SOLIDWORKS 2021 Update frequently asked questions

Article by Scott Durksen, CSWE updated October 29, 2020


Get your SOLIDWORKS 2021 Update frequently asked questions answered below:

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Update General Information

Review our SOLIDWORKS 2021 update general topic questions:

How can I learn about the new features in SOLIDWORKS 2021?

What Windows Operating Systems will be supported by SOLIDWORKS 2021?

SOLIDWORKS 2021 is only supported on Windows 10, 64-bit

*IMPORTANT: Windows 7 support ended with SOLIDWORKS 2020 SP5
*Windows Home Editions are not supported
*Only Microsoft Windows networking is supported
*Novell networks and non-Windows network storage devices are not supported

Please see the SOLIDWORKS System Requirements for additional information.

Are Virtual Environments Supported?

Only select Virtual Environments are supported.  Please see the SOLIDWORKS Virtual Environments support page.

NOTE – Virtual environments require a certified GPU for proper performance of SOLIDWORKS, eDrawings and Draftsight.

Certified GPU drivers for virtual environments can be found on the SOLIDWORKS Hardware Certification page.

(Choose “Virtual Desktop” from the Computer Vendor dropdown)

Will SOLIDWORKS 2021 files open in previous major releases (i.e. in SOLIDWORKS 2020)?

The Previous Release Interoperability functionality allows 2021 parts and assemblies to be opened in SOLIDWORKS 2020 SP5, with limited functionality.

Can I run any third party add-in or custom macro/API within SOLIDWORKS 2021?

  • SOLIDWORKS offers a Partner Product Program where companies worldwide can work directly with SOLIDWORKS to create products to improve productivity.  These tools and products help to enhance your SOLIDWORKS experience.  Gold Certified Products are reviewed by a SOLIDWORKS committee to ensure proper functionality within the SOLIDWORKS environment.
  • For partner products that have not been Gold certified, contact the supplier to verify compatibility with the latest releases.
  • Any custom macro/API should be tested to ensure compatibility with the latest release.

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Installation

Review our SOLIDWORKS 2021 update installation frequently asked questions:

What is the SOLIDWORKS 2021 Installation Manager?

Each release of SOLIDWORKS has its own Installation Manager.  This is a standalone application that can download/update/upgrade/install/modify/repair all SOLIDWORKS products.  It can be used to create and manage administrative images and standalone installs all within the same user interface.  The Installation Manager can be downloaded from the SOLIDWORKS Customer Portal for each version/service pack.

How does the SOLIDWORKS 2021 Installation Manager work?

The SOLIDWORKS 2021 Installation Manager uses Windows Installer and installs all products silently passing the required parameters to the installations.  You can specify a folder location for the installation.  This location will be used as the root folder for the installation of all products.

The list of installed programs within the Windows Control Program will show a single line for SOLIDWORKS 2021.  This can be used to modify or uninstall any of the SOLIDWORKS Products within a single interface.

What should I do before I upgrade to SOLIDWORKS 2021?

Review our SOLIDWORKS Upgrade Checklist and PDM Upgrade Checklist articles prior to an upgrade.

What’s the recommended installation procedure, to upgrade or to perform a new installation?

Both installation methods are supported. Updating your existing SOLIDWORKS installation can be done if users no longer require the prior version still on their system.  A new installation will leave existing installations and install separately.

Can I have more than one version of SOLIDWORKS installed on my system at the same time?

Yes, it is possible to have multiple versions of SOLIDWORKS on the same system.  During install, choose the option for a new installation and specify separate paths for the install directory and the Toolbox directory.

Review the section “Installing SOLIDWORKS with Unique Install Directories” in our SOLIDWORKS Installation & Setup FAQs found on our Technical Support page.

Can I directly upgrade to SOLIDWORKS 2021 from SOLIDWORKS 2020 or prior?

You do have an option to perform a direct upgrade to SOLIDWORKS 2021 from any prior major version.

If you are skipping several major versions (i.e. SOLIDWORKS 2018 to 2021), it’s typically best to uninstall your current version and install the latest version as a new installation.

To ensure a clean installation of SOLIDWORKS 2021, review our SOLIDWORKS Complete Uninstall Guide to remove all previous installations.

How do I upgrade a SOLIDWORKS Toolbox database in a shared environment?

When a SOLIDWORKS Toolbox directory is located on a shared server location, upgrading the local client SOLIDWORKS installation may not update the database.  Review our Toolbox Upgrade article for steps to upgrade the Toolbox.

Where can I find more information on SOLIDWORKS Installations?

Review our Installation Guides on our Support page:

For more detailed information on installations, review the SOLIDWORKS Administration Guides.

