Autodesk Flex Licensing – What You Need To Know

Autodesk Flex is Autodesk’s replacement for Network Licensing (FlexLM). Network licenses were supposed to go away a couple years ago. However Autodesk pushed back a lot of their plans and policies to make life a little bit easer when Covid hit.

While many customers had already been arm twisted into changing prior to the timeline extension, that offer still exists today. If you haven’t taken advantage of it, you will need to before it expires on your next renewal before Feb 7, 2024.

What is ‘Autodesk Flex’

Autodesk Flex is a ‘Token’ based system. Each product has a certain number of ‘Tokens’ it costs when you use them. Launching a product consumes that set amount of tokens and gives you access for the day to that product for that user on any computer. If you launch multiple products, each product will consume it’s daily tokens upon launch for that user.

You assign ‘Flex’ to a user in the accounts portal just like any other product and it lets you run anything Flex has available.

You can also pick and choose which products you want to allow Flex to use if it’s helpful to not allow everything. An example would be that maybe a user needs Revit all the time, but Navis Manage only some of the time. You can give them a dedicated license of Revit and configure Flex to only be used for Navis.

(Note: This example is only if you have separate Navis and Revit licenses. AEC Collections come with both so this configuration isn’t valid in that scenario.)

Tokens are pre-purchased in set increments. They’re currently $3/token. Tokens will expire if unused for a year. You can add to your pool of tokens any time. Oldest tokens are automatically consumed first.

Autodesk has a token calculator that helps you estimate the number of tokens you need for a given product. That calculator is here…

If you want to know the Token rates for the various products, Autodesk has published their rate sheet here…

‘Flex’ Calcualtions…

Lets look at a couple examples of Flex in action.

ProductTokens/DaySubscription CostFormulaFlex CheaperSubscription Cheaper
AutoCAD7 ($21)$1,775$1,775 / $21 = 84.5<= 84 days>= 85 days
Navis Manage9 ($27)$2,400$2,400 / $27 = 88.5<= 88 days>= 89 days
Revit10 ($30)$2,545$2,545 / $30 = <= 84 days>= 85 days
Inventor8 ($24)$2,190$2,910 / $24 = 91.25<= 91 days>= 92 days
AEC CollectionAcad + Revit$3,115$3,115 / $51 = 61<= 61>= 62 days
MFG CollectionAcad + Inv$2,855$2,855 / $45 = 63.4<= 63>= 64 days

You’ll see the cost difference between Flex and a dedicated Named Standalone license is about 85 days. If a user uses a product about 85 days a year, a Standalone Named User license is a better option.

When you get to Collections…it gets a little more difficult. Collections don’t have a Token rate so you’ll need to add the tokens for the products you use. The examples above are assuming you’re 2 products a day. You’ll see the cost benefit of Flex drops to 60 days. But it’s also more complicated…if you run three products one day and only one product another, the formula gets pretty complex. You’ll need to estimate how many times a user will use each product in the collection a year and add up the costs.

When Does ‘Flex’ Make Sense?

So what does this mean? Flex is really a benefit for users who use one or two products infrequently. The more days a product gets used and/or the more products that get used by a user, it might be better to consider a Named User license to a Collection.

On the other hand, if someone uses a product every day but only for a few minutes, Flex just doesn’t work. Tokens are consumed on a Daily basis regardless if you use it for 5 minutes or 15 hours in a day. In that way, Flex does not come even close to the old FlexLM network licenses.

Do your math carefully. Estimate conservatively. You can easily spend MORE on Flex than you would a Named User Subscription. As an example if you used AutoCAD 5x a week for 50 weeks a year, it’ll cost you $5,250 annually compared to $1,775 for the subscription.

