How to Work Through the COVID-19 Outbreak with SOLIDWORKS at Home

Right now, working from home is not just one way to work; it’s the only way to work. Luckily with SOLIDWORKS, there are several options to use the software remotely. So, here is the definitive guide to successfully working remotely with SOLIDWORKS. Think of this as a survival guide that allows you to be a productive designer through this COVID-19 outbreak.

When it comes to designing remotely, there are really two parts to getting up and running, and staying productive: CAD and collaboration. The first part, CAD, means getting access to SOLIDWORKS at home. The second part, collaboration, means establishing how to work with team members and share your design data remotely while practicing social distancing. Let’s take a look at both parts, beginning with CAD.

Part 1: CAD

Before you start designing, you need to have SOLIDWORKS on your computer outside the office. This might seem obvious, but since there are a few different ways to make this happen it could be a little confusing. So, let’s outline the options for you.

Check out the flow chart below to guide you through the options that are available. Regardless of the option you choose, you will need to install SOLIDWORKS on your home machine. Then follow the steps below for the available options to get your SOLIDWORKS installation licensed and working.

Step 1: Determine the License Type

There are two types of licenses – shared (floating or network) and individual (standalone). Keep in mind that throughout the community (and even this article) there are a few different names to call these license types. Shared could be called network, floating or SolidNetWork Licensing. Individual could be called node locked, standalone or machine activation licensing. I will try to be consistent throughout this article, but keep in mind the variation in terms.

You need to first determine which of these types you have. There are two easy ways to check the license type: either by looking at your serial number or by looking at the help menu from inside of SOLIDWORKS.

Method 1: Look at the Serial Number

You can tell what type of license you have by looking at the third digit in your serial number. Your serial number will probably be 24 alphanumeric characters, but to figure out the license type (floating or standalone) you need to only look at the third digit. If it’s a 0, you have a standalone or individual license. If it’s a 1, then it’s a network or shared license. Check out the image below for reference.

This only works though if you have your serial number written down in a safe place. If you don’t have your serial number handy, you’ll need to use method 2.

Method 2: Look at the Help Menu

You can determine the license type by looking at the help menu from within SOLIDWORKS. The quickest way to determine if you have a shared license or individual license is to look towards the bottom of the help menu. The help menu will look different depending on whether you have a standalone or network license.

The most obvious thing to look for is a line item called “SolidNetWork License Manager.” If you see this, then you have a SolidNetWork License (aka shared, floating or network). If you don’t, then you have a standalone license (aka individual).

The help menu is also the easiest way to find your serial number. Just click on “About SOLIDWORKS…” and you can view your serial number. It’s a good idea to have your serial number handy, especially for some of the added benefits of a SOLIDWORKS license outside of just the desktop application such as; we’ll get to these later in the blog.

If you can’t find your serial number, call your reseller and they will be able to help you figure it out.

Step 2: Your Work from Home Options

Now that you have figured out your license type, let’s go over the options for you. There are different options depending on if you have an individual or shared license.

Shared (SolidNetWork) License

Option 1: Maintain a VPN Connection

When working remotely with a SolidNetWork license, you can continue working on your machine as if you are in your office if you maintain a VPN connection. I won’t go into details about VPNs here in this article, as this is something on which I recommend you consult with your internal IT or SOLIDWORKS Admin. The VPN option is a good one because you simply activate the VPN connection and work just like you were in the office. The only downside beyond the additional VPN application is that launching SOLIDWORKS while using a VPN connection could potentially be slower than you’re used to when you’re in your office.

Keep in mind that an active VPN connection is required to use SOLIDWORKS. If you close the VPN or if it gets disconnected, then you’ll only have 15 minutes to continue working before you get the message that SOLIDWORKS could not obtain a license. You’ll need to save your work so you can pick back up once the VPN connection is restored.

Option 2: Check out a License

If working over a VPN is not an option, then you can check out or borrow a license for up to 30 days. However, you must be physically in your office to do this – NEVER check out a license over a VPN connection.

When you borrow a license, this will remove it from the available license pool. This means whether or not you are actively using SOLIDWORKS, the license will be available only to you. So, make sure you work this out with your team.

The steps to borrow a license are shown below. Begin by launching the SolidNetWork License Manager Client from your Windows Start Menu and then borrow or check out the licenses you need.

Keep in mind that all the prerequisite licenses will be borrowed automatically. In the example above, I borrowed only a SOLIDWORKS Premium license, but the License Manager also automatically borrowed a SOLIDWORKS standard license. If you’re back in the office early, you can return the license back to the available pool, so it is made available to everyone in the company. If not, it will automatically be returned on the “borrow until” date.

Individual (Standalone) License

Option 3 – Transfer the License

If you have individual or standalone licensing, you can deactivate the license on your work computer and transfer it to your home machine. You’re probably used to this method when you’ve switch machines at work or upgraded from one version to the next.

The traditional activation-based (standalone) license needs to go through an activation process which activates the license on a particular machine. This is a process where you must physically click through each time you want to deactivate and activate a license. This is easy to do from the help menu, but you must physically be at the machine, which could be a challenge.

