Education Institution FAQs

What are Houdini Education licenses?

The Houdini Educational license is a special learning license that can only be purchased by education institutions, not by students or other individuals.

Education licenses are floating licenses.
This allows a central machine to easily serve client computers on the network.
You can, however, license computers individually if needed.

1 Education subscription consists of 4 product licenses:

1 Houdini FX Education license
10 Renderer (Indie/Apprentice) licenses
10 Karma (Indie/Apprentice) licenses
10 Education Engine licenses

To compare Houdini Education with other Houdini products:

What does each product license in the Education subscription do?

1 Education subscription consists of 4 product licenses:

1 Houdini FX Education license
10 Renderer (Indie/Apprentice) licenses
10 Karma (Indie/Apprentice) licenses
10 Education Engine licenses


What each product license does:

FX Houdini Education

  • To open the Houdini FX interface.

Renderer and Karma

  • To use the Mantra renderer or the Karma renderer.
  • To render within Houdini, to render a picture, or to use Mplay.
  • You should hold as many of these licenses as you have total machines, (workstations + render machines).
  • These licenses are free.

Houdini Engine Education

  • To use Houdini non-graphically.
  • Command-line renders and simulations on remote render machines.
  • Open pre-made Houdini Digital Assets (HDAs) within Maya, 3dsMax, Unreal, Unity and C4D.
  • You should hold as many Houdini Engine Education licenses as you have renderfarm machines.
  • A machine that already has the Houdini Education license installed does not need a Houdini Engine Education license. Save this license for a render node.


Houdini licenses are bound to the machine name and hardware.
Changing the machine name or hardware will invalidate the licenses. Please see How to release licenses.

How do students use Houdini Education licenses?
  • Houdini Education licenses may only be purchased by education institutions, not by students or other individuals.
  • Students may work with Apprentice or Indie licenses at home and bring their files to the school lab.
  • Educational licenses allows you to create Houdini digital assets.
  • The files saved using Education licenses are in Apprentice format.
  • There is an online conversion tool that students can use to change files back into Indie format if that is the license they have at home.

Please contact to have access to the online conversion tool.

Why are licenses showing as temporary?

For Education and Commercial users

Temporary licenses are first issued. Once payment is confirmed, license extensions are issued for the full duration of the invoice.

You will need to install your license extensions for the new expiry date to be applied.

If you have any questions, please contact your account manager or

How do I download the Houdini Installer?

Please see our system requirements page to see what hardware and operating systems are supported.

There is the single installation package for all Houdini products.
Apprentice, Indie, Education, and Commercial users will use the same installer for their operating system.

The installed licenses determine which features are available in the application and what restrictions are imposed on its use.

Download Installer

To download the installer:

  • Go to → Get → Download
  • Please login to download Houdini. If you are new, you can register here
  • If you cannot access your account, try resetting your password here
  • The Download button will auto-select and let users download an appropriate build based on their OS. Links to other Operating Systems are provided below.

If you want to download a specific build or version go to Daily Builds. For more about daily builds and production builds, refer to Houdini builds.

You may also check the SideFX public FTP server for older Houdini installers.

Can I do a silent install of Houdini?

For silent installs run the installer with /? for documentation: /?

The /Registry option ("Yes" or "No", default "Yes") controls whether or not the installer will create Registry keys when installing Houdini. This mostly impacts whether or not the version of Houdini will show up in the Add/Remove Programs list.

It is recommended to use the defaults unless you have specific needs, such as installing Houdini on a shared network path. You cannot cannot define the "License Server Path" with the /Registry option.

To set the License Server

  • The easiest method is to configure a DNS SRV record.
  • Client machines should automatically find the Houdini license server.

Linux or Mac OSX:

  • hserver -S server-name
  • A hidden file in users's home directory called .sesi_licenses.pref
  • This hidden file will contain one line: serverhost=license-servername


The best solution is to modify the registry:

reg add "hklm\software\Side Effects Software\Houdini" /v LicenseServer /t reg_sz /d server-name /f

To uninstall:

Run the uninstall.exe located in Program Files -> Side Effects Software -> Houdini

Type /? for options

Type /S for silent.

How do I install Houdini Education licenses?

