SOLIDWORKS Hardware Advice and Requirements
When specifying a machine for SOLIDWORKS many factors need to be considered.
A compromise has to be met between speed and cost. This page covers the major hardware and software decisions to give you the best performance for your budget. We also want to avoid you spending money on unnecessarily expensive systems/ components that will not benefit SOLIDWORKS products or in the worst case perform poorly compared to an optimal system.
We generally recommend that a machine be replaced after 3-5 Years. A good idea is to reallocate older machines to less demanding users, elsewhere within the company. A machine that has become too slow for SOLIDWORKS can still be a fast general purpose machine.
This guide takes a look at all the system requirements needed to run SOLIDWORKS, as well as offering useful information on hardware needed to run SOLIDWORKS. You can also look at our Dell Hardware page where Cadtek have teamed up with Dell to offer Desktops and Laptop workstations to cater for a range of needs.
Windows 10 Professional
SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5 and SOLIDWORKS 2016 SP0 onwards are supported on Windows 10 Professional and above.
Windows 8 Professional
Windows 8.1 support ended with the 2018 release.
Windows 7 Professional
Windows 7 Professional support from Microsoft ends on the 14th of January 2020. We recommend looking to upgrade or switch to a new PC with Windows 10 Professional or above SOLIDWORKS 2020 is the last release which can be installed on Windows 7.
Memory / RAM
For most users 16GB RAM will be sufficient but if you are working with Complex datasets, Simulation, Rendering then 32GB or more may be required. Generally testing with your current workflows and monitoring the memory usage is the best guide. Adding more RAM will not increase performance unless you are running out. If unsure you can specify a system with spare slots to allow upgrade or contact our support team.
SOLIDWORKS only supports a limited number of workstation grade graphics cards.
There are two main manufacturers/ranges of cards supported “NVIDA Quadro” and “AMD”. The majority of the cards used by SOLIDWORKS users are NVidia Quadro cards and historically the drivers for these cards have been better and more stable than AMD.
NVIDIA Quadro cards are the best option for Accelerating SOLIDWORKS Visualize Rendering this is mainly measured by the number of CUDA cores. Note that multiple cards are supported for Visualize but not SOLIDWORKS.
|Card||Class||Speed TFLOPS||CUDA Cores||Aprox cost|
|NVIDIA QUADRO P1000||Entry Level||1.8 TFLOPS||640||£250|
|NVIDIA QUADRO P2200||Mid-Range||3.8 TFLOPS||1280||£375|
|NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000||High End||7.1 TFLOPS||2304||£700|
|NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000||Ultra High End||16.3 TFLOPS||4608||£4000|
- Typically the low-mid range are suitable for most users. Those dealing with complex assemblies with thousands of parts or using SOLIDWORKS Visualize rendering will benefit from the increased performance of high end cards.
- Each generation of graphics card improves on the last so comparing number of cores between generations is not a good representation of relative performance.
- Unsupported graphics cards are notoriously unreliable and will almost certainly cost you more money in lost productivity (due to poor performance, crashes, lost work etc.) than you will ever save on the initial purchase price.
- Remember that even if the graphics card works okay now it may not after you upgrade to the latest version of SOLIDWORKS. If it’s not a supported card, you may not be able to find a stable driver for the latest version of SOLIDWORKS. Basically the extra you pay for the card is reflected in the effort the card manufacturer puts in to ensure the card works reliably with future releases of SOLIDWORKS.
- The Quadro NVS range of cards are not supported on SOLIDWORKS, as they are designed to drive multiple displays instead of being used for CAD.
SOLIDWORKS 2016 introduced support for 4K resolution monitors, we do not recommend this for screen sizes below 27 inches and If you are planning to work on a 4K display we recommend at a minimum a Quadro P2000 graphics card to run at such a high resolution.
Providing you have adequate memory it is the processor speed that controls SOLIDWORKS speed.
The “Turbo Boost” clock speed (measured in GHz) is the best guideline for general tasks in SOLIDWORKS such as File open, Rebuild etc.
AMD processors generally under-perform compared to the Intel processors. Currently the best processors for performance/cost are Intel’s i7 and i9 processors. They are available with between 6 and 8 cores per chip. SOLIDWORKS is essentially a single threaded application (i.e. it can’t do the next calculation before it calculates the last) most tasks use more than 1-2 processors. However given the fastest single/ lightly threaded CPU’s are those with 6-8 cores this is currently our recommendation. These additional cores may also be useful for Simulation tools, CPU based rendering tools such as Photoview 360 and multi-tasking.
Lowest preforming CPU’s with lower speeds and no “Turbo Boost”, only recommended on very tight budgets.
Middle ground performing well for those on tight budget now offering 4-6 cores and Turbo Boost Features.
Latest i7-9000 series are the second fastest despite being 8 core CPU’s they offer some of the highest maximum speeds for tasks using low numbers of cores such as SOLIDWORKS rebuild.
The i9-9000 series and their Xeon equivilents are the top performing CPU’s for SOLIDWORKS tasks currently with the fastest Turbo Boost Speeds, also well suited to Simulation products.
Xeon CPU’s offer the advantage of the support for Error Code Correcting (ECC) RAM that can correct for random errors during calculations reducing the risk of OS/Program crashes during long Simulation runs. This comes with an extra cost for the RAM and Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. 8 cores is the current best balance of speed vs number of cores for SOLIDWORKS.
Xeon W- CPU’s offer more than 8 cores and cache advantageous mainly for large flow and plastics simulations.
How many Cores do I want?
The latest 8 core i7/i9 9000 series CPU’s and equivalent Xeon E series CPU’s are the best performing for SOLIDWORKS currently. Although these have 8 core which will not be used by most SOLIDWORKS look at the Turbo Boost speed as a better guide of performance. This is the maximum speed a single core can reach while others are idle and within power/thermal limits.
SOLIDWORKS is generally considered a “single threaded” application as it is a “history based modeller”. It can only calculate each feature after the preceding feature has been calculated. This leaves little opportunity to utilize multiple cores, however some tasks such as 2d drawings with multiple views.
FEA and CFD make better use of extra cores and a reasonable case can be made for 6 cores for intensive FEA and CFD. If you are rendering the more cores the better.
SSD drives are now at a low enough price where at-least for your Operating System and Programs they are our recommendation.
They are more expensive per MB however. We recommend keeping you programs and operating system on a SSD drive.
Even the general Windows experience, such as system start up, and program opening times are reduced.
For most users a 250GB SSD drive is the minimum we would recommend your programs and operating system. Larger capacity SSD drives getting progressively more expensive with the current sweet point in cost vs size being 512GB.
Most users store their SOLIDWORKS files on a server Ideally Product Data Management (PDM) but you will probably still have a requirement to store some data locally.
If funds are tight SATA drives are supported, although this will be slower, once data is loaded it is operating in the system RAM so performance difference should be less noticeable.
We are here to help...
Finally, remember support is there to help you with your choices. Processors, graphics cards and memory prices can change monthly. We will happily review any proposed machine and suggest any changes that would provide better value for money. Give us a suggested budget, let us know how many components are in a typical large assembly and we will suggest any improvements needed.