It’s Not All Roses

There’s several issues with Flex that are not well known or discussed. You really need to understand how Flex works to keep from getting bit. Here’s some of the major areas of concern that you should be aware…

  • Not All Products Available – Flex allows you to run most products but not all. Some of the products that are commonly used infrequently like Fabrication ESTmep and Autodesk Point Layout are not part of Flex. I routinely hear Autodesk and resellers say you can “run anything you want” but that’s simply not true.
  • Cloud Products Not Included – This doesn’t seem like a big deal but consider the case of Revit. You can run Revit on Flex for someone who needs occasional access. But if your data is on BIM360 or Autodesk Construction Cloud, you’ll still need a full desiccated license of BIM Collaborate Pro.
  • No License Timeout – The old FlexLM Licenses could be configured to automatically check in their license if the product sat idle for too long. Flex does NOT work this way. If you have users that leave their products open when the leave, you’re racking up Token utilization over the weekend or while they’re on vacation. You’ll definitely need to train your users to CLOSE unused products at the end of the day.
  • Reporting – You can get Token reporting for Flex licensing. But user level reporting that isn’t in aggregate or data usage exports of daily details, you’ll need to have a Premium subscription.


Autodesk Flex is a great option for people who use a product occasionally.

Autodesk Flex is NOT a good option for people use use products frequently but for short durations.

You can easily exceed the cost of a dedicated license with Flex is you’re not careful.

Proceed slowly with Flex. Start small. Watch usage frequently.

Time to Update FlexLM for Autodesk 2020 Products

For those running network licenses of Autodesk products, you can get a jump on your 2020 product roll-out by upgrading your FlexLM versions now.

Autodesk 2020 product versions will require FlexLM v11.16.2.0 or later. You can read more about it and download from Autodesk web site here.

To verify your version of FlexLM, browse to the install location on your license server and look for any of the following files…

Right-click on any of the files and select Properties. From the Details tab, look for the Product version line and verify the number is at least or later.

If you have an older version, perform the following steps…

  1. Download the proper MSI installer from Autodesk’s web site here.
  2. Stop/Terminate the FlexLM service on your network license server.
  3. Backup the FlexLM files listed earlier in the event you have issues.
  4. Install the MSI locally on your computer and browse to location you just installed.
  5. Copy the files from your local install to the network license server install location.
  6. Verify the files properties to make sure they are the proper version.
  7. Restart your FlexLM license service and check it’s status.
  8. Test launching some Autodesk products to make sure licenses are being served properly.
  9. Options: You can then uninstall the MSI you just installed locally as it’s only purpose was to extract the FlexLM program files.
  10. That’s it. Your next step will be up update licenses once the products are released.

Update Tip

You don’t actually need to install the MSI files to extract out the FlexLM program files and daemon executable. There’s a free/open source utility called LessMSI which will extract files from an MSI file.

You can download LessMSI from here. Using this utility, you can use either a command line version or GUI to extract files embedded in an MSI file without installing it. An image if the program’s dialog is shown below showing the contents of the FlexLM MSI file.

Autodesk 2019 Network License Update

FlexLM version

It’s that time of year where Autodesk releases new versions of their desktop products. For companies with network licenses, it’s also strongly recommended to upgrade to the latest version of FlexLM for you license server.

Current Version:

You can download the latest version from Autodesk’s web site here.

A few things to note…

  • A few releases ago, Autodesk changed the default installation location for network licensing to <C:\Autodesk\Network License Manager>. If you’re license server is still running from a different location, you may want to consider re-configuring to the default location. This allows for more easily managing data (logs, license files, etc.) as it doesn’t fall under the additional security restrictions you’ll find in the Program Files folders.

  • You can uninstall the old license server and reinstall the new version but this isn’t needed. The license server itself is fairly simple and doesn’t install a lot of files. Simply shut down the FlexLM service using the LMTOOLS utility, copy over the new files and restart the service. I’ll typically install locally on my desktop to get the files and then copy them to the server. There’s also a number of free utilities on-line that will allow you to extract files directly from an MSI installer. One of the more popular utilities for I’ve used before is Less MSI.

  • To determine which version of FlexLM you’re running, browse to the folder where your license server is running and Right-Click on LMGRD.EXE. Using the properties dialog, the Details tab will tell you the version you’re currently using.