SOLIDWORKS Hardware Guide – 2020 Update


Below is a summary of the key components of a PC that affect SOLIDWORKS performance. The best hardware for your environment is heavily dependent on your budget and workflow; however, the information in this document is designed to help end users and their IT support make knowledgeable decisions when selecting hardware. There are four main components that can significantly impact SOLIDWORKS performance. Let’s cover those first.

1. Processor (CPU)

The CPU carries out most calculations within SOLIDWORKS and is the most common limiting factor for hardware performance. In general, the faster the clock speed (GHz), the better. While SOLIDWORKS IS multi-threaded, some CAD processes remain inherently linear (i.e. opening, rebuild, and certain analysis tasks). It is often beneficial to purchase a 4-core CPU with faster clock speed over options with 6+ cores if the option is available.

For general CAD use, a 4+ core CPU with speed in the 3-4GHz range and 8-16GB cache will satisfy most users. Users running many other programs at the same time as SOLIDWORKS, or who heavily utilize simulation and photo rendering tools, will benefit from a higher end CPU with additional cores. The most common CPUs are Intel Xeon or i7, with Xeon being classified as a server processor that uses ECC RAM for maximum data integrity.

Overclocking CPUs beyond what the manufacturer recommends is not recommended as we have found that the small performance gains for doing so are often overshadowed by the shortened lifespan of the components.

2. Graphics Card

The graphics card is fundamental to CAD productivity. It assists with operations such as rotating and rendering the model during normal use. Using an unsupported video card can result in loss of functions that may impact user interaction with the software and software stability. SOLIDWORKS maintains a directory of hardware configurations that have been tested and certified to provide excellent results. Exclusion from this list does not indicate a lack of support, but rather a lack of testing. When searching for a card, search by the computer vendor first if the card was pre-installed and choose Any System Vendor if the card was installed separately or as an upgrade.

Graphics cards generally fall into one of two primary purposes and are optimized for that use. Workstation OpenGL cards carry names like NVIDIA Quadro and AMD Radeon Pro and are highly recommended for any serious SOLIDWORKS user. NVIDIA GeForce cards and AMD Radeon RX cards are typically gaming cards and are not designed for CAD but will work for very light editing and viewing. If a gaming card must be used, reboot regularly to avoid graphics-related glitches and crashes, twice daily would be ideal.

When evaluating graphics cards, typically a higher series number indicates better performance. Online video card benchmarks exist such as PassMark if you want to compare two specific cards for raw performance. A few words of advice regarding graphics cards:

Tip: Check that the video card driver is updated at the same time the software is updated. The SOLIDWORKS RX program can be used to automatically check your current graphics cards and driver’s compatibility with the rest of your system.

3. RAM (Memory)

It is a common misconception that more RAM equals faster performance. A better way to phrase this is: if you run out of RAM, performance will suffer significantly. If you have more RAM than needed, the excess RAM does not contribute to better performance. The goal is to have enough RAM for daily workloads to avoid paging to the hard drive.

We currently recommend 16 GB for the average SOLIDWORKS user. This allows for complex models to be opened and still allows plenty of memory for most other programs to run simultaneously. Users with complex analysis or rendering requirements may require 32 GB, and 64 GB requirements are rare.

Note: If you receive a warning regarding low resources, do not assume it is memory. Contact support to properly diagnose the error. Typical sources for this error include desktop heap and an insufficient swap file size.

Tips: Irrespective of which type of memory you use, populate each memory channel equally. Whether you have two or four memory channels, populate all channels with matched memory modules of the same size and speed. For speed, invest in the fastest RAM your processor can support, because it can make a noticeable difference.

4. Storage (Hard Drive)

The minimum requirement for hard drive space by SOLIDWORKS is to have the program installed. It does not account for data storage. There are 3 main considerations when choosing hard drives: Speed, Size, and Type.

** Faster HD speed or SSD will NOT improve open performance if files are stored remotely (over network).

We recommend installing Windows and SOLIDWORKS on high speed solid-state drives. An effective solution that balances performance and cost is to purchase a smaller SSD (~256 GB) for the operating system and installed programs and a traditional 7200 RPM drive for bulk storage.

Key Purchasing Tips!

Other Performance Factors

No amount of financial investment in hardware is a substitute for good design practice. Attending SOLIDWORKS classes from certified Value-Added Resellers is a huge benefit for learning all the tools, tips, and tricks that SOLIDWORKS makes available to properly manage resources during the design and analysis process. Many special workflows also exist to streamline or bypass complex or bulky operations, inquire about workflows that will allow large operations to be performed more quickly without upgrading the hardware. There is an upper limit to hardware performance that must be balanced by user performance to maximize productivity.

Proper system maintenance is crucial. Keep the system clean from dust and free of junk software. Restart your computer daily, perform regular system updates and patches, and use updated security anti-virus software that is configured to treat SOLIDWORKS files and processes as safe. Perform regular backups of your engineering data at an absolute minimum, and backup the drives and/or user settings to streamline recovery in the event of a hardware failure. If overall system performance degrades over time, consider re-installing the operating system (Windows 10 makes this much easier).

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