register,' we will keep getting it every time we start Photoshop.
And this is it. The environment where many graphic designers, photographers, architects, engineers, artists had worked for hours each day in 2005 and the following years.
Photoshop CS2 is fully functional at the latest version of Windows 10, which is Creators Update, as of this writing.
Shortly after launching, Adobe Updater will open. Since there is nothing to update, we can clear the checkbox. As opposed to the registration prompt, the updater won't bother us again.
As you probably know, many countries have a much stricter policy on pirated software when it is for commercial use than for personal home use.
Even though we downloaded Photoshop from Adobe, and didn't use any illegitimate ways to activate it, we don't own a CS2 license. Adobe makes it abundantly clear that the particular website is for CS2 license owners.
Therefore, if you have a business, we urge you to consult your lawyer on whether it is lawful to download Photoshop CS2 and use it for free.
With other free image editing applications like GIMP, which is quite easy to make it look and work like Photoshop, there is no question of legitimacy for professional use.
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Based on Adobe's explanation on why they allowed the CS2 Photoshop download in the first place, it seems highly unlikely that we will get the chance to download Photoshop CS3, CS4, CS5, or CS6 in the future.
There is also no guarantee that it will be possible to download Photoshop for free with this method in six months, a year, or in the distant future. Adobe had removed the links once in the past, and they might do it again.
However, if you download the installation file, you can use Adobe's serial number to install Photoshop for free as many times as you like.
Lastly, we tested the Photoshop download and installation in the newest Creators Update version of Windows 10. It is possible that it will not work on a future Windows 10 versions. After all, Photoshop CS2 was designed to operate on Windows XP.
Anything in the guide did not work as we described? Did you have any trouble downloading Photoshop? Did everything go swimmingly? Let us know in the comments below.
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