On our help desk we get asked numerous times about best practice for managing service packs and installations. A new major version of SOLIDWORKS is released once per year in the Autumn and service packs are released every 8-10 weeks normally with five across a major version release cycle.
With new enhancements added (i.e the addition of SOLIDWORKS Visualize with SP2 2016) and also stability and bug fixes, we would of course advise that all customers under the maintenance/subscription program stay current. So what is the best way to manage these updates?
From experience our number one piece of advice whether you have one license or manage dozens is simple-download the full service pack every time- this doesn't mean the update files (say from SP1 to SP2) but the FULL download. Below I explain why this is so useful and important.
I shall however start with the ONLY downside to this- and in all fairness it isn't a big downside. The fact is a full download equals a big download- circa 10GB, so planning for this download is key- if you have a slow internet connection the download could be ran overnight or at least out of office hours to avoid hogging the bandwidth- but the key is once it is done, it is done- no more downloads needed on the client machines.
So lets discuss the advantages of this to convince you it is the way to go:
1- It allows client installs to be controlled from a single download source- no more "bits and pieces" downloads and misalignment of service packs between colleagues.
2- The full download can manage all types of installs; clients, servers, PDM, Electrical- all in one place.
3- Downloads are the slowest part of an install- with the files downloaded ahead of time you speed up the deployment and the install itself is done without a DVD which tends to mean faster read/write speeds too.
4- It becomes very easy to introduce a new PC to SOLIDWORKS as you have all the files ready, and easy to recover a PC if you need to reinstall the software.
5- Adds a degree of discipline to the deployment- one person owns the download and it can be decided when to deploy- many machines can install from the same download simultaneously.
6- Installs can sometimes fail because of missing source files- this method overcomes this problem.
7- Full Downloads can be done ahead of time. With traditional installs you commit to the download and install at the same time- very quickly an hour will have gone by and you may still be waiting. Having the download done ahead of time you can test the deployment and when ready to go live you can decide the most convenient time to install.
8- Any machine can manage the download- it can therefore be conducted on a PC without SOLIDWORKS installed so you are not distracting the CAD users- all you need is a valid SOLIDWORKS serial key to validate the entitlement to the download.
So how is this done? In essence it is very simple. Firstly you need to get hold of the Installation Manager for the version you wish to install. This can be done on a SOLIDWORKS machine using Help > Check for Updates, or can be ran from the Download section on the SOLIDWORKS Customer Portal, or you can contact Solid Solutions and we can help you out. This is a 25MB file and manages the download and installation process.
Once you run the downloaded Installation Manager, you will be presented with this screen- select the last option which will either say "Download Only" (for SOLIDWORKS 2015 and prior) or "Download and Share all Files" (for SOLIDWORKS 2016).
As you proceed through the Next pages you will be asked to enter a serial key (this would be detected automatically on a machine with SOLIDWORKS installed) and this key needs to be one under the maintenance contract otherwise downloads would be denied.
The summary screen will then show the Download Destination (note you can change this within the installer or simply move the entire directory after the download has finished). You will see it will approach 10GB in file size.
If you have any issues with the download then Solid Solutions can either assist in creating exceptions on your Firewall or Proxy settings, or help with other means to obtain the download.
Once the download is complete the destination folder will contain something like the contents as below. Within here is a setup.exe file and this is used to deploy to the client machines- the Install Manager will look identical to the one used for the download in the first place only this time no downloads will be requested and clients can opt for the "Individual Install" to upgrade their machine.
As said at the beginning of this blog, this is what we would advise any individual or organisation to use as their deployment method of SOLIDWORKS. The downside of the download size is quickly overtaken by the wealth of benefits the full download has. SOLIDWORKS is a vast application and installation- far more extensive than most of the other applications you have on your system, so planning and giving the install the best chance of success is critical to avoid downtime - we don't want any of you without your favourite piece of software do we :)
By Adam Hartles
Senior Applications Engineer.