How to Download 3ds Max Student Version for Free

3ds Max, also known as 3D Studio Max, is Autodesk’s most popular and advanced graphics editing program for creating 3D models, objects and animations. This guide will show you how to access the latest version of the 3ds Max 2023 student version through Autodesk’s Educational program, which was released in March 2022. By the end of the tutorial, you will be able to access many more full software versions from the same company for free.

Many graphic designers, game makers and animators across the world use this application to render complex graphics. It has become the go-to tool for creating stunning game graphics, realistic models, and even for 3D printing. Compared to Maya, animation software from the same company, 3ds Max is more beginner friendly. The user interface is intuitive and workflows are easy to understand. While Maya is better for animation, 3ds Max is perfect for texturing, modeling and meshing.

What is the price of 3ds Max?

3ds Max costs $225 monthly, or $1,785 if paid annually. However, if you have a status of an active student, you will be able to download it for free as long as it’s for educational purposes. As a business, there is a free 30-day trial option if you want to use the software for commercial projects.

System requirements

Currently, 3ds Max is compatible only with Windows operating system. It can NOT be installed on macOS or Linux, not even through emulators such as Parallels (50% OFF for students). Below you can find the recommended configuration for optimal performance:

Windows

All of the hardware must be 64-bit supported.

Operating system – 64-bit Microsoft Windows 10
Processor – 64-bit multi-core Intel or AMD CPU with SSE4.2 instruction set
RAM – 8 GB or more for complex tasks
Disk space – 9 GB of available space for installation and more for file storage
Graphic card – The list of recommended cards can be found here

For additional content, it’s recommended to have an internet connection and the latest version of web browsers such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox.

3ds Max student version download & install

Autodesk, the software company behind 3ds Max, Maya, Revit, AutoCAD and many others, has a special Educational program where active students and educators can request access to educational versions of tens of Autodesk products. These are not outdated programs but the latest and full versions that you can use to the full potential without any limitations as long as you don’t use them for commercial projects.

Once accepted, you can download as many products as you want. No need to request and wait for each application, just log in and download whichever version and product are currently available.

IMPORTANT: Before starting the process, obtain a school-issued .edu email address, because you will use it during the account creation process to prove your eligibility and get approved instantly.

  1. Go to the official Educational page. There you can see the list of available products for free download. Keep in mind that this list is always updated. If the program you are looking to download is not on the list, then wait a couple of months to see if it gets included. The most popular products are almost always available for students.
  2. Find 3ds Max in the list and click on the “Get started” button
  3. On the next page, if you already have an account use the existing credentials (email and password) to access the dashboard and skip the steps below, otherwise click on “Create an account”
  4. Enter your country of residence, educational role, institution type and date of birth
  5. On the next page, enter your full name, email address and set up a new password
  6. Enter the year of enrollment and graduation, and explain in detail how you intend to use the software and what is your field of study. We recommend that you write that you will be using it to learn and get new skills
  7. Once the account is verified, log in to the dashboard using the credentials created during the registration process
  8. Once logged in, find 3ds Max and select the operating system and language version that suits you the best
  9. You will be presented with serial number and product key, note it down
  10. Click on “Install now” and then “Download” button and save the installation file to your computer
  11. Click on the downloaded file and follow the on-screen instructions to install the software to your computer
  12. You will be prompted to enter the serial number and product key during the installation
  13. Open the program and enjoy the full version

*Every year, Autodesk will evaluate your account to see if you are still an active student. The account can be extended for up to three years.

Software features

  • View lightning, material and camera changes in real-time with Arnold GPU renderer
  • Precisely optimize the geometry of high-resolution models to achieve smooth surfaces
  • Increase productivity with improved Retopology Tools to handle large data by adding a pre-processing step prior to computing retopology
  • Export scenes to glTF (Graphics Language Transmission Format) that you can use in web applications, in-browser games and web stores
  • Extrude faces on 3D objects
  • Scriptable and streamlined texture baking
  • Create realistic organic objects with polygon, spline-based modeling and subdivision surface
  • Use spine workflows to animate geometry
  • Open Shading Language (OSL) support
  • Create photorealistic objects by adding any material texture
  • CAT (character animation toolkit) will give your characters realistic motions and let you create animations
  • Add liquid and particle flow behaviors to your scenes: water, lava, oil, fire, snow, spray…

On top of these, there are hundreds of addons to choose from that will further enhance the features of 3ds Max.

Free 3ds Max alternatives

Blender – The most powerful and actively developed free, open-source software that supports the entire 3D pipeline, from modeling to animation, simulation, rigging, compositing, rendering, motion tracking and video editing. It is relatively lightweight so it can be run even on slower PCs, requiring around 100 MB for installation disk space. The advantage for beginners is that there are plenty of free online tutorials to learn from. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

SketchUp – Formerly known as Google Sketchup, primarily intended for 3D modeling of architectural objects, interior design, civil and mechanical engineering, but it is also used for movies and game design. It is available for Mac and Windows. The old versions can be found online for free. However, they have recently switched to a paid business model where commercial license starts from around $120 a year, while education licenses start from $55 a year.

Bforartist – Many consider this program a great alternative to Blender. As it is a fork of Blender, the features are the same, but the user interface is more intuitive and user-friendly. It is completely free and open-source.

Rilla Easter
Chief Content Officer, digital marketer and technical writer specializing in the IT field. Holds a bachelor's degree in economics. Loves hiking with her two Vizslas.