computer requirements

My team is looking at buying some new desktop computers to run solidworks on for the next few years, and I thought it might be helpful to find out what other teams are using for computers to design their robots with.

so what i would like to know is:
what are the specs of the computers that you make your CAD models with?
Do you use any of the more advanced features like weldments, or do simulations of robot assemblies on the computer? If so how well does your computer handle all the features that you use?

also if you have any suggestions on the matter I’d be glad to hear them.

Spec-wise, I’d recommend a system running, at the minimum:

  • a 2GHz dual core processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • a dedicated graphics card OR integrated ATI or NVIDIA graphics (not Intel. you want a more powerful chipset if you go this route)
  • Windows operating system (for easier use with CAD software. Macs have somewhat fewer options and are more expensive, and Linux would be somewhat difficult to get SW running)

I’d also recommend springing for 64-bit Windows, since, at least on more powerful computers, it can take advantage of more resources and run a bit faster, especially since SW has a 64-bit version. The few remaining specs aren’t quite as important to the functioning of SW or the system in general, so select everything else based on what you think you need

As for a specific recommendation, it would help to get a price range that you’re looking at. There’s a lot of good computers out there for CAD work, but if you’re limited on what you can spend you’re going to have to tweak some of the system specs to maximize your performance, and you may have to settle for lower specs than you might like. I can say that I can run Inventor pretty well on my system, and I’m running a somewhat older Inspiron 530 with a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM and a GeForce 9500GT graphics card, all of which I picked up open box for a pretty good deal. I’m pretty sure the total cost of my system comes out under $400, but I’ll also say that as it stands now, it could probably use another Gig or two of RAM

I’d strongly advice a workstation graphics card if you plan on running CAD software.

If you want to run solidworks with passable performance you don’t need all that much.

At work I have a 3.2 ghz P4 with 4 gigs of RAM and an Nvidia 7600 GT. Drawing individual parts works just fine with no noticeable performance issues.

Small assemblies can be manipulated fairly well, though there is some delay in rendering.

Large assemblies (like the size of the robot) take awhile to load and can be manipulated, but require patience. The rendering delay can be annoying as can the general lagginess while rotating or zooming.

I would recommend higher specs, like Zholl listed, but you can certainly get away with less.

I run Solidworks on a laptop with a Pentium Dual Core T2330 1.6GHz with 2 gigs of RAM. It is usable, but it doesn’t work fast enough for a person without the patience for it. Especially in large assemblies.

I also have it on an older machine with a P4 2.4GHz 533MHZ FSB 512k cache with 3 Gigs DDR400 RAM and a Geforce 6200 AGP 8x 256mb card. Again, it works, but not well enough to be productive with.

Go higher with specs. You don’t need a dual hex-core Xeon machine. But try at least something like a Core 2 Duo, with a little more cache, higher bus speeds, DDR2 (or DDR3), a PCIe x16 graphics card, etc.

As mentioned previously, the graphics card you select is going to be important. Make sure it’s something that is known to work well with Solidworks. Sometimes certain cards will have their own specific glitches with software like that. I know Autodesk puts out a list of certified cards. Not sure if Solidworks does.

I’ll also note, I’ve seen it run beautifully with large assemblies in Windows on a Macbook Pro (uncertain of specs).

Solidworks puts out a list of graphics cards that they recommend. It’s somewhere on their website.

If you are trying to keep costs down, you can find used professional graphics cards on Ebay for a lot less than they are new, especially if you go back a version or two. I second the call for the CAD rated graphics cards. They work a lot on their drivers to make them more responsive. I’ve run both drivers (gaming and CAD) on the same card, and the CAD driver was significantly nicer to work with.

Here is a link to the Sollidworks System Requirements and there is a link to suitable graphic cards on the page

you can also get the desktops for cheaper as well if you shop through the outlet stores. a lot of manufacturers will sell open box and refurbished hardware for less than new, and the only difference will really only be some minor cosmetic blemishes at the most. sometimes you can find places that sell hardware components open box or refurb as well, such as Tech for Less here in Colorado Springs

Good tips here - I am not a hardward expert put I would go

The SolidWorks community forums is filled with information about hardware in the “Adminstration” category. Also, the community is really helpful, if you dont find what you are looking for - just ask. Marie

thanks for the good advice everyone. the mentors on my team chose to get laptops for mobility and working at home.

then try to get one with an i5 equivalent or better, minumum 4 gigs ram, and a good graphics car. i’d also reccomend a larger (15+ in) screen and an external hard drive and also a bootster battery pack if you plan on working away from outlets for any length of time. as for cost, try getting a used/ refurbished laptop, they are much cheaper

Avoid anything that relies on NVidia GeForce Graphics Cards for CAD. Those are specifically gaming graphics cards, there is a difference. I cannot run Inventor or even Google Sketchup when I use the GeForce graphics card. It could be my computer but I really would recommend going for something with the Nvidia Quadro Graphics card, the Quadro is the Nvidia graphics card designed for CAD specifically.

I run Inventor off the integtrated graphics on my Dell XPS with an i5 560 (2.67 gHz, turbo up to 3.3 gHz, 4 threads, 3M cache) processor and it runs incredibly fast even with large assemblies and rendering. I would recommend going for lots of RAM as well, I have 6 gB which is plenty.

My dad runs solidworks on his Dell Precision with an NVidia Quadro Graphics card and it works fine.

I like DELL for the warranty but I do not have any experience with anything other than DELL and HP. Except for my graphics card (I like it for games not CAD) my DELL XPS runs CAD great. With full warranty (+$300-$400) my XPS cost around $1500. I can only recommend Dell because I have only used Dell but they have served me fine.

The Quadro (or oither workstation card), will hands down beat a gaming card, and integrated. A decent gaming card will beat integrated graphics as well.

It’s probably a drivers issue. Any reasonably new Nvidia graphics card, gaming or not should work just fine with SW.

Obviously you’re going to get much better performance from a workstation graphics card, but you’re going to pay a MAJOR premium for it if you start shopping for workstation class laptops. I wouldn’t recommend that.

As you plan to use the machines over the next few years, be certain to update graphics drivers from the manufacturers website.

Everytime you upgrade, check for driver updates.


thanks for the advice! my team chose hp elitebooks with i7’s and AIT workstation graphics cards ( don’t know the model number) a gig of video memory, 4+ gigs of ram (unsure on this as well), and a 15.4" screen.

we plan on these laptops lasting us many years to come.