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Standalone Licensing – Node Locked

Review our SOLIDWORKS 2021 update frequently asked questions for standalone licensing:

Do I need a new serial number to install SOLIDWORKS 2021?

If your license includes Subscription Service, your existing serial number will automatically be upgraded for SOLIDWORKS 2021.  During the installation and activation, the serial number will be authenticated for its validity with the SOLIDWORKS 2021 release.

What is Product Activation?

Product activation is a secure, hassle-free process that authenticates licensed users during the installation process. For more information regarding product activation please refer to the SOLIDWORKS Activation FAQ.

If I do not have internet access on my SOLIDWORKS workstation, how will I activate my product?

Activation requires an internet connection or email access. After successful activation, you do not need to be online to use the products.

If you do not have internet access on the computer where SOLIDWORKS is installed, you can choose the Manual activation method to Save an activation request file.  This file can be transferred to another computer with internet access (i.e. via a USB key).  Email the file to  You will receive an email response within a few minutes with an activation response file.  Copy this file back to the SOLIDWORKS workstation and continue through the Manual activation method but select to Open the authorized activation file.

SOLIDWORKS 2021 SolidNetWork Licensing (SNL) – Floating

Review our SOLIDWORKS 2021 update frequently asked questions for SNL:

How is network (floating) licensing handled in SOLIDWORKS 2021?

SOLIDWORKS 2021 continues to use the same SolidNetWork License Manager to provide network licenses for all SOLIDWORKS products.  SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard and PDM Professional licenses use the same SolidNetWork License Manager in 2021.

  1. A server on your network hosts the SolidNetWork License Manager Server application for activation of all network licenses
  2. Clients connected to the same network obtain licenses from the server on opening SOLIDWORKS.  When SOLIDWORKS is closed, the license is returned to the server.
  3. License borrowing is available to lock licenses to a machine when disconnected from the network

What Operating Systems are supported for the SolidNetWork License Manager?

Review the section “SOLIDWORKS Network License Server” on the SOLIDWORKS System Requirements page.

Can SOLIDWORKS, Simulation, Composer, Electrical, PCB, Plastics, CAM, Visualize and PDM products run from one license manager tool?

Yes, users can manage all SOLIDWORKS product licenses using one utility.  During installation, you can enter multiple serial numbers separated by commas.  You will need to install the License Manager on a server, accessible by all clients.  Please review the “SOLIDWORKS Installation Guide Network License” on our Support page.

Why are the clients not able to obtain a SOLIDWORKS license from the server?

Firewalls may be preventing the communication between the client and server machines.  Review our SOLIDWORKS SolidNetwork License Manager Troubleshooting article for possible solutions.

Do clients have access to view licenses currently in use?

Yes, SOLIDWORKS client installations will include a SolidNetWork License Manager Client application.  This can be accessed through Windows Start > SOLIDWORKS Tools 2021 > SolidNetWork License Manager Client 2021.  Check the License Usage tab and select the required product from the dropdown.

Can the 2021 SolidNetWork License Manager support prior versions of SOLIDWORKS?

Yes, the License Manager is backwards compatible so the SOLIDWORKS 2021 License Manager will support all earlier versions of the software (since activation was introduced in 2008).

However the License Manager will always need to be on the same major version or newer.  For example, SOLIDWORKS 2021 will not work with the 2020 SolidNetWork License Manager.

Why do I see extra SOLIDWORKS Standard licenses on the “License Usage” tab in the SolidNetWork License Manager?

A SOLIDWORKS Standard license is always required to be checked out when opening SOLIDWORKS.  When an add-in that requires a higher license is enabled, the Professional or Premium license is checked out, but it keeps a Standard license checked out at the same time.

For example if you have purchased one (1) SOLIDWORKS Standard license and two (2) SOLIDWORKS Premium licenses, the License Manager will show a total of three (3) Standard licenses since two are required for the Premium version.

What is the “License Order” tab in the SolidNetwork License Manager?

The License Order tab allows you to change the order of product taken from the server if multiple levels of products are available on the network.  For example, Simulation products have various levels (SOLIDWORKS Premium, Simulation Standard, Simulation Professional, Simulation Premium).  This can also apply to other licenses such as SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard and Visualize Professional.

In SOLIDWORKS 2020, the Simulation add-in was enhanced for the ability to choose which license to use when enabling the add-in, rather than needing to use the License Order tab.

What is the “License Borrowing” tab in the Network License Manager?

If a computer will be disconnected from the network due to travel or working from home, you can borrow a license for a specified period.  This locks a SOLIDWORKS license on the computer and allow you to launch the program without being connected to your work network.

