Building a CAD computer

Hi everyone,

I am currently designing in SolidWorks a Baja vehicle that has well over 100 different parts in the Assembly and everytime I open it it takes about 2 mins to open and then to perform mates and rotate the assembly it takes well over thirty second or more of lag!

I am actually looking into building a CAD computer to run my Solidworks (32 bit), ANSYS and Matlab.

Could you guys give me a list of computer parts that I would be able to use to build a computer that would be able to run these programs smoothly because I am consistently building assemblies containing any where from 100 - 300 parts!

Right now I have a Labtop (4GB ram, 32 bit) that runs all these and it does good with small assembly's ( 6 to 7 parts) but with this baja Senior Design Project I can't even really work efficiently on it because the lag is so bad. Unfortunetly time is money right now!

Intel Core2 Duo mobile processor

My price limit on this is around $800 because I am a poor Senior in college!


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  1. Intel Core i5 750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor - Retail

    GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3 LGA 1156 Intel P55 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard $317.98 (CPU + motherboard combo)

    G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM $114.99

    Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

    Antec EarthWatts EA-500D Green 500W ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply $114.94 (Case + PSU combo)

    SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive $54.99

    SAMSUNG 24x DVD Burner - Bulk SATA Model SH-S243N/BEBS - OEM $22.99

    EVGA 512-P3-1140-TR GeForce GTS 250 512MB 256-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card $114.99 - $20.00 MIR

    Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM $99.99

    Total - $840.87 - $20.00 MIR
  2. ^ Good build.

    A few notes:

    1. If budget allows, get an i7

    2. If you are a student, you should be able to pick up Windows for cheap at your school book store,etc.

    3. If this is mainly for CAD, you could get a old 8800GTS and softmodd it to a Quadro for about $50-60 (check Craigslist,etc).

    4. MAKE SURE, you are using the 64 bit version of SolidWorks.

    5. Try and get 8GB of RAM. Remember to reduce page file to 1-1.5GB in Windows.
  3. You mention 32-bit software. Check to see if there is a 64 bit version available or if there might be in the future. Also check to see if the software has specific video card requirements.

    We run Autocad and Revit, which doesn't have big video card requirements except that it is picky about its drivers. We have to run ATI FireGL video cards, available as low as about $160. We have one machine that we put a Quadro FX380 in for an experiment and it is working fine so far. That card was $130. I know that Autocad and Revit can run with lesser graphics because I've seen them run on ordinary laptops but we've also had problems finding drivers that they liked when we tried to run ordinary video cards. Revit needed lots of ram so our most recent machines were built with 8GB of ram and 64bit Windows 7.

    If your software is only 32 bit then the 64 bit OS won't really help you much, and might make it harder for you to run other software you have. Like I said we had to switch some of our machines to 64 bit and now some of our old proprietary software won't run and required us to run WinXP in a virtual machine, which is a real big pain in the butt.

    It sounds like your slowdown is because the processor is doing a whole lot of numbercrunching, OR your models need more ram than you have and you are doing a lot of paging to disk. We built our machines with the i5-750 and overclocked them to about 3.5GHz for 24/7 operation. We put good aftermarket coolers on them and I recommend that you do that too. The i5-750 has the best bang for the buck among the more powerful chips, and when overclocked it is very fast.

    Beyond that our last 3 machines were built with the i5-750, Gigabyte motherboards, G.Skill memory, and Antec cases. A couple of them might even use that same power supply mentioned above. I used Velociraptors in 2 of them and an OCZ SSD in the third. We cannot tell that the SSD is any faster than the VRaptors.
  4. ^ There is a 64bit version of SoidWorks. Not sure if OP has the 64bit version also, or just the 32 bit. By default, on a 32 bit OS, it installs the 32 bit version and on x64 versions, it installs the 64 bit version.

    As far as SolidWork goes, I find that it works better with nVidia drivers compared to ATI drivers (IIRC, there is a performance hit on 2D work on the latest Cat drivers).

    Generally, for a 100+ part model, you pretty much need at least 4GB. 8GB the better imo. Granted, I find SolidWorks isn't a much of a RAM hog as Inventor, but in any case, there is no such thing called too much RAM :lol: .
  5. That's true. I suggest 8GB of RAM too. I just put 4GB into the build to keep it under budget. If you can get a deal through a school for the OS that will allow you to upgrade to 8GB and stay around your budget.
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