Missing AutoCAD xrefs in Vault are causing DWF and PDF files to display incorrectly

June 29, 2024 Bob Felton


AutoCAD drawings that have xrefs files are checked into Vault. In AutoCAD, those drawings have been fixed, and verified that the paths are working correctly. When previewed in Vault, the xrefs are not visible and do not create good PDFs.

Initially, the preview looks like it has the items viewable:

But once the preview is clicked, they are missing:


For some background about how AutoCAD saves thumbnails in the dwg header, this view in Vault is from the AutoCAD thumbnail:

Whenever AutoCAD saves a drawing, everything in the current view is saved like a snapshot, into the thumbnail view that is then saved into the drawing's header in the dwg. The thumbnail view cannot be zoomed in and is also what shows in the Windows File Explorer with the Preview Pane enabled.

That doesn't mean that drawing will look like that when it's opened if an xref is missing. It just means that is what the view looked like when it was last saved in AutoCAD.

So when that drawing was saved, the xref was present. Also, since the dwg was checked into Vault, that means the xref was also able to be resolved and was checked in with the host drawing, or that host drawing would not be able to check in until all reference files were resolved.

So that means something could have happened to the xref after it was checked into Vault.


These are the possibilities and their possible solutions: 

  • The xref was deleted from Vault.

Search Vault for that xref by name to see if it can be located.

If it cannot be found, then locate a copy in AutoCAD and check it into Vault in the same relative folder as its host drawing. That is often the same folder as the host but can be located in another folder.

Once it's located, then a new DWF can be saved in Vault and a PDF can be made with all the details from the xref included.

  • The xref is in vault, but in a different path than expected.

If the xref were saved in AutoCAD with a relative path, that allowed it to be checked into Vault.

But, if the xref file is then moved to another folder in Vault, that means the xref cannot be found in the same relative path from the host drawing.

This is also true with an absolute path, but that may have had other problems being resolved to be checked into Vault in the first place.

Locate the xref dwg in Vault and move or copy it (if unique filenames are not enforced) to its correct location in relation to the host drawing.

  • The xref is in vault in the expected relative path as when it was checked in with its host drawing.

But the xref is not accessible to show in the vault visualization file (DWF) when that dwf was created.

This may be due to the xref being checked out of vault by another user.

Search for and locate the xref. Does it show a line through its filename? Also check the xref's properties to see who might have it checked out.

If it is checked out, ask the person who has it checked out if it they are done and can check it back in.

Here is an example:

Other possibilities are if the xref were nested in a parent xref and that parent xref is not found. But it was present when the host drawing to the parent and child xrefs were present and could be checked in.

  • Try using the Check-in from AutoCAD on the Vault ribbon

If your usual process is to check in from the Files > Add Files from the Vault menu or from the right-click menu, then try the check-in from the Vault ribbon tab in AutoCAD.

In general, Autodesk recommends checking files into Vault and also checking out from Vault with the CAD application's Vault add-in.

However, a large percentage of users prefer checking out and then back in from the Vault client.

The trade-off for convenience is that some issues like this where the Vault Add-in for AutoCAD sends the xrefs correctly to Vault so that they show up in the DWFs and PDFs, does not get a chance to help.

About the Author

Bob Felton

Sr. Technical Support Specialist, Manufacturing<br><br>Bob Felton has been supporting Autodesk products for over 25 years including core AutoCAD, P&ID, Plant 3D, AutoCAD for Mac, AutoCAD Mechanical, and Vault. His background is in graphics with an Applied Sciences degree and ten years manufacturing experience drafting, as well as technical illustration, image editing, and even patent drafting.

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