I am no longer able to run different CAD programs on my Windows 7 system concurrently. For years, I have run four CAD software programs (Cadence Orcad, Mentor PADS, Altera Quartus, Mentor Hyperlynx). I often have several of these programs up and running at once. Each of these software programs require a unique USB security key ("dongle") to be plugged into the machine or else it will not run. My computer did an automatic update last night. Now, when I have more than one key plugged into my machine, none of my CAD programs operate.
Windows 7 and earlier Windows versions have allowed me to have all four keys in my machine at once. This has been great. I've been lucky to be able to use the tools that I know and like. It never occurred to me that someday they would not work together.
If I plug one of the keys in at a time, I can get programs to run singly. This is a pain, especially since Orcad doesn't run after a USB key has been hot-plugged unless you first run lmutils to manually stop and start its driver. It's also a pain for logistical reasons, as I currently have all my USB keys taped together onto a mini USB hub so that I can sometimes use them with my laptop at home or at a client. The idea of having to worry about individual keys makes me a bit anxious. We have an ARM compiler license dongle that moves around from machine to machine at the office and we have lost it several times!
Mentor has told me that this is not their problem, that this is a Microsoft problem. They also said Windows 7 does not support running multiple keys, and that this has been a problem since Windows 7 was released. Basically, I was lucky to have this work at all. Mentor suggested the following:
- Plug and unplug keys whenever I open and shut software. Not so ideal, as I often do quick back-and-forth ECOs between my Cadence Orcad schematics and my Mentor Pads layout. I really need to be able to have these two programs up and running at the same time
- Get each of the vendors to key their software to a single key. I'm skeptical that this is even possible. Not to mention it taking weeks. CAD tool vendors are understandably sensitive to having software keyed multiple ways at once and I suspect they'd want me to send them the keys first, which means I'd be out of business until the mess was completely running.
- Get my software keyed to my Ethernet NIC. This would work at my office, but not on my laptop. I need to be able to occasionally bring my laptop and software out to clients.
- Set up a central license server and then VPN to work when I need to use a machine. There is, of course, an added cost to doing this, and I'd have to pay someone to set this up
- Set up and run Windows XP, as this is guaranteed to be able to run multiple keys. I have no idea of what kind of effort it would take to get an old machine running. I'd have to somehow transfer my Office licenses over to that machine. Doesn't really sound like it's really practical.
- Contact Microsoft and ask them to fix the problem. Yeah, Mentor really said that. Given that there are probably only a few thousand affected people out of their hundreds of millions of customers, are they really going to pay attention to me? And, if they do, how many months or years will it sit on their "fix it" list before it gets touched? Anyway, I posted something on their discussion board, just in case :-)
- Reinstall from a backup and turn-off auto-update. Doesn't sound like the perfect approach, but is probably the only workable one for now. At some point there's going to be a patch or security update that I'm going to need....
Questions and Thoughts?
- Has anyone else run into this?
- Does anyone know what specific update caused this to stop working?
- Does anyone have a workaround that gets multiple keys running concurrently?
My immediate approach is going to be to try installing the system from a backup. I unfortunately haven't done a full one in several months but it's the only thing I can think of.