HELP! I Can’t Write to my Survey Database!

So you’ve decided that you’re going to tackle the two most often misunderstood things inside Civil 3D – Vault and the Survey Database. You’ve created a Vault project and you flip over to the survey tab of toolspace and notice that there’s now a Survey Database with the same name. Cool! This software really is smart, it knew I was going to create a Survey Database! You get ready to get down and get busy, and create a network – BZZZT! You get an error saying that the Survey Database isn’t writable, and that you may not have permissions to access it. Now you go into full-on panic mode, eventually slipping off into the muttering frenzy of how badly this software sucks and how it won’t do what you want it to do.  Settle down, there’s a really good explanation.  Follow the link to lower your blood pressure just a little bit.

So I create my Vault project – I’m going to name it something easy to recognize…


Next, I’ll go take a look at the survey tab of toolspace.   I see the new survey database, and it appears to have some extra icons next to the name of it. I pay them no attention, open the survey database, and go about creating my new network. Wait – there’s no option to create a new network. No network means no importing a fieldbook. No imported fieldbook means the survey database is relatively useless to me.  Maybe those icons had something to do with it?


These three icons definitely mean something – the first one is the universal symbol for Survey Database. It will appear next to each survey database in Civil 3D, no matter how it was created. The second one looks similar to a pick and a shovel crossed for whatever reason (since I know the meaning, I would have thought it to be a large safe, or something more *VAULT* looking) – yes, this icon means that the survey database is part of a Vault project. The last icon looks like a pencil with the universal symbol for “NO” across it. This indicates that the survey database is not writable, and gives you a very handy-dandy tip if you hover over it:


Look at that last sentence, it’s important. If the survey database is part of a project, insure that you have checked out the survey database before attempting edits. That’s easy enough to do -all I have to do is flip back over to prospector and check out the database.image As with everything else in Vault, the status of the object is shown with an icon beside it. The green circle with a  check in it tells me that this survey database is checked out to me.

Now, I can flip back over to the survey tab to see the results. The first thing I notice is that the survey database is closed, so I’ll need to open it. Once I do, I notice that the offending icon is removed, and that I can do anything with the survey database that I could with any other database.

I hope this helps some users – it seems to be a confusing point with some. I agree that the interaction between the two doesn’t really seem to be spelled out anywhere, so maybe this will shed some light on the process.


  1. Just like anything else in the Vault, it’s very important to check the Survey Database back in on a regular basis. My user’s are instructed to do so at least at the end of each day so it gets backed up. We had a situation recently where it wasn’t checked in and the user must have used the Get Latest (from Vault) command and all edits were lost. Fortunately, we point our Current Working Folder to a network share and back that up too. It turned out to be our saviour that day.

  2. David Harman says:

    I’ve always had trouble using the help portion of C3D and LDD. If you don’t have the question worked just right, you’re not going to get any help. Fortunately, the internet has a few sites like this one to illuminate things for challenged folks like myself.
    Vault does take some getting use to, especiallg sharing data amongst departments. Most of the problems we’ve experienced relates to the inexperience of the staff using it. It’s still feels foreign to me, but I’m not giving up.
    It is pretty good about prompting you to check your work in when closing a drawing. That’s a good idea backing it up on your network outside your working folder.