Installation and Update Guide for SolidWorks 2012

SolidWorks 2012 was released at service pack 0.0 in October of 2011. Over the past few months, I have compiled a list of the most common questions we get in regards to the update process. I hope that you will find this overview helpful, when you and your company are performing the upgrade to SolidWorks 2012.


This guide is meant to serve as an overview of the upgrade process.  I’ve left out some of the details and specifics, in order to help reduce the length of the overview.   If you have any questions or get stuck along the way, please don’t hesitate to contact us in tech support



First things first – Go to and download the latest version of SolidWorks, using the option FULL DOWNLOAD.  This will be approximately a 5 GB download, and will contain everything that was originally included on the DVD, but at the latest available service pack.  Throughout this document, we will reference and use a number of the folders in this download.  If you need a step by step guide on how to acquire the FULL DOWNLOAD of SolidWorks, please refer to this PDF.






(I also have a PDF which explains how to download individual elements of SolidWorks, so if you just wanted to install the SNL, you can simply download this part of the install.  DOWNLOAD ELEMENTS of SolidWorks PDF)




Prism Engineering has created a number of installation videos and tips and tricks webinars regarding the installation of SolidWorks.  A great video for installation tips and tricks is available on the PrismEngineeringInc Youtube page at the following website address:

The key things to remember when installing on the client machine are:

1. Be sure to login with FULL ADMIN RIGHTS before beginning the installation

2. Create a new installation folder for the new installation.  This will be very helpful when setting up and troubleshooting the location of templates and libraries.  I like to use the following naming convention:

C:\Program Files\SolidWorks 2010

C:\Program Files\SolidWorks 2011

C:\Program Files\SolidWorks 2012



SolidWorks NETWORK License Manager update:

The SolidWorks Network License manager (hereafter referred to as the SNL) is used to manage floating seats of SolidWorks.  The 2012 SNL can manage seats of SolidWorks 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.  Since it can manage seats from previous versions of SolidWorks, this should be the first thing you update to 2012.  The client (end user) seats of SolidWorks make a call(ping) to the SNL approximately every 15 minutes.  The update takes about 5 minutes provided nothing unexpected happens.  A server reboot is not typically required.  Thus, many customers are able to run the update to the SNL during work hours, without the 2011 (or previous) clients needing to close or log off of SolidWorks.

 After doing the FULL DOWNLOAD, there will be a folder called SWLICMGR(SW LIC MGR – SolidWorks License Manager).  Copy this folder onto the server which is hosting the SNL.  This folder contains the required installation files for the SNL. 

Inside of this folder there will be an executable called Setup.exe.  Double-click on this file and run the setup and installation of the SNL, using the default options.  The serial number information will be automatically captured from your 2011 SNL install. Choose the defaults, next, next, next and finish.

You may be asked to ACTIVATE (automatically) or you may need to launch the 2012 SNL.  Launch the SolidWorks 2012 SNL on the server by going into the Programs section of the WINDOWS start menu, and then choosing SolidWorks, SolidWorks Network License manager.  Click the MODIFY button, and then choose ACTIVATE/REACTIVATE.  Enter your server information and email address, and choose to activate automatically over the internet. 

After the activation concludes, go onto the tab called LICENSE USAGE, and verify that there are licenses of SolidWorks (and any other products).  You should begin to see your users taking licenses, as they begin to use (or continue to use) SolidWorks.

Administrative Image

The admin image for SolidWorks 2012 can be used to install SolidWorks on multiple 64bit and/or 32bit computers, from one single image across a network.  The CAD ADMINISTRATOR in your company can create this image on a server, and allow end users to browse to this folder and double click the STARTSWINSTALL.hta file, which installs SolidWorks and inputs your serial number, products to install, and installation location, all based on options set while the image was being created.  Additional options can be customized to control which serial number is assigned to each computer (for companies with multiple stand alone serial numbers) and which computers get which products installed (for example: Some computers might get SolidWorks Simulation Professional, while others get SolidWorks Flow Simulation). 

I have created a PDF which explains the step by step process to install an admin image, with a number of different options.  Please feel free to email me for a copy.  To get the admin image created, start by copying the entire FULL DOWNLOAD folder onto the server which is going to host the Admin Image.  The FULL DOWNLOAD folder contains an executable called SETUP.EXE. 

Double click on this SETUP.EXE and the SolidWorks 2012 Installation manager will launch.  Choose the option to CREATE AN ADMIN IMAGE and specify which products will be included in the “MASTER COPY” of the admin image.  If different computers are going to have different products installed, choose every product available when creating this MASTER admin image.

After the admin image has been created, you will be left with an entirely new folder on the server, which contains the ADMIN IMAGE.  Within this folder there is a file called STARTSWINSTALL.hta.  Once the image is created, create a share to this ADMIN IMAGE folder, and allow the end users access so that they can double click on this STARTSWINSTALL.hta which will kick off the automated installer, on their machine.

Like I said, for more detailed steps in the creation of the admin image, please feel free to email me.