Once your account has been setup, the system will send an activation email. This will be for your licensing account so you may install licenses using the License Administrator (hkey). Your email address will also receive other notifications from the system such as new license entitlements to be installed, upgrades or extensions to existing licenses. Please ensure that you have whitelisted in your spam settings.

You will have two ways to configure licensing for your lab.

  1. Setup a central network license server to serve the client computers.

    • Ideal for labs/classrooms.
    • Easier licenses administration.
    • Client computers will need to be configured to look to the license server.
  2. No central server. License individual workstations.

    • Depending on the size of your lab, this might be more work than setting up a central license server.
    • Each machine will act as both client and server to itself. Ensure to install the License Server component during install.

Houdini instructors with a single Education subscription may license their machines individually.

How do I upgrade licenses to a new version?
  • Licenses with an active support contract (AUP) are eligible for upgrades.
  • Licenses with an active rental or subscription are eligible for upgrades.
  • Upgrades are to be applied to installed licenses. Please check your licensing account for upgrade entitlements.
  • If you are an Apprentice user you do not need to upgrade your license. Instead, run Houdini and (re)activate your Apprentice license.

It is not enough that you install the latest Houdini release. You need to apply the upgrades to your installed licenses.
You may run older versions of Houdini with the latest released license.

Using the License Administrator is the easiest way to upgrade licenses:

  1. Download and install the latest Production Build or the latest Daily Build.

  2. Launch the License Administrator on the machine you wish to upgrade.

  3. Select File->Login to log in with your SideFX account.

  4. Select File->Install Licenses to view your license entitlements.

  5. Press the Install button. This will apply the upgrades to the current licenses.

If you are having problems logging into your account through the License Administrator, please see the section I can't log into the License Administrator.

Commercial Upgrade

How do I extend licenses to a new expiry date?
  • Once finance has confirmed payment, extension licenses are sent.
  • Apply the extensions to the installed licenses for the new expiry date to take effect.
  • The License Administrator is the easiest way to apply a new expiry date to licenses.

To install the new expiry date:

  1. Launch the License Administrator on the machine.
    • If this is a central license server then you only need to do this on the server machine itself.
    • If licensed machines individually, repeat this process for each machine.
  2. Login to your licensing account.
  3. Press the Check for License Entitlements button or go to File->Install Licenses
  4. Press the Install button.

This process will generate the keystrings and install your new expiry dates. The keystrings will be written to the licenses file on the machine automatically.

Commercial Extend

How do I move licenses to another computer?
  • Houdini licenses are registered to both the computer hardware and computer name.
  • It is not enough that you uninstall Houdini from the computer to move your licenses.
  • Release the licenses by returning them back to your account at SideFX using the License Administrator.

    License Return
  • Once the licenses have been released from the computer, they are returned to your account.
  • They will show on the account as uninstalled license entitlements.
  • You can then use the License Administrator on the new computer to install the returned licenses. This will complete the move.


  • You cannot use the web portal to move your licenses.
  • Licenses must be moved from the machine with the licenses, using the License Administrator.
  • For more information, please see Return licenses.
How do I setup licensing for the render farm?
  • Mantra is per machine - not per core.
  • Each time you call mantra, it will use 1 Mantra token

To set up more render nodes and access your unlimited supply of Mantra tokens, please contact or

Houdini rendering process is divided into two parts:

IFD generation, (similar to generating RenderMan rib files), and "writing" the pixels themselves.

When you hit the render button in Houdini, the IFD generation can be done either in the background, (where the .ifd is simply written to memory and not to disk), or you can choose to write the .ifd to disk. This part of the process takes either a Houdini-FX, Houdini-Core or a Houdini-Engine license.

The pixel writing part uses a Render (mantra) license. If you had previously rendered .ifd files to disk, you can distribute those to the render farm, and use the Render (mantra) licenses to generate the final picture.

Generally, our users will have a queueing software, (such as our HQueue), that will distribute the IFD generation depending on how many Houdini-FX, Houdini-Core and Houdini-Engine licenses you have. Once the IFD generation is done, the queueing software will then distribute the renders to the render machines, depending on how many mantra licenses are available, (please remember mantra licenses are free).

