You’ve been working on a 13,000 part mega-assembly in SOLIDWORKS with the most well thought out top-down assembly structure ever devised by man. The next morning, you gingerly sip your coffee as the model ooooopens, and then… something doesn’t look right. Suddenly, that pastry loses its sweetness as you come to grips that all your parts are… Out of Context?

It’s hard to figure out why or how this happened sometimes but, never fear, there are ways to fix those out-of-context parts.

What’s Out-of-Context?

There’s this thing that happens when parts which are linked to assemblies become unlinked. You may hear someone who wants to sound smart say something like, “That part had sketch relations driven by a top-down assembly, but now they’re out-of-context, so it’s not resolving correctly.” That is just fancy speak for… your parts lost a reference.


The Perfect Situation
I’m going to approach this problem from one angle that’s a perfect situation for this tip and makes me look like I know everything about dealing with out-of-context stuff. This might not be the exact situation you have, but it’s quick and shows you an option for fixing your problem. Sally forth, shall we.

Attention: the assembly has been renamed
The most common situation I see where components go out of context is when the assembly they were created in has been renamed. If you rename an assembly, that has parts built in the assembly, you’ll get a chastising message that says,‘There are parts that have features defined in the context of…if you select OK…’ your parts will be hosed.

Well, if this happens, or you think it may have happened, here’s how to fix it.

How to Fix Out-of-Context Parts in SOLIDWORKS

  1. Open SOLIDWORKS Explorer
    Go to Tools, SOLIDWORKS Explorer… and navigate to where your assembly is.
  2. Rename the Assembly
    Click the assembly and select the icon, SOLIDWORKS Rename. You’ll see something like below. You may notice an absence of parts in the Update Where Used section. Rename the assembly to what it was named.

    Note: to find out what it was named you can edit an out-of-context assembly. You’ll get a pop-up that says, this part has featured defined in the context of another assembly [your_assy.sldasm]. That is what you want to rename it to.


  3. Rename one more time
    If you need to change it back to what it was renamed to, just do the operation over again. Make sure the Update where used box is checked and you’ll notice this time, that there’s a nice group of parts that have found their way back home.


Other situations
This can come in handy for a number of situations:

  • Dissolving sub-assemblies
  • Bringing in parts defined in another assembly
  • Helping parts rebuild
  • Correcting dangling relations in a part

I’m sure there are others. Have you used this before to fix problems?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.