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Installing OpticStudio for the First Time

This article explains how to download and install OpticStudio.


Alison Yates

Installation and Troubleshooting
Frequently Asked Questions
First Time Users

Last revised July 25 2018

Before You Begin 

1. Verify what release your license is eligible to run. If you are still under a current support agreement, you can install any version available up to the current release (as long as it is technically compatible with your license type in step 3.below). If your support agreement has expired, your license is eligible to run a version of OpticStudio released before the support expiration date. This policy is available on our Legacy version support page.

  • Tip: There are a few ways to locate your support expiration date: If you have another OpticStudio or Zemax release installed, you can check the support expiration by opening the "Help / About" screen. If you have a Red or Green USB key or a Softkey license, check your invoice or activation email. If you are still unsure, email the Zemax sales team. Please include your license key serial number. If you have a Black USB key, it is the 5 digit number engraved on the key itself such as 22000. For all other license types it is a 6 digit number starting with "L" such as L000001. It is not engraved on the key.

2.  Verify the OpticStudio release you want to use is technically compatible with your license type. Not all versions of OpticStudio / Zemax work with all license types. Please consult the chart below before installing.

TIP: Single-user USB keys must be plugged into the machine that have OpticStudio installed. It's best practice to wait to plug in the the key until prompted by the installation process, or after installation is complete. 

3. Now that you know which release is eligible and compatible with your license, you can acquire the software and install prerequisites (if needed). 
Tip: Per the Zemax Software Release Policy, Zemax offers download access to previous releases for 2 years, then are phased out and no longer available. Therefore, backup the OpticStudio installation file in case you need to reinstall in the future. 
Current release: If your license is still under current support, check the system requirements page and download the latest release from the OpticStudio Downloads page.This file includes all components needed for a successful installation. After downloading, proceed to the "Installing OpticStudio" section below. 

Previous releases: 
If you need an earlier version, note that Releases up to 2 years old are available. If you need an older one, you will need to use a previously downloaded installation file. Check out the system requirements page, then visit  the Legacy Versions page. After getting the appropriate file, move to the "Installing OpticStudio" section of this document.
  • OpticStudio 16.5 Sp1 and higher. Windows 8.0 is no longer supported. You must install the Windows 8.1 update.
  • OpticStudio 15 Sp2 and up: The installation file includes all components needed for a successful installation. 
  • OpticStudio 14 SP2 through 15 SP1: Prerequisites are included, but you need to install the Black USB key driver located in the Resource Files section of the Legacy Versions page.
  • Zemax 13 and older. As these have been phased out, you will need your own installation file. The Sentinel Black USB key driver is located in the Resource Files section of the Legacy Versions  page. You also need the Zemax 13 prerequisites, located at this link We no longer have a walkthrough of the Zemax 13 install process but it is similar to the OpticStudio process.

Installing OpticStudio

Make sure you have Windows administrative privileges to install these components. 

Double click the OpticStudio Installer. An installation wizard will then open, guiding you through the installation.

Installation Wizard

Click Next to continue. The End User License Agreement screen will then appear. Read over the terms of the license agreement. If you agree with the terms, click the "I accept the agreement" radio button and then click Next to continue. 

License Agreement

You will then see a screen reminding you to close any open instances of OpticStudio or the manual.

Reminder to Close OpticStudio or the Manual

You will then be prompted for the installation location. By default, OpticStudio will install to C:\Program Files\Zemax OpticStudio which will overwrite any versino already installed in that folder. You can Click "Browse" to change the location if you want to have multiple OpticStudio versions installed. Click Next to proceed.

Select Destination Location

On the next screen, you can specify the Start Menu folder. If you are installing more than one copy of release of OpticStudio, be sure to give it a different name. Click Next to proceed.

Start Menu Folder

You can then choose to add a desktop icon or quick launch icon. Click Next to proceed.

Create Desktop Icon

The next screen brings up a summary of the installation.
Ready to Install

Click Install to continue. You'll then see a dialogue notifying you that the installation is proceeding. 


At this point, OpticStudio will check your Windows Registry to see if the pre-requisites have previously been run. If they have been, some of the following steps will be skipped by the installer. If no pre-requisite registry key is found, OpticStudio will launch the pre-requisite installer automatically. You will see a splash screen for the pre-requisites, followed by an installer.

