Understanding Desktop SOLIDWORKS Licenses

By Mike Walloch on

SOLIDWORKS provides a variety of CAD packages and license types to ensure everyone from the CAD Administrators of large corporations down to summer interns have the tools they need to be successful. In this article, we’ll break down what license types are available for the traditional desktop version of SOLIDWORKS and offer some good use cases for each. We’ll look at the cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS options in another article.


SOLIDWORKS is a bundle of different tools, as well as a specific Windows application. You can think of it as a toolbox sold as a set. The larger set you buy, the more tools are included. Most are built in to the SOLIDWORKS application itself, while others are add-ins or stand-alone applications which come with it. The packages themselves are SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional, and Premium. If you’d like to know more about what tools and features are included with each, check out this article:

Choosing Between SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional and Premium – TriMech

SOLIDWORKS Licenses – Stand-Alone vs Network

The desktop version of SOLIDWORKS has been around since 1995 and is still going strong. It’s installed locally on Windows-based PC’s and is available as stand-alone or network licenses.

Whether you have SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional, or Premium, stand-alone, or network, the installation files are the same. Your serial number tells SOLIDWORKS what type of license you have, and what features you have access to. The third digit of your 24-digit serial number tells you if it’s a stand-alone or network license:

  • 9000… = Stand-Alone
  • 9010… = Network

Stand-Alone Licenses

Stand-Alone licenses use Machine Activation to control access to the software. Every computer has a unique Computer ID. When SOLIDWORKS is installed and activated on a particular machine, that serial number is tied to that specific Computer ID so it will not launch and run on a different machine.

A user with a standalone license who wanted to be able to use it on more than one machine can do so. First the license must be deactivated, then it can be activated on a different machine. For example, SOLIDWORKS could be installed on both an office and a home machine, but only activated on one at a time. It’s a quick process which does not require uninstalling SOLIDWORKS. You just have to remember to do it before you change locations.

Stand-alone licenses are also a great choice for users who often lack network or internet access. So, if you frequently travel with a laptop, or work from a home office, RV, or even a boat at sea, this may be the best choice for you.

Network Licenses

Network licenses are intended for companies with a local area network which all CAD users can access. A central server machine hands out ‘floating’ licenses to client machines on the network. The network serial number can have any number of SOLIDWORKS seats associated to it, which is the number of users who can be running SOLIDWORKS at any given time. The network license server can also manage other products, such as SOLIDWORKS Simulation, Visualize, or DraftSight.

SOLIDWORKS can therefore be installed on any number of client machines and shared by more users than there are seats available. This is a great option for companies who have users who need SOLIDWORKS from time to time, but not every day. A company may therefore have one seat for each engineer, designer, or drafter, who uses CAD daily, and a few extras for machinists, technicians, and others who only need it on occasion.

The server machine and all client machines running SOLIDWORKS need one of two versions of the SolidNetWork License Manager application installed:

  • Server Machine – SolidNetWork License Manager Server
  • SOLIDWORKS Workstations – SolidNetWork License Manager Client

The SNL Manager Server is activated much like a standalone version of SOLIDWORKS, but no activation is necessary for any of the client machines. So long as they can communicate with the server, they can draw licenses as needed.

Term vs Perpetual Licenses & Subscription Services

SOLIDWORKS standalone and network versions can be either perpetual or term licenses. Perpetual licenses are owned by the client and never expire, while term licenses are essentially rentals which will cease to function after the expiration date.

Perpetual licenses have optional subscription services which provide clients with various benefits including technical support, the right to upgrade SOLIDWORKS to newer versions as they come out at no extra cost, free certification exam vouchers, etc. Subscription services are paid on an annual basis and will expire if not maintained. But the client is still able to use whatever version of SOLIDWORKS was most current at the time their subscription expired, as well as any earlier version they may want to use.

Term licenses are an annual or quarterly subscription. Clients are entitled to use the license until the expiration date, at which time the license must be renewed, or it will stop working. One advantage of this model is the benefits of subscription services mentioned above are included with term licenses.

Perpetual licenses are great for established companies and users in it for the long haul. Term licensing is a good option for those who need to increase staffing temporarily for a short-term project. Or for that summer intern mentioned earlier. Term licenses also have a lower up-front cost, making them attractive for start-ups. For more information on term licensing click here:

SOLIDWORKS Term Licensing / Renting SOLIDWORKS Products (javelin-tech.com)

SOLIDWORKS Releases – Major Versions & Service Packs

SOLIDWORKS puts out a new major release, named for the upcoming year, around the beginning of the 4th quarter of each year. This is followed by service packs (minor releases) roughly every two months. So, for a given year model of SOLIDWORKS there will be 6 versions, SP0 to SP5.

The SOLIDWORKS file format is updated once per major release and is not backwards compatible. So, if you are using SOLIDWORKS 2022 you will not be able to open 2023 files, with one exception. Service Pack 5 is capable of opening, but not editing, the next year’s file format. For example, if you have SOLIDWORKS 2021 SP5 it can open SOLIDWORKS 2022 format files.

SOLIDWORKS Student Edition

SOLIDWORKS has long made bundles of educational licenses available for research, teaching, and classroom use. But now individual students can obtain their own affordable educational license of SOLIDWORKS! In addition, students can choose between the traditional desktop version and the cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE version. More information can be found here:



The variety of licensing choices SOLIDWORKS makes available to clients can seem daunting. But the variety of choices and options helps to ensure that there is an offer available to fit anyone’s needs.