Monday, September 27, 2021

Help Yourself...Seriously! How To Get Better Autodesk Product Support Online - The System Basics

Several years ago a small group of Autodesk Expert Elites got together with Autodesk and Directly, a third party technical support management site, to help Autodesk resolve more of their open support cases. This program leveraged decades of product experience to provide relevant responses to most support question types. There are some limits - such as we can't reach out to the client during the case and use tools like Zoom or Teams to remote into a system and get more detail. In these cases, we escalate the case to the Autodesk agents, that are allowed to provide this service at a higher level of support.

But it's never easy - there's always a better way to provide these solutions. It's really dependent on the information provided by the user to make sure we understand what is exactly happening on someone's system. Think of visiting your doctor - they're going to ask you a ton of questions before they recommend or prescribe anything, so the more accurate and detailed the responses, the more relevant the solutions will be. And it requires a lot of patience on both ends.

So how do we make this smoother for your typical Autodesk support questions? It's easy - if you're the user posting the question, follow this checklist:

1. Get your software information together first. For Autodesk products, access the program Help page - every one includes a question mark "?" in the upper right corner of the program window. When you select this, you will see the name of the program at the bottom of the drop down menu (it usually says Autodesk Revit, Autodesk AutoCAD, etc. or something similar). Selecting this option will open a dialog, that includes the software version, build number, and versions of any supported vertical tools such as AutoCAD Architecture, MEP, etc. You should see a dialog similar to this:

In this example, the core AutoCAD version is shown, along with AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD MEP. Each of these now require separate updates, so make sure you check all three.

This information is critical - we get countless cases where users or their IT departments are not keeping up with the updates, or have not tested them to make they don't cause issues with other applications. But with Autodesk products, the overwhelming number of cases we receive are related to the program simply being out of date, or not the same as other users in the same company or project. These are critical issues that every company needs to address - at a minimum, all users should be on the same build.

2. The computer you are using matters - if it's 10 years old, makes a grinding noise on startup, or is still running Windows NT, it's the problem. But there's a ton that goes on with a computer that every user should be aware of. The key information we need in order to correctly diagnose a case should always include this information:

- The version of Windows - you should be on Windows 10, with version 11 coming out soon. While 7 and 8.1 are supported, they are in  a short life span and are no longer supported by Autodesk (starting with the 2022 versions). You can find the current version of Windows by using File Explorer to locate "This PC" - right click on this icon and select Properties. The right side of the dialog will display a lot of critical information, including the operating system (OS) data:

- The processor and amount of RAM that is installed on the computer - the same dialog for the OS also shows this information under the Device Specifications.

- The size of the hard drive, and amount of free space. It also helps to know if it's not a solid state drive that was used in older systems. To get this, select This PC again - File Explorer will show all installed drives and the total/free space:

When it comes to hard drives, here's a critical item to know - the amount of free space is critical. For example, Revit projects can take up to 10x the size of the file in temporary file space. Add all of the Revit models that are opened, making sure to include the size of the linked models, drawings and more - and you will run out of space quickly if you don't keep up with this. Personally, I don't like for a computer running Autodesk products to have less than 100gb (gigabytes) of free space available. Don't short your computer by buying a smaller hard (500gb or less) - you'll wind up losing time and money when you don't have enough space. Adding a second drive to handle data is also not always a good idea, as the programs typically want to be installed on the C: drive, and adding a D: or second drive can cause configuration issues unless you're knowledgeable about working in this type of environment. Stick with 1TB or larger solid state drives and you'll be good.

- The manufacturer, model and driver version of the graphics display adapters on these systems is also important. Errors with these due to non-supported cards, including old or outdated drivers is a frequent issue. This shows up as graphics on a screen not displaying correctly, crashing when opening or editing views and and other types of fatal errors. To locate what you have installed, from the Windows Search bar, type Device Manager (You can also access this via Settings - when the dialog opens, type Device Manager in the upper left corner of the dialog). When the dialog appears, select the Display Adapters - a list of all adapters will appear that are installed (correctly) on the system:


Every Windows-based computer includes a built-in graphics adapter when a system is built - but in most cases, they are not designed to handle the more intense graphic requirements for most Autodesk software. That's why you usually will have a second video display adapter, if the system meets the Autodesk system requirements. 

To make sure you have a display adapter that is supported by Autodesk, along with a recommended driver, see this list in this link:

If your device is not listed, it doesn't mean it won't work - but in most cases you want to make sure you keep your device drivers up to date. Here's a link with directions for updating this hardware:

Overall - when running Revit, always check the system requirements to make sure your computer meets the needs of the program and version you are running. You can find this information based on product and version from here:

- Every computer should have some form of antivirus and firewall protection installed. In most cases, this is managed by an IT department or service provider. If your system permissions are restricted (meaning that you can't install or update software yourself), then it can cause some specific failures to occur. In this case, we need to know what manufacturer you are using for the antivirus, such as Norton, McAfee or others, and whether or not you can make changes to this software if needed. In most cases, it is the system firewall that can block access to folders, files and sites needed for Autodesk products to run correctly. Microsoft created this video to help you understand how to find out what types of system security you have installed:

If you're not comfortable with getting or providing this information, let your support person know so the case can be escalated to an Autodesk agent for a more secure access and connection.

Wrapping up - don't be embarrassed or worried if you don't know this information. In most cases, users really don't have an idea about what's in the computer or how it works. The goal of any good support system is to help you solve your issues, and they can usually walk you through all of these steps to make sure we have as much baseline information as possible. The same rule applies for any support organization you are working with, whether it's your own internal IT department or a software vendor such as Autodesk. 

Hopefully this helps you get the most out of your support - next up, we'll talk about more specific program issues.

Thanks - David B.

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