Pre-requisites Splash Screen
Prerequisite Installer

This section applies to Black USB licenses, not Red or Green ones that will be plugged into the computer. The prerequisite installer will check your registry to see if the latest Safenet Sentinel key driver has been installed. If no key registry is found, you will be notified to remove your OpticStudio Black USB (AKA Safenet Sentinel) hardware key. Any other Safenet Sentinel keys should also be removed. If either of these drivers is found, the following message will be suppressed. Clicking Cancel will abort the installation. You must click OK to proceed with the installation.

Safenet Sentinel USB Driver Installation

Once the pre-requisites have installed, the main installation steps are complete! This window contains our contact email and a download link.This information can also be accessed at any time within OpticStudio on the Help Tab. Click Next to continue. 


The installer will then show the completion screen. Click Finish to close the installation wizard. Proceed to the "Using Your OpticStudio License" section below. 


Using Your OpticStudio License

OpticStudio supports the use of single user and network licenses. For further information about installing, activating, or troubleshooting your specific key type, please visit the resources below.

Single User Licenses
Single user licenses must be used on the local machine where they are hosted.  They can be transferred from one machine to another, but they are not available for use over a network.  Only one seat (2 instances) of OpticStudio may be open simultaneously on a single user license.

Network Licenses 
Network licenses host 2+ seats on a network server machine.  The license seats can be used on different client machines throughout the network.

Opening OpticStudio

The splash screen will show briefly, and then you'll be notified that OpticStudio needs to copy some files.  
Copy Files to User Data Folder
Click OK. Once the files are copied, OpticStudio will then open. If OpticStudio doesn't open or a dialogue box appears, please read the Troubleshooting section below. 



What To Do If OpticStudio will not launch

If OpticStudio doesn't open at all (no error message), or a crash or error message appears and OpticStudio does not start up, please see this article on troubleshooting further

Cannot find Zemax Key


If you see the above message, and you are using a Black USB key plugged into your computer or a black USB that is on a network server, start with Troubleshooting License Issues with a Black USB License.
If you are trying to reach a network server that uses a Softkey or Red USB license, refer to How to Install the Network License Version of OpticStudio (on the client)
If you have a softkey license, and you have already activated it, or have received an activation error, check the article How to Troubleshoot Softkey License Issues.

License Code Request

License Code Request The first time you run OpticStudio, you may be prompted for a license code:

If you see this dialog box, your copy of OpticStudio is correctly installed, and the key driver is working properly, you just need a license code to allow OpticStudio to run with your key.  To get a license code, take a screenshot of this dialog box on your screen (e.g. using Alt-Print_Screen, Snipping Tool, or any other screen capture software) and paste it into an email to and one of our global tech support staff will send a license code right away. Please do not call Zemax for a license code. License codes are complex multi-character strings and cannot be reliably given over the phone. Emailing the screenshot of the dialog box to us is the quickest, most error-free way of getting your license code.

Keeping OpticStudio up-to-date

New versions of OpticStudio are released on a regular basis. OpticStudio includes a feature which can checks if you have the latest version installed on your computer, and updates the support expiration date if you have paid to renew support. On the Help Tab, click "Check for Updates" to see if there is a newer release available. (Note that you must have internet access to utilize this feature.)

This feature will indicate that you are running the latest verion, or alert you that a newer version is available for download from our website. You may also see the message that a newer version is available, but that support for your key must be renewed in order to run the latest version. Should you choose to renew your support, you can do so via the website or by contacting the Zemax Sales group at

OpticStudio can also automatically run the “Check for updates” feature. You can control how often this check is performed by going to the Setup Tab and selecting Project Preferences > General.  

If you have difficulty updating the support expiration date, refer to the following article: Is My Key Under Current Support?

Summary and References

This article has demonstrated how to get OpticStudio up and running on a new computer. In summary:

  • Check the version of OpticStudio you are eligible run and your key type is compatible
  • The OpticStudio Installer needs to be downloaded from the Zemax website and properly installed
  • The "Check for updates" feature in OpticStudio can be used to ensure that you have the latest version installed