In my  previous post , I described the various types of geodatabases that you can work with in ArcGIS Desktop. In this post, I’ll describe how to authorize geodatabases. Note: in some discussions and documentation, you’ll see both the terms “authorization” and “licensing” used interchangeably. For consistency, I’ll use the term “authorization” here. 

Personal Geodatabases

You can only use personal geodatabases 32-bit ArcGIS Desktop applications (i.e., ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcGlobe, and ArcScene; for brevity, I’ll just refer to ArcMap in the rest of this post). Fortunately, you can read and write personal geodatabases with any ArcGIS Desktop license level (Basic, Standard, or Advanced). The ArcGIS Desktop help has  a comprehensive guide to authorizing ArcMap . If you’re using ArcGlobe or ArcScene, you’ll also need to  authorize the 3D Analyst extension . When using personal geodatabases, you only need to authorize the client that uses the geodatabase, not the geodatabase itself.

File Geodatabases

You can use file geodatabases both in ArcMap and in ArcGIS Pro. The ArcGIS Desktop help has  a comprehensive guide to authorizing ArcGIS Pro . As with personal geodatabases, you only need to authorize the clients that use the geodatabase, not the geodatabase itself.

Desktop and Workgroup Geodatabases

Desktop and workgroup geodatabases are geodatabases that are hosted on a database server. A database server is an instance of SQL Server Express that has been configured to enable geodatabase storage.

You can only use desktop and workgroup geodatabases in ArcMap. Users with an ArcGIS Desktop Basic authorization can read data in desktop and workgroup geodatabases, and users with an ArcGIS Desktop Standard or Advanced authorization can create, read and write desktop and workgroup geodatabases.

If you want to host workgroup geodatabases on your database server, then, in addition to authorizing the clients, you must also  authorize the database server  with an ArcGIS Server Workgroup license. Without this authorization, the database server can only host desktop geodatabases.

Note that there are two main ways to obtain a workgroup database server authorization from Esri. If you have already authorized the ArcGIS Server site that will host the database server, then you can authorize the database server with the keycodes file stored on the site’s host server (see the  guide to setting up an authorizing a database server  for information on locating it). Alternatively, you can authorize the database server using an ECP number for ArcGIS Server Workgroup that you can obtain from the My Esri  website.

Enterprise Geodatabases

You can use enterprise geodatabases both in ArcMap and in ArcGIS Pro. Users with an ArcGIS Desktop Basic authorization can read data in enterprise geodatabases. Users with an ArcGIS Desktop Standard or Advanced authorization, or an ArcGIS Pro authorization, can create, read, and write enterprise geodatabases.

In order to authorize an enterprise geodatabase, you must first  authorize ArcGIS Server . Authorizing any edition of ArcGIS Enterprise (Basic, Standard, or Advanced) at the Enterprise level will enable enterprise geodatabase management.

Once ArcGIS Server is authorized, users can create and authorize enterprise geodatabases  in ArcMap  and  in ArcGIS Pro .

ArcSDE Application Server

Although you can connect to existing enterprise geodatabases via the ArcSDE application server using an ArcGIS 10.5.1 client, you can’t create new enterprise geodatabases via the ArcSDE application server.