Cheap software – legit!

If you aren’t buying “academic licenses”, you’re probably paying too much for popular packages like Photoshop CS4, Lightroom, and even MS Office.  A lot of folks qualify for these deals but don’t realize it.

How does it work?

Many software companies have educational discounts for students and teachers.  Their logic goes something like “if they learn our product in school today, they’ll make it popular in the workplace tomorrow”.

Academic licenses typically cost the same as street price for a retail upgrade, and they’re often identical to the box you’d buy retail.  They usually come with a couple strings attached:

  • No upgrades – you typically can’t upgrade an academic license.  But, since a new academic license costs the same as an upgrade, who cares?
    • In fact, this can be a plus because you end up with two legal licenses – the old one and the new one, and you can install them on separate computers
  • No commercial work – the license often disallows business use.
  • One copy per student
  • There can be other limitations, like the size or complexity of project it can be used on.  It pays to read the restrictions before you buy.

Who qualifies for an academic license?

It varies.  Some are open to all students (so, yes, your first-grader qualifies for $700 off Photoshop CS4 Extended).  Some offers are open only to certain grade levels (e.g., high school or college).  And some are only available to students enrolled in a specific type of class at an accredited college.

In a lot of cases, if you have a student in the household, you qualify.  You’ll usually need to submit proof of student status, and the criteria vary by manufacturer.  Often, just a current report card will do; sometimes a letter from the instructor on school letterhead is required.  Usually your credentials are valid for 12 months, so it’s convenient to do business with the same reseller since they keep them on file.

No students at home?

Think outside the box – some software is so expensive that it’s cheaper to signup for a class at the local college just to qualify for the discount.  (Nobody says you have to actually go to class.)

Where can I buy academic software?

Retail stores carry academic versions of some popular products (e.g., Microsoft Office).  In Microsoft’s case, you only need to confirm you’re a student during the software installation process.

Most manufacturers sell academic licenses through authorized academic resellers like Academic Superstore.  These resellers collect proof of your student status before selling you an academic license.

On-campus bookstores are also an excellent place to find academic licenses.  And if you don’t find one for your package, ask the manufacturer – they may offer one, but only direct from them.  (I got an educational license for an expensive circuit-board design package, so it’s worth a try.)

Don’t forget your employer

If you work for a large company, they may have corporate licenses for the products they use most – ask your I.T. or Benefits departments.  E.g., Microsoft has a “home use” clause that lets employees of these companies buy the Office suite for less than $50, even without a student in the house.

Was this valuable info?

If this article just saved you a few hundred bucks, I’ll shamelessly ask you to throw a donation in my direction.

©2009 Richard Hornbaker.  All rights reserved.

Thank you!




5 Responses to “Cheap software – legit!”

  1. Great article, thanks for the share. Blog bookmarked 🙂

  2. Question – – I saw your articlel on the cracked LCD for the SB-800.
    You stated you paid $50.00 for it.. Do you have the details.

    Thank you.


    • Hi, Gerad. I see I was a little vague in that post (and I still need to post the photos)… I bought the replacement LCD from Nikon Repair. I think I happened to buy it via my local repair shop, but since discovered that Nikon will sell parts direct to end users and it arrives faster and cheaper than with the dealer markup. In the post I’ve included links to the repair manual with part numbers, as well as the Nikon Repair web page. Cheers!

  3. some cheap softwares does not offer good online technical support so i would caution about using them -:`

    • Fair enough; thanks for reading!
      Manufacturers often restrict educational licenses, so you do need to read the terms. E.g., a design package might not allow creating a commercial product; they may not include free technical support (i.e., user forums or for-fee support only); and they often don’t allow license upgrades. The circuit board design product I referenced didn’t allow for commercial products, and I recall it also limited the size and complexity of the circuit board.
      My point for this article is just to raise awareness for educational licensing – most folks I know that qualify have never heard of it.

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