SolidWorks TOOLBOX:

A number of users have asked about the use of SolidWorks Toolbox during the upgrade process.  SolidWorks Toolbox is a table-based library of commonly used nuts, bolts, washers, and other hardware.  It is included in SolidWorks Professional and higher.  Often, companies will create customized parts in toolbox, or will modify the toolbox parts to include customized part numbers.  These changes will not be lost when upgrading to SolidWorks 2012.

To migrate an existing toolbox into SolidWorks 2012:

1. Backup your existing toolbox folder.  To do this, simply make a copy of the folder (usually called TOOLBOX DATA or SOLIDWORKS DATA) and add a date to the name: “SolidWorks Data-Backup from 2011”.

2. During the installation (either a STAND ALONE installation or during the creation of the ADMIN IMAGE), there will be a screen which asks about Toolbox/Hole Wizard options.  On this screen, choose the bottom option “USE AN EXISTING TOOLBOX”, and point to the location of your shared network toolbox.

During the FIRST installation of a SolidWorks client, the 2011 Toolbox (or previous version) will be converted into a 2012 toolbox.  Let this first install complete, before proceeding.  After the first install is complete, additional clients will simply point to this new, 2012 toolbox share.  They will not need to convert the toolbox (since it has already been upgraded to 2012).

Because of this process, users who are deploying from an admin image should do a single client install, first, let it conclude, and then do multiple additional client installs simultaneously. 

3. That’s it.  That’s all you need to do.  Any additional questions on your toolbox install just give us a call or an email.


SolidWorks Workgroup PDM VAULT:

SolidWorks Workgroup PDM is a vault data management system which allows users to CHECK IN and CHECK OUT files, creating a revision history each time the file is checked in and checked out.  Clients use an add-in to SolidWorks to access the vault, and the vault portion of the Workgroup PDM is installed on the server.  The vault portion includes both a SERVICE (which runs on the server machine) and a single folder called VAULTDATA.  This folder is installed by default into the server location C:\Vaultdata. 

To upgrade Workgroup PDM to SolidWorks 2012, an administrator will need to get onto this server and run the installation by following these steps:

1. Ask all users to CHECK IN and RELEASE OWNERSHIP of any files which they currently have checked out or owned.  (They can use the FIND/SEARCH command to search for any documents which they own)

2. Go to the server where the current service is running, and STOP the service.  The service is called, ” SolidWorks Workgroup PDM Server”.  Right click on this service and choose to STOP the service.  This will prevent any interactions between the any client and the vault.

3. Go to the server where the current VAULTDATA folder is being housed.  Make a backup copy of this entire folder(simply copy the folder), and add the current date to this backup copy.










4. Go to the FULL DOWNLOAD folder of SolidWorks, and copy the folder called PDMWSERVER onto the server which is hosting the existing Workgroup PDM service(from step 2).  Run the SETUP.exe from within this copied folder, on the server.

5. During the install of SolidWorks 2012 Workgroup PDM, you will be asked (for the first time) to ACTIVATE and VALIDATE the 2012 Vault installation.  This one time procedure is used by SolidWorks Corp to get a feel for how many companies are utilizing SolidWorks Workgroup PDM.  There is no limitation to the number of computers onto which you may install a vault, and this activation/validation process is for informational purposes only (not licensing purposes).   Here are some of the screens you will see during the validation process:



























On the SETUP TYPE screen, choose VAULT, and then point to the location of the existing vault.  Choose Next and Finish, and the SolidWorks Workgroup 2012 Vault SERVICE will be installed and will utilize your existing VAULTDATA folder.




Your vault is now updated to the 2012 service, but the data within the vault is still from a previous version of SolidWorks.

SolidWorks utilizes a new version of the Parasolid Kernel for each release of the software.  SolidWorks 2012 will take slightly longer to open and save single part files which have not yet been saved into the 2012 format.  SolidWorks will take significantly longer to open and save large complex assemblies and drawings of large complex assemblies, until the assembly and all of its referenced parts have been saved into the 2012 format.

Since users of Workgroup PDM often utilize a mix of READ ONLY and READ/WRITE files, within the same assembly, engineering teams may experience this slower opening/saving time over and over and over again, as the READ ONLY files will not be saved into the new format, and will need to be re-converted each time they are opened into ram.

To address this issue, Prism Engineering strongly encourages users of Workgroup PDM to run the SolidWorks 2012 Task Scheduler utility to CONVERT THE ENTIRE VAULT into the 2012 format, as soon as the Vault has been upgraded to the 2012 format.  To obtain instructions on this conversion process, please email me at



This overview is meant to help guide you and your company through some of the key steps and concepts of the SolidWorks 2012 update process.

Please keep in mind that we, in tech support, are here for you and are happy to help guide you through this process and answer any questions you may have along the way.  Please don’t hesitate to call or email us anytime:

Telephone – 215-784-0800 X1, X1

Email –


Happy Upgrading!

