SOLIDWORKS Online Licensing – Is this the solution for me?

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SOLIDWORKS offers a lot of licensing mechanisms. You may find it challenging to figure out which one is the best fit for you. Let MLC CAD Systems help you sort this out!

Here are some key questions that will help you decide:

Once all this information is gathered, we can compare this to the existing solutions and find the best fit for you. Let’s discuss the most common options.

SOLIDWORKS Online Standalone vs Network License

Standalone Licenses

Historically, the purchase of these licenses was intended to assign one serial number to one user. Users can install the same serial number on several machines, but only one machine can actively be using the software at any given time. It’s important to note the difference between installation and activation, these are separate concepts.

There are two types of licensing (aka activation) mechanisms available with standalone licenses.

Machine Activation

This technology is what most consumers have been accustomed to for the last decade or so. It’s used across many software platforms, not just CAD. Essentially, a user will install with a serial number and ‘activate’ it upon the first launch of the application. The activation considers a machine locked until a user chooses to remove it.

Activating and Transferring the license with this mechanism takes mere seconds with SOLIDWORKS. You can see how fast that process is here: Watch Video

This method requires the machine to be connected to the internet only during the activation/transfer process (literally a few minutes!).

This is great for users with one machine. They simply activate once and work until infinity! (Or the machine dies, or the user chooses to transfer the activation off.)

This is also recommended for environments that may have the software limited to certain ‘machines’. For example, some companies may maintain more powerful workstations that are designated for design, simulation, or rendering work. Any user(s) can jump on and use it as needed. The user(s) can also walk away from that machine and allow it to process complex renders or analysis.

This is also used often for high-security environments, as application usage requires no network connection after the initial activation.

For users that have a second machine but only use it occasionally, this is still a highly efficient process. They do need to remember to transfer the activation. If they forget, anyone (even the original user) with access to the ‘active’ machine can transfer the license off.

Online Activation

Introduced in 2018, this method is intended for the user(s) who often change machines, up to multiple times a week or even multiple times a day.

This method requires all users and all machines using SOLIDWORKS products to have a stable connection to the internet while working. Each time a user opens the application up throughout the day, they must be able to connect to the internet. If internet connection is lost, there is a 30-minute window before they will be prompted to save their work and the software will shut down. There is an offline mode available here, but they must be online for the initial program open to access it.

The set-up is a bit more involved. You’ll need to install the software on multiple machines, set-up SOLIDWORKS customer portal accounts for each user, and set-up the CAD Admin Dashboard.

All of those steps are well documented on this SOLIDWORKS webpage.

This setup is well worth the time investment if the user(s) need to access SOLIDWORKS on multiple machines quite often. Note: Just as with machine activation, they can only be running SOLIDWORKS on one machine at any given time.

Another great advantage to this method is that CAD Admins can assign different assets to different users very quickly. The CAD Admin Dashboard can give organizations fast flexibility for shifting advanced assets around their team.

SOLIDWORKS Network License Station

Networks Licenses

This methodology allows a company to manage multiple software assets on their own without a user having to actively manage the assets. Essentially a small utility called the SolidNetwork License Manager is installed on a server. The license will activate onto that server and it will dole out activation on an as needed basis.

A key benefit here is that users/computers do not need to be able to access the internet. They do need to be able to communicate with the license server machine within the company’s controlled environment. This adds a level of security and access well within the company’s management for their valuable licenses.

The licenses are ‘pooled’ which so any user can use whatever asset they need without the need for a manager to ‘assign’ them an asset, such as with online licensing.

This is extremely useful for companies with users in different time zones or work shifts as they can minimize how many total licenses are required for purchase / maintenance as users can share the pool of assets.

This method is fantastic for IT personnel. They will have one serial number to remember/maintain and granting access does not require any lengthy set-up, especially for new employees.

The SOLIDWORKS network licensing uses the industry standard technology, FlexLM. This offers capabilities such as options files (reserving and timing out license usage). There are also third-party programs such as, where license usage can be logged, and statistics aggregated. This helps companies understand who is using what and when and estimate where they spend their dollars effectively as they grow.


With robust technologies emerging quickly, it can feel like it’s easy to get lost in all the options. Let MLC CAD Systems team of technical experts and account managers work with you to find the solutions that best fit your needs.

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