CAD Admin’s Corner – Method of Deployment for Installations; Manual vs. Admin Image

by Brian Johnson

In this issue, we will talk about the main methods of installation deployment; manual vs. an Admin Image. Also included are some key steps, cautionary notes, and advice from a guy that has been down this road many times. Let my mistakes be your successes!

Key Step #1- Determining Which Method of Deployment:

It might seem simple, but deciding on the best method of deployment for your installation is a key step. Typically, the method of deployment is determined by the number of users and their locations.

If you are dealing with a handful of users in the same location, a manual deployment is more than adequate but involves you walking around and touching every workstation.

If you are dealing with 10+ users or multiple locations, then creating an Admin Image is the preferred method.


Key Step #2 – Create A Company Standard:

No matter which deployment method you choose, the first step is to create a company standard for the SOLIDWORKS settings.

>>Use the settings wizard in the Start Menu/SOLIDWORKS 20xx/SOLIDWORKS Tools/ Copy Settings Wizard.

This tool is used to create a copy of all of the standards that are company-wide and allows you to put a little more control on how the individual users are accessing the network drives and locations such as templates, toolbox, and libraries. However, you will also be able to let the user have control over the set-up of their hot keys and mouse gestures as they see fit.

Cautionary Advice Tip #1: Take it from me; this is not a place to interfere. You have to give the users some control on how they produce.


Manual Deployment

With this type of installment process, there is more time involved on the Admin’s part for the physical installation. However, there is less time on the set-up and testing. Here are the steps for the manual deployment process.

  • First, ask the user if they have customized any toolbars, short cut menus or mouse gestures. This will let you know if you need to create a second settings wizard for just those objects before moving to the next step.
  • Transfer the activation back to the SOLIDWORKS server (only if installing on a new machine)
  • Do a complete and clean uninstall of their SOLIDWORKS installation, including the registry.
  • Restart the machine.
  • Install the new version of SOLIDWORKS and all appropriate add-ons.
  • Install the user’s setting first, if applicable, followed by the company standard settings. This ensures that if the user has overwritten any of the previous company standards they will be restored.
  • Make sure all the network drives are properly mapped then restart the machine again.

The Admin Image

Though this method takes a lot more time to set-up then the manual deployment, it takes less time for the actual install and inconveniences the users far less. With the manual deployment, there will be times throughout the day that users are unable to work at all while they are waiting for their turn to be upgraded. Since the Toolbox and library locations have already been updated, these users do not have the ability to use the files until they are compatible. With an Admin Image, all users can be simultaneously updating, without severely impacting the daily operations.

There are 2 ways to push an admin image:

  1. Through email that has the install attached in a link requiring the user to follow prompts.
  2. Through a command line that can be scheduled to run overnight without the users input.

Steps to Create an Admin Image:

  • Start a new installation either on your machine or a test computer. When the Installation Manager starts, the opening screen asks if you are wanting to install an individual or if you want to create the Admin Image.
  • On the next page, you will need to enter every serial number your company has for every product. By doing this, within the Admin Image you will be able to select which parts each user will be able to access.
  • CAD Admin 5Select a network location so that everyone has read access, but that only the Admin’s and IT have write access.
  •  Open the “sldAdmiOptionEditor” once the image is created.
  • Customize the image. If you do not customize it,  everyone that installs the image will have access to all of your company’s packages.
  • Make groups, once you launch the image. Use this function for classification of the users. Not all of your users will need access to your Simulation or Composer tools so create generalized groups.

Suggested group types:

  1. Drafters/Designers (your everyday modeling and drafting team)
  2. Engineers (typically, this group is responsible for the FEA of the products)
  3. Non-essential (for those that need occasional access to files for change management or for managers that like to have a copy just in case they want to check up on a project)
  • Add the computers to each group for the corresponding user. This task is a bit tedious and will take some effort ahead of time collecting all of the information from your end user evaluations we discussed in the last post.
  • Optional step: you can drill down even further and customize each individuals installation, however, this will add more layers of potential complications.
  • You have the ability to attach the toolbox location and the SW Settings files to ensure, for at least a moment, that everyone is on the same page. However, we are unable to lock the system settings such as file locations and default templates.
  • Once the Admin Image is created, email everyone a link to the file with some simple instructions. Once they follow the link and launch the installer, you could have everyone installing simultaneously while you are at your desk.

Cautionary Advice Tip #2: Three tips based on personal experience.

  1. NEVER, replace the toolbox with a new version. Always choose to update the toolbox. This choice could cause an immense amount of work and a lot of angry users.
  2. If you need to make changes to the Admin Image after the deployment has started, do so after hours when no one is using the image. You can crash the image and will have to start over from scratch. That could be many hours of work.
  3. Finally, Murphy’s Law is always a factor. No matter how much testing and planning is done, there will almost always be something that trips you up. However, because of all the planning and testing, it can usually be remedied quickly.

Thanks for reading, and if you need any additional information on the installations, consult the installation guides on the SOLIDWORKS Customer portal or our website at

More from the CAD Admin’s Corner:

Welcome to the CAD Admin’s Corner

CD Admin’s Corner – Change Management

CAD Admin’s Corner – Toolbox and Standard Libraries

CAD Admin’s Corner – End User Evaluations


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About Brian Johnson

Brian is an Application Engineer for GoEngineer and has been a SOLIDWORKS user since 1999. The first half of his career was in the automotive and RV industries covering a wide spectrum of manufacturing processes and design from plastic injection, sheet metal, roll forming. He also spent a couple of years as a CNC programmer on precision routers, punch presses and lasers. The latter half of his career was in the oilfield technology as an equipment designer and CAD/PLM administrator. Brian is very dedicated to simplification and learning day to day operations. He is familiar with Lean Six Sigma and knowledgeable of both ASME welding and GD&T standards.

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