Opening later year version files in previous versions of SOLIDWORKS

Matthew Fisher

With each new year version of SOLIDWORKS, the chance that you will need to send a file to a user or customer that uses a previous year's version grows. SOLIDWORKS is backwards compatible, (meaning you can open a 2017 file in SOLIDWORKS 2018) but is limited in forward compatibility (opening a 2018 file in 2017). 

So what can be done if you need to send a 2018 file to a customer using 2017?


SOLIDWORKS treats all .step or .x_t (parasolid) files as a neutral 3rd party file. Because of this, it is possible to export your 2018 file as a .step or parasolid and then import it back into a previous years version of SOLIDWORKS. This workaround can be done with both part and assembly files.

1) Open the part or assembly within SOLIDWORKS that you wish to export.

2) Verify within your system options that the file will export properly. If you plan on exporting using a step file format the Solid/ Surface geometry will need to be toggled on. Parasolid does not need to  have any options changed since it will always be saved as a solid.


3) Save the file using File -> Save As and change the file type to either .step or parasolid. Either will work for this workaround, however depending on the complexity of the model SOLIDWORKS may have difficulties exporting and importing the file depending on the type chosen. We find that parasolid has a higher success rate than either of the .step file types.


Once the file has been saved as a parasolid or .step you can send it to the user who wishes to open it in the previous version. Even though the file comes from SOLIDWORKS it will still be treated like any other imported file and need to follow the normal import process.

If you have difficulties exporting the file from SOLIDWORKS please contact Hawk Ridge Systems at 877.266.4469 for the U.S or 866.587.6803 for Canada for further troubleshooting and help.


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