CAD Manager's Newsletter (#347)

8 Jul, 2015 By: Robert Green

The CAD Workstation Configuration Cheat Sheet

To ensure you've got the computing power your software requires, check these guidelines before you make your purchase.

With all the attention paid to technologies that are not yet in everyday use in many workplaces — such as the cloud and 3D printing — it amazes me how little most CAD managers (and users) truly understand about the workstation hardware available right now to run the software we already have.

I've received a number of questions about hardware in the past few months, so in this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter I'll give you some quick pointers about hardware technology that will help you specify the right machines for your users and get the most from the software you rely on every day. Here goes.

The Processor and Cores

Since most CAD programs run primarily on a single processor core, getting a machine with a high number of cores is actually less important than getting a machine with a processor that is very fast and has a lot of cache on board. Of course, if a user is running CAD plus analysis tools, visualization tools, spreadsheets, and many other tools, he or she may indeed be able to use more than four cores effectively. For most CAD users, however, four cores will do.

The next time you visit a hardware manufacturer's web site, take the time to note the processor speed and cache size and you'll notice the following:

  • Xeon processors outperform i7 processors
  • i7s outperform i5s
  • Xeons have by far the highest amount of onboard cache to support the processor cores.

Conclusion: Buy the fastest processor with the highest amount of cache you can afford, and worry about the number of cores last.


The more RAM, the better, but be sure to install it in the correct manner to get the best effect! In today's market, 16 GB should be considered the minimum — and that goes for laptops as well. That amount will, in fact, serve most CAD users well.

When purchasing RAM, make sure you do the following:

  • Buy the fastest RAM that your processor can support.
  • Buy all RAM modules in the same size and same speed rating.
  • Fill all RAM module slots — do not leave open slots.

Conclusion: If you follow these rules, you'll achieve the greatest possible speed and will take advantage of all available memory channels that link the RAM to the processor cores.Read more »

Peer Software


:: CAD Manager's Toolbox

Compute Optimal RAM Easily

How much RAM is enough? Of course, more is always better, but if you'd like to compute an optimal amount, use these guidelines:

  • Allow 2 GB for the operating system.
  • Allow 1 GB for browser sessions. (I know this seems high, but if you open a bunch of tabs with graphical elements, it adds up quickly.)
  • Allow 1 GB for each CAD/visualization application.
  • Allow 1 GB for e-mail clients and word processing or spreadsheet programs.
  • Allow 20 times the size of your CAD models. (So a 1MB AutoCAD drawing would consume 20 MB of RAM, but a 200MB Revit model would consume 4 GB of RAM.)

Let's work through a couple examples based on these guidelines. Read more »

Do you have a helpful tip, recommendation, or question for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at If I use your tip in the newsletter, you'll receive a Cadalyst prize!

:: Resources

BOXX Offers Hardware Video Series
Workstation provider BOXX announced the availability of its BOXX Video Collection, an online library of videos focusing on the company's hardware products and customer stories. Other video topics include industry information and issues related to 3D graphics and motion media. The videos are available for streaming on the company's web site.

:: Events

e-SPECS for Revit Live Webinar
July 29, 2015
11 a.m. PT
This InterSpec webinar discusses the company's e-SPECS for Revit solution for automated and coordinated specifications with Autodesk Revit. Read more »

3D Printshow California
Sept. 11–12, 2015
Pasadena, California
This event focuses on the 3D printing/additive manufacturing industry, featuring industrial AM machines, desktop 3D printers, and everything in between. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to

:: What's New at

The Sly CAD User's Guide to Professional Development
How can you get the training you need if you don't have management's support? Try these tips to get started on your own. Read more »

Herrera on Hardware: What Do Windows 10 and DirectX 12 Mean for CAD Users?
Should you upgrade to the new version of Microsoft's operating system, or hold off? Read more »

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Autodesk Inventor 2016 Home Page Offers Many Surprises
The new Inventor Home Page offers improved tools to increase productivity. Read more »

Cadalyst Labs Report: Desktop 3D Printers for CAD Professionals
This evaluation of three compact, affordable, office-friendly models can help you determine which solution is right for your workplace. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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