Reduce SOLIDWORKS assembly open times by specifying external reference search locations

Article by Chris Briand, CSWE updated November 30, 2016


If there is one topic that repeatedly sends our customers to sleep, it’s file references. But what if I could tell you that could save time whenever you open an assembly? Where is this magic time saving switch you ask?   It is squarely located within the “External References” section of the SOLIDWORKS 2017 options dialog, found under Tools > Options > System Options > External References.

Typical External References

In many cases our referenced file locations are pointing at locations that we (or our team) turn to for the most commonly reused components. If you have things setup in a logical manner it may mean that these directories are shared and that only a few people on your team have “gatekeeper” access to the location to add files.  If this is the case, it is more than likely that any files that you have misplaced are not located within your commonly referenced folders.

Typical External References

Typical External References

The fewer folders that SOLIDWORKS has to recursively wade through in order to locate a particular file, the faster it will open each and every assembly.  This is especially true with large assemblies which may have components referenced across a variety of network locations.

Full Speed ahead with your Search

In order to avoid SOLIDWORKS perform a recursive search back through those common component and shared libraries, you can uncheck the new option: “Reference Documents specified in File Locations”

External Reference control

External Reference control

This will prevent SOLIDWORKS from searching in those locations (the list typically gets longer the older the installation is).

If you choose to leave this checked; you can instead take advantage of a sub-option to avoid any open folders and anywhere you have recently saved items by selecting “Exclude active folders and recent save locations”

For system administrators looking to make this a default option that is locked for your users, please see my previous article on Locking User Options.

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Chris Briand, CSWE

Chris has been educating and supporting Engineers, Designers and IT Personnel within the 3D CAD industry since 2002, and was adopted into the fantastic team of applications experts here at Javelin Technologies in early 2006.  Chris enjoys the continuous learning driven by the ingenuity and challenges Designers bring forward. Innovation using 3D Printing, 3D CAD and other technologies, combined with a diverse background as a technologist, allows Chris to find solutions that accelerate Designers, and take Design Teams to new heights. Chris is currently being held at an undisclosed location, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.