~Toby Schnaars


  1. Toby –

    You’ve covered the “how to” for multiple versions of SolidWorks on one computer…but, if you upgrade PDMW to v2012, does that not fubar the access of Vault data for those people still using older SolidWorks versions?

    Would it not be better to leave the Vault on the oldest version and then just have the Users turn on the Vault add-in for the oldest version and leave turned off the add-ins for the newer Vault versions?


    1. Hi Steve,
      Thanks for the question.

      2011 SolidWorks could utilize either the 2010 or 2011 Workgroup PDM add in. Although I haven’t seen it explicitly written, I would assume 2012 works the same way with the 2011 add in. (2010 and 2009 were the same way, as was 2009 to 2008). So your users who are on SolidWorks 2012 would be able to access a 2011 Workgroup PDM vault, and your users who are on 2011 would be able to do the same(both using the 2011 Workgroup PDM Add in for SolidWorks).

      The problem I foresee would be in file compatibility. When a user on SolidWorks 2012 opens an assembly and takes ownership of some of the files, makes changes, saves and then checks these files back into the vault, the files will be converted to SolidWorks 2012. Now that assembly, and any higher level assemblies which referenced this sub assembly, will be unable to open on any 2011 seats of SolidWorks since the files have been converted up to 2012.

      Long story short, were I the engineering manager I would wait until everyone on my team was ready to upgrade to 2012, at which point I would upgrade everyone at the same time to avoid any kind of file compatibility issues.

      Thanks again for the great question and please feel free to follow up.
      ~Toby Schnaars

  2. Here is a question I got from a user:
    From: V.W.
    Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2012 2:53 PM
    To: swtech
    Subject: SW 2012 Admin Image


    I’ve been reading your support article here, and I am interested in the detailed steps in creation of the admin image that you mention. Many thanks for your very informative blog.


    Design Drafter

  3. Here was my response:
    From: Toby Schnaars
    Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2012 3:31 PM
    To: V.W.
    Subject: RE: SW 2012 Admin Image

    Hi V.W.
    Thank you very much for the interest in the blog post.

    You could take a look at this, the admin guide for SolidWorks.

    If you head down to page 18, I think you will find some good info.

    Hope this helps,
    Toby Schnaars
    SolidWorks Elite Applications Engineer

  4. Toby,

    Thanks for your tips in upgrading Workgroup PDM to 2012. You helped me accomplish what our VAR could not as the WPDM 2012 would fail at installation.

  5. So I’m trying to install this on my boss’s son’s computer which is heading off to University tomorrow afternoon and I am an English speaking person, while his son is not.

    I have installed Win7 Ultimate for the dual langauge (I am the company’s system administrator), but I can’t figure out how to install the program in Chinese. Every time, it just shows up as English.

    This is actually the Chinese version of the program and it includes Chinese. I am running with the location of Taiwan and the locale to Chinese Traditional.

    But the installer is pure English and the program (4th install attempt) is *STILL* installing as English only. There is no option anywhere to change the interface language to Chinese (like in MS Office etc).

    I’m running out of time here!

    Seriously, with all the intermingling of engineers from Germany, France, the US, China, Taiwan and Japan going on in our company alone, it shocks me that there is no simple way to just pick a language for the program to be installed as (ie Adobe, Autocad, Skype, Sony Vegas Pro, or pretty much anything else out there…)


    1. Hi Jimmy,
      Thanks for the comment.

      During the installation you will come to a screen called PRODUCT SELECTION. On this screen, there is a option to modify the installation and to choose which products are installed. You can also choose which languages are included. If you hit the PLUS (+) next to Languages(it’s down toward the bottom) and check the option for CHINESE, you should be able to get your boss’s son all up and running with the SolidWorks software.

      Hope this helps,
      ~Toby Schnaars


    I am referencing your online overview- “Installation and Update Guide for SolidWorks 2012” for our engineering groups conversion of SW2011 to 2012 and have a question. Can I get the instructions from you to “CONVERT THE ENTIRE VAULT”?



    1. Hi Kris,
      Thanks for the question.
      Within the SolidWorks 2012 TASK SCHEDULER click the HELP pulldown, then TASK SCHEDULER HELP TOPICS.

      Over in the left area click the plus next to TASKS, then select the CONVERT WORKGROUP PDM Files.

      This section provides a nice overview of the process and what actually happens when you choose to convert your vaulted files into SolidWorks 2012.

      Within this section you will see that there is an option to either convert a few projects at a time, or convert the entire vault as one single task (which might take a while, depending on the size of your vault).

      Hope this helps,
      ~Toby Schnaars

  7. Hi, when am trying to install the SW12 am not able to select the individual option its selecting the administrative option only. how to enable the individual option pls help me.

    1. Hi Deena,
      Great question. Unfortunately from the user side, there is little you can do. Usually when the only option available is the option for ADMIN IMAGE, this indicates that your IT team installed using an Administrative image. If you need to get rid of this, the only real choice you have is to uninstall the current installation of SolidWorks, then start fresh.

      Sorry, but hope this helps,

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