If you do not hold an Engine license. You can render the IFDs to disk with the interactive session of Houdini, and then distribute the IFDs to be renderer by the mantra tokens.

Having Houdini Engine licenses helps you speed up your renders, as the IFD writing part is the most time consuming. At the same time, having an Engine license allows your artists to keep working on their Houdini files.

What is Houdini Engine?

Houdini Engine is a non-graphical version of Houdini.

  • Run command-line renders or simulations on render nodes.
  • A plugin to load Houdini Digital Assets (HDAs) within Maya, 3dsMax, Unreal, Unity and C4D.

The Houdini Engine license is in three parts:

  • 1 Houdini Engine - unlock the plugin
  • 1 Renderer - render with Mantra
  • 1 Karma - render with Karma

Houdini Engine Pipeline

How can I troubleshoot the most common issues?

These are the most common issues with downloading, installing, or licensing.

You may also search the Licensing category for a range of solutions to issues.

Can’t log into the website to download the software

Can't log into the License Administrator

  • This applies only to Indie and Commercial users
  • Try resetting your password at
  • By resetting the password, it will unify the login credentials for both the website and licensing system.

I'm on OSX and suddenly my licenses stopped working. Why?

  • Please refer to this for a solution

Can't install Apprentice licenses using the License Administrator

  • While Apprentice users will be able to log into the License Administrator, they will not have an account in the licensing database, which is a separate system.
  • Apprentice users will not be able to install non-commercial Apprentice licenses through the License Administrator.
  • When Houdini Apprentice is first launched, the user will be prompted to install the free license.

Licenses have stopped working

  • Refer to the Why have my licenses stopped working page.
  • Ensure that any antivirus/security software on the computer is allowing communication between the HoudiniServer (hserver/hserver.exe) client and HoudiniLicenseServer (sesinetd/sesinetd.exe) server programs.
  • Check the firewall settings on your machine.
  • Apprentice/Indie user machine must look to itself for licenses.
    • Launch the License Administrator and go to File->Change License Server.
    • Press the Local Server button. Ensure that this matches your computer name.
  • Houdini Engine Indie will not run the Indie graphical interface. Verify that you have purchased Houdini Indie licenses.

SSL Error when trying to login using the License Administrator

Houdini Crashing

How do I contact support?

If you are experiencing difficulties with licensing Houdini:

  1. Generate the License Diagnostic.
  2. Attach the diagnostic file to an email addressed to

If you are having other issues such as crashes or error messages:

  1. Follow the steps above to provide the support team with the License Diagnostic.
  2. Attach any crash logs generated.
  3. If Houdini will stay open long enough, attach the reported machine information.

Please include the account number or email associated with your SideFX account if writing from a different address.

How can I use Login-based Licensing?

Login-based Licensing allows your computer to use as the license server.

You may use your licenses across a number of machines without needing to install them to any particular system. It is recommended for Indie and Education users as it is required the machine be constantly logged into the SideFX account. The client machine must be using hserver at version 18.5 minimum.

For Commercial Users:

If you are moving a workstation (LOCKED) license to Login-Based Licensing, this license is valid for one user only. If the same person is using the license, the license may be used on a limited number of computers but on one computer at a time. If multiple people want to share the same license, the license needs to be upgraded to a floating LAL or GAL.

If you are moving existing LAL or GAL licenses, these will work as they would on an internal license server. Multiple users may share the floating LAL and GAL licenses, used on one computer at a time.

Follow these steps to start using login-based licensing:

  1. If applicable, return any installed licenses back to your SideFX account so they are now uninstalled entitlements.
  2. Open the License Administrator (hkey).
  3. Select File->Change License Server and click the button for SideFX License Server.

The license server of the machine is now set to:

For more information: Login license reference documentation

How do I setup License Partitioning?

License partitioning is a way to break up a set of licenses into different groups based on a wide range of conditions. This replaces the need to split up the licenses to multiple license servers and instead use the one server to break up the licenses virtually.

License partitioning is also a great way to control license access and restrict critical licenses to the artists that need them, and block unintended license acquisitions from other artists.

This feature requires that the license server (sesinetd) itself is at 18.5 minimum.

For more information please refer to the online documentation.