Borrowing a Professional or Premium license automatically borrows the pre-requisite SOLIDWORKS Standard license.

How do I upgrade to the 2021 SolidNetWork License Manager?

You can upgrade an existing SOLIDWORKS SolidNetWork License Manager to a new version using the SOLIDWORKS Installation Manager, rather than uninstalling the previous version.

IMPORTANT: Once the upgrade is complete, reactivate the License Manager to obtain the 2021 licenses.

Can I use a remote desktop application to install and activate the License Manager on a server?

Avoid using a remote desktop application as this can cause a change to the Computer Identifier of the server during activation. This may cause a mismatch of the hardware ID and an Activation Count Exceeded error may occur and the activation will fail.

Where can I find more information about SolidNetWork License installations?

Review our SOLIDWORKS Installation Network License document on our Support page

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Activation

Review our SOLIDWORKS 2021 update activation procedures for standalone and network licenses.

Standalone License:

To activate a standalone license:

  1. Start SOLIDWORKS and add-on required (i.e. Simulation).
  2. If you have not yet activated your license, the Product Activation dialog box appears.
  3. Choose the Automatic (recommended) or Manual option.
    Automatic – Submit the request automatically over the internet (requires internet connection)
    Manual – Click Save to create a file, and then send the file to from another computer that has internet access. When you receive the response file, typically within minutes of the initial submission, copy to the client machine and run the activation procedure again and click Open to load the response file.
  4. The Activation/Reactivate Succeeded dialog box displays the products that have been activated.

To transfer a standalone license:

  1. Open SOLIDWORKS on the activated computer
  2. Go to Help > Licenses > Deactivate…
  3. Choose the license to transfer (or select all)
  4. Choose the Automatic or Manual option
  5. Once the transfer is successful, install and activate on the new computer

Network Licensing:

To activate a network license:

  1. Install the SOLIDWORKS SolidNetWork License Manager from the Installation Manager, Server Products
  2. Open the SolidNetWork License Manager Server 2021 from Windows Start > SOLIDWORKS Tools 2021.
  3. Choose Yes when prompted “Would you like to activate now?”
  4. Choose the Automatic (recommended) or Manual option.
    Automatic – Submit the request automatically over the internet (requires internet connection)
    Manual – Click Save to create a file, and then send the file to from another computer that has internet access. When you receive the response file, typically within minutes of the initial submission, copy to the client machine and run the activation procedure again and click Open to load the response file.
  5. The Activation/Reactivate Succeeded dialog box displays the products that have been activated.

To transfer a network license from a server:

  1. Open the SolidNetWork License Manager on the server
  2. On the ‘Server Administration’ tab, click Modify
  3. Select ‘Move your product license(s) to a new/upgraded computer
  4. Choose the Automatic or Manual method and follow the steps
  5. Install and activate the License Manager on a new server
  6. Point all client machines to the new server by opening the SolidNetWork License Manager Client on each machine and add the new server name in the Server List tab

For more information, please review our SOLIDWORKS Installation Guide Network License on our Support page

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Online Licensing

Review our SOLIDWORKS 2021 update activation procedures for online licenses.

What is Online Licensing?

Online licensing was introduced with SOLIDWORKS 2018 where you can simply log in on opening SOLIDWORKS to use your license.  Activation is not required so you can log in to SOLIDWORKS from different machines to have access.  Only one machine can have an active session at one time.  Closing SOLIDWORKS will end the session and allow another machine to be logged in.

Specific licenses are assigned to different users, so the proper license is obtained when logging in.  This is specified when setting up online licensing.  This will only apply to standalone licenses (not network/floating licenses).

Review our SOLIDWORKS Online Licensing articles for more information.

Can I use Online Licensing with SOLIDWORKS 2017 or earlier?

No, online licensing is only available for SOLIDWORKS 2018 and onward.  You will still need to use activation-based licensing for prior versions.

How do I enable Online Licensing?

By default, standalone licenses will be set to the original activation-based structure.  The license can be changed to Online by accessing the Admin Portal from a registered account.

Do I need an internet connection to use Online Licensing?

Yes, you require access to the internet while using the online license.  There are “heartbeats” to the SOLIDWORKS server to verify that you are still have an internet connection.  A warning will be given after 15 minutes of lost connection.  After 30 minutes you will be prompted to save all work and asks to shutdown SOLIDWORKS.

What if I need to go offline and still use SOLIDWORKS?

The license can be obtained when connected online and then set to offline mode.  This will lock the license to the machine for up to 30 days, so you can use SOLIDWORKS without an internet connection.

Review our article on how to take an online license offline.

Related Links

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Scott Durksen, CSWE

Scott is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and is based in our Dartmouth, Nova Scotia office.