How Do You Add an External Reference in SolidWorks?

Adding an External Reference in SolidWorks

SolidWorks is a powerful and versatile 3D modeling software widely used in the mechanical engineering industry. One of its key features is the ability to add external references, which allows you to link different parts or assemblies together.

This can be incredibly useful when working on complex designs or collaborating with others. In this tutorial, we will explore how to add an external reference in SolidWorks and leverage its benefits to streamline your design process.

Understanding External References

Before we dive into the specifics of adding external references, let’s first understand what they are. In SolidWorks, an external reference is a relationship between two or more parts or assemblies.

It enables changes made in one file to be reflected in any linked files, ensuring consistency throughout your design. External references can include features, dimensions, sketches, and even entire components.

Adding an External Reference

Now that we have a basic understanding of external references, let’s learn how to add them in SolidWorks. Follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Open the part or assembly file you want to link with another file.
  • Step 2: Go to the “Insert” menu and select “Component” > “Existing Part/Assembly”.
  • Step 3: Browse for the file you want to link and click “Open”.
  • Step 4: In the “Positioning” dialog box, choose the desired placement method for the linked file (e.g., Origin or Mate).
  • Step 5: Click “OK” to complete the process.

By following these steps, you have successfully added an external reference in SolidWorks. Any changes made to the linked file will now be automatically updated in the main file, ensuring that your design remains consistent and up-to-date.

Managing External References

Now that we know how to add external references, it’s essential to understand how to manage them effectively. SolidWorks provides various tools and options to control and update external references:

  • Edit External References: To modify the linked file or its references, right-click on the linked component in the FeatureManager Design Tree and select “Edit External References”. This allows you to make changes directly within the context of your assembly.
  • Update References: If you have made changes to a linked file outside of SolidWorks, you can update the references by right-clicking on the component and selecting “Update”.

    This ensures that any modifications are reflected in your design.

  • Break References: At times, you may want to disconnect a linked file from its external references. To do this, right-click on the component and select “Break External References”. This separates the selected component from its parent files while keeping its features intact.

By utilizing these management techniques, you have full control over your external references in SolidWorks. It enables you to make necessary adjustments, update files as needed, or break references when required.


In conclusion, adding external references in SolidWorks is a valuable skill that enhances your design capabilities. By linking different parts or assemblies together, you can ensure consistency and streamline your workflow.

We explored how to add external references and manage them effectively using tools provided by SolidWorks. Remember to utilize these techniques in your projects to take full advantage of this powerful feature. Happy designing!