Backup and Restore PDM

Backups are never something anyone wants to have to resort to but are a critical necessity for all companies to reduce data loss should certain issues arise.  No matter if the need is due to someone permanently deleting/destroying a file, hard drives failing, flooding, viruses, or just that you want to move all your data to a new server, a working backup is key to keep things running smoothly for any company.

Do you need to back up a PDM Vault?

Everyone who uses SOLIDWORKS PDM (Standard or Professional) still needs to make sure their vault and all its data are backed up regularly. The PDM System does allow users to revert to previous versions or revisions but this is not the same as a regular backup often carried out by your IT.

There are two main ways that a PDM Vault can be backed up.

  1. Backing up the Individual components of PDM separately (manually or scheduled) to allow you to fully restore PDM without the need to restore the full server.
  2. Backing up the entire server in general. This is most common with Virtual Machines, where ‘snapshots’ can be created to quickly revert the entire server to any previous backup.

There are also other methods such as how a full Server Backup may allow you to recover specific components as required, but these often do not always allow you to just restore the required SQL Databases or Archive Settings correctly.

What needs to be backed up?

In the remainder of this blog, I will take you through the process of manually backing up the four components required to fully restore a PDM vault.


Component 1 and 2

The first two components are the Databases used by the vault/s. If you open “SQL Server Management Studio” and log into your SQL Server/Instance you should see a database for each vault on your machine and a single “ConisioMasterDB” database, each of which will need to be backed up.

These databases contain all the information related to username, passwords, file names, file metadata, file references, vault setup, etc. However, they do not contain any files themselves.

If you prefer to back these up manually, you can right-click the database in question selecting Tasks > Backup, where you can select options such as your backup location.

This method is great however it does not allow for a regular backup cycle to be created. If you have SQL Standard or Enterprise (not Express) then there are built-in tools inside SQL Server Management Studio that you can use to create your backup cycles. If you have SQL Express, there are various 3rd party software tools available to automate this process for you such as a piece of software called “ExpressMaint” which we have used for some of our customers in the past.

If you would like any additional information on this tool, please just let us know.

Note – this tool is not developed or maintained by TMS.


Component 3

The next component that will need to be backup up is the PDM Archive, which contains the raw files and all the different version/revisions themselves so this is the section which can get very large depending on the file size of your vault.

The default location of the Archive is on the C Drive of the Server where there will be a Windows folder with your vault name, inside which will be a set of folders with Hexadecimal names such as the below image. If you have multiple vaults, you will also have multiple Archives each of which will need backed up.

Since the location of this Archive could be located elsewhere or even on a second drive you can check the location of the Archive in the Windows Registry under the following location.

Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\SolidWorks\Applications\PDMWorks Enterprise\ArchiveServer\Vaults\Craigs Vault\ArchiveTable Note – “Craigs Vault” should be replaced with the name of your vault.

If you wish to back this up manually you can just copy and paste this archive folder to your backup location, although you may want to automate this solution. Many tools are available to do this with one of the more common tools used by our customers being “RoboCopy” along with the Windows Task Scheduler.

Note – RoboCopy is not developed or maintained by TMS


Component 4

The final component that you will need to backup is the PDM Archive Settings which controls some of the higher vault permissions, notes important server names and locations for various registry keys and controls and monitors the related PDM Services on the machine amongst other things.

This is backed up using a programme called “Archive Server Configuration” which is installed as part of SOLIDWORKS PDM. Where you can select Tools > Backup Settings, to both take manual backups and set scheduled backups.

Inside the Backup Settings, you will start by having the option to backup individual vault or all vaults. I would recommend including all vaults unless you do not want to backup any test vaults you may have. You can also select a backup location and schedule here, so there is no need for extra software to schedule these backups. There is also an option to password protect this backup so nobody can fully restore your vault backup without this. You can leave this password field blank if you want, but if you do set a password, please do not forget this is you will be unable to restore your backup without it, rendering the backups useless.

Clicking “Launch Backup” will take a backup there and then with the “ok” button starting the schedule assuming you have one set at the schedule option selected.


With your databases, archive (multiple if more than one vault) and archive settings backed up you will be able to fully recover your vault if required or use these backups to move everything to a new server.

Testing the Backup

It is recommended that you check your backups by testing them every so often to not only double-check that you are backing up the correct components but also to make sure the backups work and that you are familiar with the process of recovery.

If you plan on testing the backups on a spare/test server (such as a new VM), there are a few extra steps you will need to carry out during recovery including installation of the PDM software and telling both SQL and the Windows Registry the name of the new server once the backups have been restored. You do not need to carry out these extra steps if you are recovering the vault on the original server.

If you have any question or require any assistance testing your backups, please just let us know.

Conclusion and Other Info

In conclusion, we cannot recommend highly enough that customers are taking regular backups to ensure that any data loss is minimised should any issues arise.

Users can also take their own local backups of SOLIDWORKS files while they continue to work by enabling both the backup and recovery options inside their SOLIDWORKS System Settings.  This can be really handy if SOLIDWORKS ever crashes, or their laptop runs out of battery.

It is also recommended that PDM users “check-in” their PDM files regularly so that that they can be included in the regular IT Server/PDM backups and a copy is also on the server should there be any issues with a user’s machine.

Some additional information on both backup and Recovery can be found on page 125-132 at the below link.



Craig Girvan is an Applications Engineer at TMS CADCentre, a SOLIDWORKS Value Added Reseller in Scotland.

You can read more from Craig on the TMS CADCentre blog

TMS CADCentre is a SOLIDWORKS Reseller based in Scotland providing CAD Design Software, analysis software & product data management software. Founded in 1981, TMS CADCentre is the only UK SOLIDWORKS Reseller based and funded within Scotland and have been providing SOLIDWORKS software, training and support since 1996 when the product was first launched in the UK.