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How to Evaluate Your Hardware Requirements

Tutorial Level = Beginner

by Greg Jankowski, SolidWorks Corporation

A CAD designer's computer is one of the most important investments your company will make. Long-term cost savings should be measured in both productivity improvements and changes in time-to-market. The criteria provided below are intended to help you determine if hardware upgrade or replacement is necessary.

General system hardware recommendations


  • The minimum requirements for your computer hardware should be based on your requirements and datasets and not generic minimum system requirements. If you work with large datasets your hardware requirements will be greater than those of a company that deals with small or medium datasets.
  • Determine how much RAM is a minimum for your company's documents. To do this:
    1. Open SolidWorks with your largest dataset.
    2. Open any additional applications needed (e.g., Microsoft Office, and more if necessary)
    3. Use the task manager and review the Performance tab to determine amount of RAM required.
  • Do not exceed the physical RAM on your computer; otherwise, the performance of your machine will be virtually unusable and the system will become less stable. The minimal investment in additional RAM can be easily justified.


  • Purchase the fastest CPU available. SolidWorks software relies heavily on the CPU for performance.
  • For maximum system performance, SolidWorks recommends you purchase a second CPU. This allows you to do more with the computer at the same time and helps extend the life of the PC. If you do not purchase a second CPU at this time, ensure that the system is dual capable for the future.


  • Obtain a reliable OpenGL card with a good, up-to-date driver for your current OS and also one that is still supported and supports new operating systems (Microsoft Windows XP).
  • Do not use a game card. There are a number of professional graphic cards that offer support from the vendor and typically have better drivers.

Operating System (OS)

  • Use a professional operating system. Windows 98 and Windows ME may be fine for home use, but they are not intended for production CAD use. For CAD use, select one of the following operating systems:
    • Microsoft Windows XP Professional (Recommended)
    • Windows 2000 (Service Pack 2 or higher) (Recommended)
    • Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack 6 or higher)
  • Support from Microsoft for Windows NT and Windows 98 enter the Extended Phase in June 2002 and the Nonsupported Phase in June 2003. For more information, see http://www.microsoft.com/windows/lifecycle.asp

Upgrading versus replacing the system

The SolidWorks Workstation Benchmark can help you determine the return on investment (ROI) for upgrading or replacing a system. This method is fairly conservative for machines that are used on a frequent basis. The common benchmark can be downloaded from Solid Solutions or SPEC/GPC (see links below).

Company-specific benchmarks can also be produced to use more representative datasets. The disadvantage with producing your own benchmark is that it will be more difficult to compare new hardware to your existing machines without obtaining the machine on site. If a standard benchmark is used, you can usually obtain that information from the hardware vendor.

Example Systems
Machine A
256 MB RAM
1.0 GHz
Complete: 1,397 (.39 Hours)
Graph: 639
Processor: 378
I/O: 380
Machine B
512 MB RAM
Dual 1.6 GHz
Quadro 2Pro
Complete: 580 (.16 Hours)
Graph: 224
Processor: 182
I/O: 174
Machine C
512 MB RAM
2.2 GHz
Quadro 2Pro
Complete: 431 (.12 Hours)
Graph: 175
Processor: 131
I/O: 125

Example ROI (Return on Investment)

Additional tests can be run with upgrades to the original hardware to determine ROI for only upgrading the existing machines.


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