Proper Renaming of Files in SOLIDWORKS

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In your installation of SOLIDWORKS, there is a basic file management utility called SOLIDWORKS Explorer that goes a long way in helping you ensure that if files are renamed or moved, those references are still maintained! The reason SOLIDWORKS documents can’t easily be renamed by right-clicking in Windows Explorer and clicking ‘Rename’ is because of references.

If you go to ‘File > Open > select a drawing or assembly file once without opening it, in the lower right hand of the dialog you’ll see ‘References’. What this will provide us with is a list of all the referenced files for that selected document. To put it simply, SOLIDWORKS will need to see those components in those folders for the assembly/drawing document to open correctly. That’s the reason why you can’t just send a vendor an assembly file without the associated components!

solidworks menu

Edit referenced file locations menu

The problem comes up if one of those components is renamed in Windows Explorer or moved to a different folder as listed in the above image. When a file cannot be found, you’ll see the component is greyed out in the FeatureManager, and a quick check of the references (if the document is open, you can go to ‘File > Find References’) will indicate the file cannot be found.

File not found error message

If you had renamed the file, you can locate where the file is and rename it back to the original name. What if, however, you wanted to keep the existing name and have the assembly refer to that new name going forward? What you’ll want to do is open ‘SOLIDWORKS Explorer’ and using the ‘File Explorer’ on the left pane, select your assembly you want to fix. You’ll then click on the ‘References’ tab, right-click on the part, and select ‘Replace’.

solidworks menu

The ‘Replace Document’ dialog box will then pop up, allowing you to ‘Browse’ to the file with new name. You’ll want to make sure ‘Update Where Used’ is checked on so all existing references for that part, are updated.

replace document menu

So now that we’ve taken a look at how if you were to rename a part incorrectly, how do we fix it? What’s the correct process? Glad you asked! While still in SOLIDWORKS Explorer, you can right-click the part to be renamed and you’ll be presented with ‘Rename’. The dialog box will closely resemble the ‘Replace Document’ dialog box; the only difference is SOLIDWORKS Explorer will ask you what you’d like the new name to be. Like before, you’ll want to ensure ‘Update where used’ is checked on so reference documents will be updated with the new name.

rename selection


rename document menu

If you’re in Windows Explorer, you can achieve the same result by right-clicking the document to be renamed and going to ‘SOLIDWORKS > Rename’. You’ll then see the exact same dialog box as above.

windows finder menu

As you can see, the reason SOLIDWORKS files function a little differently from other Windows files lies in the References files it needs to open and update correctly. So the next time you’re thinking of renaming that file, consider all those sub-assemblies and drawings that are dependent on it to open! You don’t want to be THAT person, do you?

Picture of Ricky Huynh

Ricky Huynh

Ricky Huynh is a SOLIDWORKS senior applications engineer with Hawk Ridge Systems based in Mountain View, California. He specializes in SOLIDWORKS, Composer, and Electrical. He graduated from UC Davis in 2010 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering.
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Marcelo Garcia
Marcelo Garcia
2 years ago

I used to rename my solidworks file from windows solidworks option but I don’t have the option anymore, the only option I have is Pack and Go, I am using 2016 version and I have not done any updates on my computer. Is anything I can try/

2 years ago

When I want to transfer the file, I need to do this alone. How can I transfer a bunch of files to a folder?

Dean Sells
Dean Sells
2 years ago

Thanks a lot Ricky. Great explanation. I had never noticed the “SOLIDWORKS” option when right clicking a file in windows explorer.