How to work from home with SOLIDWORKS

The coronavirus is spreading quickly.

To minimize its effect and to minimize the load on our healthcare system, we are urged to work from home.

But how do you do that when your beast of a PC sits at the office?

I’ll help you get started.

In this post, you’ll find

  1. How to work on a remote pc
    1. Experiences from others
    2. Using Remote Desktop
    3. Using TeamViewer
    4. Other options
  2. How to work on your notebook or your home PC
    1. Installing SOLIDWORKS 
    2. Hardware requirements
    3. Licenses
    4. 10 performance tips (check your power settings!)
    5. How to work on a small screen
  3. How to run SOLIDWORKS in the cloud
  4. Regarding licenses
  5. Make sure your VPN is set up correctly
  6. Can I still use my 3D mouse?
  7. Please share your experiences and best practices

Cover image credits: edited photo, original from Matt Biddulph.

1. How to work on a remote PC

If you have a powerful PC at the office, you can continue working on it from home. You need a decent internet connection, but nothing fancy.

I have tested using TeamViewer and Remote Desktop in the past, so I’ll share my experiences with those.

If I learn about other tools and other people’s experiences, I’ll add them to the list.

Experiences from others

I’ve searched for people that have tried to use SOLIDWORKS remotely and found these:

  • (2015) Remote Desktop experiences. Conclusion: can work pretty well.
  • (2018) Topic that collects a few best practices. Some good experiences with TeamViewer.
  • (2019) Working on an iPad (worked poorly) vs Samsung S6 (Galaxy Tab S6 I presume, which worked well)
  • (2011) Forum topic about VPN, Remote Desktop, LogMeIn, home licenses (which aren’t available anymore)
  • LogMeIn apparently became a SOLIDWORKS partner product in 2016, but I can find no trace of that still being the case.

How to work with SOLIDWORKS via Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop is Microsoft’s own solution to connect to a remote PC. Most Windows versions will already have Remote Desktop installed.

I have worked on a remote PC for a few weeks in 2018, and this worked very well. Granted, the internet is pretty fast and reliable here in the Netherlands, but still.

All I needed was a VPN connection to the company, plus login credentials. You can then save a shortcut on your desktop to this remote machine.

This is a nice article on how to prepare your work PC and how to connect to it from a Windows machine or iOS or Android phone.

More info

How to work with SOLIDWORKS via TeamViewer

I have done sessions with TeamViewer in the past. It worked reasonably well, but not great.

It feels like it is not designed for longer sessions. Which would make sense, because it was built to provide support over a distance.

Longer and unattended access

You usually have to enter an ID and a password to enter a machine. To set up the PC for longer sessions, it is crucial that you set up Unattended Access. More info in this PDF by TeamViewer.

Can I use the free version?

It’s pretty simple: just purchase a license.

The personal version is free, but if they suspect professional use, your experience will get worse over time. You’ll get connection issues and other strange problems, at least this is what I experienced.

It seems to works a bit like the DRM on Spyro The Dragon (go check it out, it’s a cool video).

More info
  • Official website
  • Pricing:
    • €380 per year: 1 user, 1 session at a time
    • €695 per year: multiple users, 1 session at a time
    • €1500 per year: multiple users, 3 simultaneous connections, meetings with up to 15 people
  • Extra tools required: none

Other options to work on a remote PC

I have never tried these methods before, so please let you know via [email protected] if they work for you or not.

2. How to work from your notebook or home pc

If you have to work on a different computer than usual, here are some tips to get started.

Installing SOLIDWORKS

You can download SOLIDWORKS from the Customer Portal. The oldest version they have is SOLIDWORKS 2017.

Hardware requirements

You can find official hardware requirements for SW2018 to SW2020 here.

Most of these requirements are not hard limits, but best practices. So if your PC doesn’t meet them, you should at least try to install SOLIDWORKS.

Even if you still have Windows 7, you should be able to install SW2020.

Licenses

I have added a whole section on licensing below.