With SOLIDWORKS open, go to “Help” and deactivate the license. Follow the steps listed below for your version of SOLIDWORKS.

  • SOLIDWORKS 2020: Click Help > Licenses > Deactivate
  • SOLIDWORKS 2016-2019 and previous: Click Help > Deactivate Licenses
  • SOLIDWORKS 2015 and Prior: Click Help > Transfer Licenses

When you launch SOLIDWORKS on your home machine, you will be prompted to activate the license. Also, make sure that you follow the steps to deactivate the license on your home machine before you return to work, or else you won’t be able to use SOLIDWORKS on your office machine.

Option 4: Convert to Online Licensing (My personal favorite option)

If you have individual (standalone) licensing, I highly recommend considering converting from activation-based licensing to online licensing. I would be recommending this even if we weren’t in the current state of affairs with working remotely. It gives users the flexibility we’ve grown accustomed to lately.

Online licensing was introduced in 2018 and is available to be used on SOLIDWORKS 2018 and newer. It switches the licensing from activation-based to a login-based license. This means when you launch SOLIDWORKS, you will be prompted to login with your SOLIDWORKS username and password. This one username and password gives you the flexibility to use your one license across all your devices, in any location, without having to go through the steps listed above for manually deactivating and activating the license on each machine.

The only caveat to online licensing is that you must have Internet access to sign in to SOLIDWORKS; however, after signing in on a machine, you can select offline mode and work while the machine is not connected to the Internet.

Switching to online licensing is an easy process that you can do yourself at Click the admin portal in the upper right corner, and you can easily convert your licenses from activation-based to online licensing. Just remember that before you can do this, you have to first deactivate your license. 

Other Options

There are some other options you have if none of the other four work. There are online trials where you can work on SOLIDWORKS through a web browser for seven days. If you are looking to just stay fresh with your SOLIDWORKS skills or need to get something urgent done, you can consider this option. This is again accessed through the website.

Just click the “Try SOLIDWORKS” button, and an instance of the full application will launch from within the web browser. Using SOLIDWORKS this way is a great experience, and you’ll be surprised at how snappy and responsive it is. It’s loaded with example files and tutorials, but you can also upload your own files.

If you need more than seven days with SOLIDWORKS, you can also buy a term license. These licenses have the same benefits of regular licenses, just with flexible time periods. This is a new license type that companies have really embraced to help meet their short-term needs.

CAD Bonus Pro Tip

Work with your reseller to get the most up-to-date information. This is a constantly-evolving situation and Dassault Systèmes (the maker of SOLIDWORKS) has made helping clients a priority. They have shown a lot of flexibility and creativity when it comes to helping users stay productive through this crisis. Your reseller will be able to help guide you through some creative license options that could be made available to you.

Part 2: Collaborate

So, you’re now working remotely, and your team is spread out—but collaboration is still just as important as when you’re working side-by-side. Here’s some tips to help stay connected with your team through this period. Keep in mind, both of the options below are free.

Zoom – Web Meetings

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There’s a lot of ways to have online meetings. Chances are you and your company probably already have a tool in place. But if you don’t, then I recommend using Zoom for web meetings. In my opinion, this is the most capable free tool out there. You can have unlimited one-on-one meetings and 40-minute team meetings with three or more people. The free version allows for web cams, screen sharing and even phone or computer audio options.

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WhatsApp – Video Calls

There are plenty of ways to talk and text and stay connected, but for those who don’t already have a platform in place such as Skype, Microsoft Teams or Slack, I recommend considering WhatsApp.

This is the best way to video chat with people no matter what type of phone they have, and it’s free of charge. While FaceTime is great, everyone must be in the Apple ecosystem in order to participate. WhatsApp is platform agnostic, and can enable video chats with up to four people. Sure, the four-person limit could be disappointing but for a free, platform-agnostic tool, I don’t think there’s anything better than WhatsApp.

Collaborate – Bonus Pro Tip

When using web platforms for meetings, an external webcam goes a long way in improving quality. I recommend the Logitech C920. It’s got great quality video but also a built-in microphone that is remarkably better than the built-in microphones on laptops. This is an extremely inexpensive way to take your web meetings to the next level.

Also remember, using headphones can help eliminate the dreaded audio feedback in web meetings.

As you can see, there are plenty of options to help you stay productive so that you can keep designing no matter where you are. It all comes down to CAD and Collaborate.

  • CAD: there are options to get SOLIDWORKS working on computers outside of the office so you can work remotely. Follow the flowchart to see which of the standard options is best for you. If you need assistance, reach out to your reseller who can help get you up and running with options that might not be available at the time of this writing.
  • Collaborate: Leverage the tools on your computer, phone or tablet to help stay in touch with your team. To me, Zoom is the best free tool out there but there are plenty of others. It’s important to stay in touch, and a webcam is a cheap way to elevate your web meeting presence.

There you have it, the definitive guide to designing from home with SOLIDWORKS. Now you can stay productive with CAD and effectively collaborate with your team members at a distance.

Learn more about SOLIDWORKS with the whitepaper Developing Better Products in the Cloud.

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