Solidworks is killing me! What do I need to upgrade?

My brother was recently hired to do CAD work for a small company that has never had someone to do CAD until now. The computer that they gave him to run the latest release of Solidworks is a Dell Vostro 200, which is essentially a computer you'd buy for Granny to surf the interwebs and download pictures of the grandkids. Here are the specs:

Intel Pentium Dual Core 2160
2 GB DDR2 PC5300
Onboard video
Windows XP Pro 32 bit

To make a long story short he informed his boss that he needs a workstation class machine with an engineering graphics card etc to run the program. Their solution was for my brother to go to Fry's and buy the parts needed to make it work. Unfortuantely Fry's does not stock nVidia Quadro or ATI FireGL cards so he picked up an HD 4850 along with a more powerful Antec power supply. He got it installed and working but still has issues zooming in on small parts, the computer lags and slows to a crawl for a few seconds each time.

The most logical (and cost effective) answer to this problem is to return the Vostro and buy a Precision workstation with the right specs, unfortunately that is not an option.

Any ideas as to what is bottlenecking this PC? Per task manager and the symptoms described I have a feeling the CPU is underpowered but I'd like a second opinion before sending my brother out to pick up a more powerful Core 2 or Quad. I've read online that Solidworks is fairly CPU intensive, does it scale well with 4 cores? If so I may send my brother after an e6600. I know the graphics card isn't ideal for openGL but it should be enough considering it is one of the more powerful graphics cards on the market right now. He could buy another gig of ram but after that he'll hit the limitation for a 32 bit OS.
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More about solidworks killing upgrade
  1. Solidworks loves CPU speed. Graphics cards are nice too, but it only works with the Quadro and FireGL parts (it actually checks the driver), so the 4850 is doing nothing to help him. The biggest thing you could do to help that out is to get a nice fast quad core.
  2. the CPU has to be slowing everything down. at school all our cad machines have dedicated graphics and significantly faster processors.
  3. Workstation cards are tweaked to be very accurate in their display at high levels of zoom - that is one of their major advantages over gamer cards (that, and specialized drivers and application accelerators).

    If you can return the hd4850 you might be able to find one of these cards which can be soft-modded to a FireGL ...

    2600pro -> FireGL v3600
    2600xt --> FireGL v5600
    2900pro -> FireGL v7600 / v8600
    2900xt --> FireGL v8600
    HD3850 - > FireGL v8650
    HD3870 - > FireGL V7700
    HD3870 - > FireGL v8650
    HD3870 - > FireStream 9170

    Check out ...
    http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=237273
    http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=255976


    I picked up 2 HD 2900 pros on the cheap and am lovin' my soft mods to FireGL :) I don't use Solidworks but it seems from some of the posted comments that it works really well ....
  4. That cpu is pretty weak !
  5. CPU. Check Dells support cuz the mobo needs to be able to handle it. If you can quad will do him better.
  6. azmtbkr81 said:
    My brother was recently hired to do CAD work for a small company that has never had someone to do CAD until now. The computer that they gave him to run the latest release of Solidworks is a Dell Vostro 200, which is essentially a computer you'd buy for Granny to surf the interwebs and download pictures of the grandkids. Here are the specs:

    Intel Pentium Dual Core 2160
    2 GB DDR2 PC5300
    Onboard video
    Windows XP Pro 32 bit

    To make a long story short he informed his boss that he needs a workstation class machine with an engineering graphics card etc to run the program. Their solution was for my brother to go to Fry's and buy the parts needed to make it work. Unfortuantely Fry's does not stock nVidia Quadro or ATI FireGL cards so he picked up an HD 4850 along with a more powerful Antec power supply. He got it installed and working but still has issues zooming in on small parts, the computer lags and slows to a crawl for a few seconds each time.

    The most logical (and cost effective) answer to this problem is to return the Vostro and buy a Precision workstation with the right specs, unfortunately that is not an option.

    Any ideas as to what is bottlenecking this PC? Per task manager and the symptoms described I have a feeling the CPU is underpowered but I'd like a second opinion before sending my brother out to pick up a more powerful Core 2 or Quad. I've read online that Solidworks is fairly CPU intensive, does it scale well with 4 cores? If so I may send my brother after an e6600. I know the graphics card isn't ideal for openGL but it should be enough considering it is one of the more powerful graphics cards on the market right now. He could buy another gig of ram but after that he'll hit the limitation for a 32 bit OS.


    Unfortunately you're going to have trouble running solidworks on pretty much any Dell system. At my company we have our CAD guys running solidworks on Dell's top of the line workstations and they're still dogs. I believe that starting with version 2001Plus the Solidworks people tried to make the program look pretty and succeeded mainly in making it 10 times more a a resource hog that it used to be (I used to be able to run SW 2001 on a P3 800MHz with an S3 IGP). Turning off some of the useless eye candy functions such as shadows and lighting in the options panel will go a long way towards making it more usable.

    Other than that, the other posters here have provided some good advice.
  7. ^For a CPU get a Q6600. @ $200 bucks its a steal.
  8. I agree with jimmy, has to be the best value cpu right now.
  9. There are some tweaks you could to with that machine.

    You could always overclock that 2160 a bit, it would be noticeable.
    Read the soft mobs part already recommended on this thread. Your Brother will notice a huge difference.
    One personal note (risky). Tell your brother to disable the swap file and get rid of the virtual memory. if the projects he works arent too big it should be stable. You will force OS to load everything to the RAM.
    If it is stable, the performance leap is notorious. Lets hope 2Gbs can do it.


    have fun !!
  10. ^ Maybe his brother should upgrade to 4GB DDR-800 DC RAM?

    I'm sure these are RAM intensive application?
  11. Very true. Especially for larger files, SolidWorks loves memory.
  12. amdfangirl said:
    ^ Maybe his brother should upgrade to 4GB DDR-800 DC RAM?

    I'm sure these are RAM intensive application?



    Yes they are very much so. We have solidworks where I work and it is a memory hog. 4gb would help a good deal. XP 32bit can read up to 3.5gb of it and as cheap as it is right now, it makes the most sense. The 4850 should be a good deal better than the onboard. CPU needs an upgrade if possible. Q6600 would be an ideal chip for such work. We have dual Xeon quad workstations that can crawl running some of the cad software we have. Especially the simulation stuff.
  13. ^A little off topic but for some reason when I see your post your voice comes out like Worfs.....maybe its the pic.
  14. What does mine sound like?
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