Downloading NVivo 12

The SFU site license for NVivo allows SFU students, faculty, staff and SFU-based members of research teams to download NVivo to their individual home computers and laptops. Students, faculty, and staff can do so by using the self-serve download page. If you have difficulty, please email to inquire.  If you elect, on the download page, to receive messages from the Research Commons about NVivo, you will receive information about extending the license when the current license term expires.

Updating the license key for NVivo 12

The current SFU site license for NVivo was renewed in May 2022. A new license key is available, via the self-serve download page. All SFU NVivo users will need to input the new license key in order to continue using the software.  

For Windows: Compatibility with previous versions of NVivo

NVivo 12 (Windows) allow users to open and work with projects from previous versions of QSR software: NVivo 11, NVivo 10, NVivo 9, NVivo 8, NVivo 7, NVivo 2, NVivo 1, N6 (NUD*IST 6), N5 and N4.

These previous versions can continue to operate on the same computer as NVivo 12 (Windows).

NVivo provides backward compatibility—if a user with a later version of NVivo attempts to open a project in an earlier format (for example, a user opens an NVivo 11 project in NVivo 12 (Windows)), the user is prompted to convert the project to the later format. The original project is not modified; instead a converted copy of the project is created.

NVivo does not provide forward compatibility—the user cannot open a project with a later format. For example, if a user wants to open an NVivo 12 (Windows) project, they must have NVivo 12 (Windows), or later, installed.

For Mac: Compatibility with previous versions of NVivo for Mac

NVivo 12 (Mac) allows users to open and work with projects from earlier versions (10 and 11).

NVivo 12 (Mac) and NVivo for Mac (Version 11) can be installed on the same computer. However, the two versions of software cannot be run at the same time. If you no longer intend to use the earlier version, we recommend that you uninstall it before installing NVivo 12 (Mac).

NVivo for Mac provides backward compatibility. If a user with a later version of NVivo attempts to open a project produced by an earlier version—for example, a user opens an NVivo for Mac (Version 11) project in NVivo 12 (Mac)—the user is prompted to upgrade the project. The original project is not modified; instead a converted copy of the project is created.

NVivo does not provide forward compatibility. The user cannot open a project in an earlier version of the software. For example, if a user wants to open an NVivo 12 (Mac) project, they must have NVivo 12 (Mac) installed.

Inputting a new license key

If you are using a trial license from QSR, you can switch to the SFU license when the trial expires. Use the link above to the self-serve download page to find the SFU license.

To request installation of NVivo on SFU computers, please contact your departmental LAN administrator.

Quick reference guide

The Getting Started tutorial for NVivo 12 for Windows and for Mac serves as an introduction and instructional manual for your reference. It contains insights about the workflow with NVivo and how you can use all of its features for your research. It will get you started very quickly and help you move forward with your data.

For resources to help you get up and running with NVivo 12 including online help, eWorkshops and training, visit QSR's website;
Technical support is also available directly from NVivo via their technical resource manualFAQs and this form.

Tutorials and video clips

QSR International, the maker of NVivo, provides many informative videos that demonstrate basic or more advanced features of the software.

Troubleshooting? Start here!

  1. Please first confirm that you have downloaded NVivo 12 from the SFU Library NVivo self-serve download page.
    1. Our current license key only works with NVivo 12 and does not work with New NVivo. Software downloaded from QSR directly (the NVivo parent company) is not compatible with the SFU license key.
  2. If the file is not opening correctly, it's worth completely uninstalling NVivo from your computer and then downloading and installing NVivo again to see if this resolves the issue.
    1. here's a guide with installation/uninstallation instructions for Windows
    2. Here's a guide with installation/uninstallation instructions for Mac
  3. Next, try to validate NVivo 12 again, using the license key available here, making sure to copy and paste to avoid confusion between O and 0 and I and 1.
  4. Some users have reported that it took several attempts to copy and paste before it validated successfully.
  5. If that doesn't work, you can also try to deactivate NVivo then re-activate and validate, using the following steps:
    1. Launch NVivo 12.
      1. For Windows: Click on the File tab. Click Help - Manage License - Deactivate License
      2. For Mac: Click on the NVivo 12 tab. Check Licensing - Deactivate.
    2. You should see a message confirming the deactivation. Close down NVivo 12.
    3. Turn off any firewall or antivirus software, as that can sometimes interfere with installation.
    4. Launch NVivo 12 again.
    5. Enter the license key when prompted, and click "Next."

If you've tried these steps and they didn't resolve your issue, please reach out.  Email our team at with your questions, or book an appointment with an NVivo expert using the NVivo Consultation Request form