Adobe CS3 Activation Error – SOLVED!

Adobe CS3 Activation Error
Activation – No Connection

Recently my Photoshop CS3 decided to tell me that my license activation was expired/needed re-activation. I thought this had to do with a Windows 10 update from the week before breaking things as it also wrecked my MS Office installation.

Of course the reactivation failed with a connection error saying “Activation – No Connection”. And of course the phone activation service has been discontinued by Adobe.

The cause of the activation or connection error is Adobe has “retired” their older activation servers. It was these servers that Photoshop CS3 were connecting to every time I started the program (ie to check that the serial code is legit).

What this means is that older Adobe software such as CS3 and Acrobat 8 can no longer be activated.

darth vader noooBut wait there is a solution

Don’t try talking to Adobe support as they don’t know their ass from their elbow and after telling you a list of steps to take (steps I’d just finished telling them I’d already taken without success before speaking to them) they will tell you that Adobe CS3 is no longer supported and to find your answer in the Adobe community forums. Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I went through this process twice with Adobe “support staff”. In order words, Adobe’s official advice is to “figure it out yourself. And so I did.

Here is the solution to the Adobe CS3 activation error. You will need an Adobe ID.

  1. Get a new (free) CS3 serial code, as your old one is now useless. You can do this by going to https://helpx.adobe.com/creative-suite/kb/cs3-product-downloads.html and click the Sign in link (down past What are my options?)
  2. Download the new CS3 installer (link found on the page after you sign in)
  3. While downloading the new installer, uninstall the old CS3
  4. CRITICAL STEP – Delete cache.db file from Program Files (x86)/Common Files/Adobe/Adobe PCD/cache.
  5. In case you missed step 4. Skip this step and nothing will change and you’ll get the activation error again. CRITICAL STEP – Delete cache.db file from Program Files (x86)/Common Files/Adobe/Adobe PCD/cache.
  6. Reboot
  7. Optional, if you want to be extremely thorough: Run the Adobe Cleaner Tool (get it here https://helpx.adobe.com/creative-cloud/kb/cc-cleaner-tool-installation-problems.html). Mine didn’t find anything to remove.
  8. Optional: Reboot
  9. Install Photoshop CS3 using the new CS3 installer
  10. Start the program, rejoice when it asks for your new serial code
  11. Have a minor heart attack when you get another activation error
  12. Rejoice when you realise it’s just a product registration error. Click “Never register”, and go have a beer.

Yay.

Critcal step was found here: https://forums.adobe.com/thread/2371664