10 performance tips

  1. If you work on a notebook, absolutely make sure your power settings are on High Performance. This can make your PC twice as fast. More info here under point 4.
  2. Do not open a file from Windows Explorer, but do it from SOLIDWORKS. Now you can choose in which mode to open the model.
  3. When you open an assembly, Resolved will take the most resources. Then Lightweight, Large Assembly mode, then Large Design Review.
  4. When you open a large part or drawing, open it in Quick View. You can also use our free TimeSavers add-in to open assembly drawings in Quick View mode.
  5. When opening a large drawing, you can select which sheets to open.
  6. Create a SpeedPak configuration for large assemblies
  7. Create detached drawings.
  8. Turn of RealView and shadows
  9. Turn off showing edges.
    1. A model contains graphical (the model made from triangles) data and parametric data.
    2. When you switch to Shaded, only the graphical data is shown. When you include edges, the parametric model is used as well.
  10. Stop large models from rebuilding automatically.
  11. Use mostly simple mates. Advanced mates are about 10x slower, Mechanical mates are even slower than that.

How to work on a small screen

Your notebook or home screen is probably smaller than what you have at the office.

So here are some tips to minimize clutter on your screen:

  1. Disable all toolbars that you do not need. Right-click the toolbar space and you’ll be able to enable/disable them. You’ll have to do this for each model type.
  2. Disable large buttons. Right-click the toolbar space > uncheck Use Large Buttons with Text.
  3. Move the Command Manager to the left of the screen. Click one of the tabs and drag it to a new position.
    This is how it looks for me. If you work with SOLIDWORKS often, you will probably still be able to find the buttons you need.
    use large buttons with text
  4. Hide the Task Pane when not used. Click the pin to pin/unpin the task pane.
    auto show task pane unpin
  5. Hide the Motion manager. You hardly ever need it anyway.
  6. Hide the status bar.
    hide motion manager and status bar
  7. Hide or minimize the width of the feature manager.

3. How to run SOLIDWORKS in the cloud

There have been some developments recently that make it possible to run CAD in the cloud.

These companies seem to offer out-of-the-box solutions:

I have tried to find if 3DEXPERIENCE runs SOLIDWORKS as well, but I still don’t know. I couldn’t find this info between all the stock images and the enterprise talk.

4. Regarding licenses

When accessing your work PC remotely

When you connect to your work PC with Remote Desktop or similar, there will be no license issues. The work PC will connect to the license servers as usual. Only the inputs and outputs of the PC are shared over the internet.

When you work from home on your usual PC

All you need is a VPN connection to the office. The Network License Manager will then work as usual.

Home licenses do not exist anymore

In the past, you could use a single serial code on your work-PC and your home-PC. This is no longer the case. SOLIDWORKS stopped giving out Home Use licenses in 2019.

You can now borrow a license for a certain period. You need to connect with your work network, but (so it seems) only to borrow the license. Or you can activate a license on this computer when you are still at the office, then take it home.

More info in the official help here.

Accessing your license from another country

This forum post tells us that apparently, it is not allowed to access a SOLIDWORKS installation from another country as to where it was purchased. The European Union counts as a single country/region. This shouldn’t be a problem for most of us.

5. Make sure your VPN is set up correctly

I haven’t included much info about VPNs in this post. Others know way more about this topic than I do.

Yet I ran into some useful information today to minimize the required bandwidth for your company.

You can set up VPN so only the necessary traffic goes through this connection. All other data will go through your normal connection.

More info in this short video.

6. Can I use my 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse when working on a remote PC from home?

In theory, yes. But I’ve had some problems.

You need at least the following:

When I tried this in 2018, I got it to work, but not properly.

I use up/down to zoom, which is not the default. Yet the mouse kept zooming with the default direction of front to back. I gave up after trying multiple times.

Some more links are bundled in this forum topic.

If you have been able to get it to work, I’d love to hear from you!

7. Please share your experiences and best practices

We are all in this boat together, so let’s help each other by sharing our knowledge.

This post is only the first step, hopefully, I will be able to add more content with your help.

If I missed a good practice or if I’m preaching a bad one, please let me know.

You can reach us at [email protected].

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