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New Workstation Acting Sluggish? Here’s What to Do.

CAD PDM

New Workstation Acting Sluggish? Here’s What to Do.

I recently picked up a new mobile workstation to run SOLIDWORKS Professional. I was excited to unpack this laptop and get to work—but as soon as I loaded my first assembly, I ran into issues. The performance was sluggish, and I kept getting error messages indicating that the computer was running out of resources.

Fortunately, I was able to make some adjustments to dramatically improve the situation. Here’s some advice so this does not happen to you.

The 4 Keys to SOLIDWORKS Hardware

When buying a workstation for SOLIDWORKS, keep these four things in mind: CPU, RAM, hard drive and the graphics card. There are quite a few articles delving into the nuances of each of these four hardware elements, but let’s provide some general guidance before we move on to the specific settings that can be adjusted to ensure maximum performance from your new workstation.

CPU

The CPU should be a professional grade Intel or AMD processor with SSE2 support. For regular SOLIDWORKS usage, you’ll want a clock speed of around 3.0 GHz or faster. For my new system, I went with an Intel Core i7 clocked at 3.1 GHz.

Generally speaking, in a program such as SOLIDWORKS which uses serial rather than parallel processing, a faster clock speed is more important than multiple cores. For example, if we were comparing two computers – one with a 16-core processor with a clock speed of 2.0 GHz and one with a single core processor with a clock speed of 3.0 GHz, the 3.0 GHz single-core system would perform significantly better on the SOLIDWORKS benchmark.

RAM

The RAM you select should be the fastest you can afford. Again, there are nuances regarding different types of RAM, and how the interaction between RAM and CPU can affect performance. But for SOLIDWORKS users, the amount of RAM you need will be based on the size of the assemblies you typically work with. Use this chart as a guide to make your RAM decision:

RAM suggestions based on typical number of assembly components.

Since I typically work with mid-sized assemblies, I went with 16GB of RAM: 2 sticks of 8GB DDR5, clocked at 4,800 MHz.

The Drive

Whenever you’re opening or saving files in SOLIDWORKS, you will (hopefully) be working from your local drive and therefore, the faster the read/write speeds are, the better.

You should definitely get a solid state drive—not a hard drive with spinning disks—to save and open your SOLIDWORKS files. There are a variety of options for solid state drives (SSDs), and they almost always have faster read/write speeds.

For my system, I went with a 1TB, gen 4 PCIe SSD for my main drive and a second 1TB, gen 4 PCIe SSD for my secondary drive.

Many users select a larger, cheaper hard drive as their secondary drive for their SOLIDWORKS files. But because spinning hard drives have read/write speeds which are 10x (or more) slower than solid state hard drives, SOLIDWORKS files will open and save much more slowly.

Graphics Card

Your graphics card must be a certified graphics card found on this webpage.

Beyond this, the more RAM, the more CUDA cores and the newer the architecture, the better. For my system, I went with an NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 with 6GB dedicated video RAM.

Graphics card search on SOLIDWORKS’ hardware certification site.

As we can see in the above image, my graphics card is supported on several different system configurations and on several different versions of SOLIDWORKS. This makes me confident that the graphics card I’ve chosen will be a good fit for SOLIDWORKS. We can also see a recommended driver listed for each version of SOLDIWORKS, so I would download and install this suggested driver to ensure the greatest stability and performance with SOLIDWORKS.

Still Having Problems?

After taking care of the four key elements of hardware discussed above, some users may still run into problems.

SOLIDWORKS is running critically low on memory.

SOLIDWORKS may still feel sluggish when solving a complicated feature tree or when rotating the model. What can you do?

Check the BIOS

Start by examining the settings in your BIOS (basic input/output system) which is accessed when a computer is turned on.

On a Dell computer, the BIOS is accessed by pressing the F2 key several times while the computer is booting up. On most computers, you can access the BIOS during the boot sequence with F10 or F12.

There are two specific settings to adjust to tweak the performance.

BIOS settings for Switchable Graphics.

The first setting I look for is Switchable Graphics, but it may be called something different by different manufacturers. This setting allows your computer to switch between the high-end graphics card (NVIDIA) and the lower end graphics hardware typically found embedded on the motherboard. This ability to switch to the lower end graphics can be helpful with regards to reducing power consumption and extending the duration of your battery.

However, more often than not this switchable graphics setting causes performance degradation in SOLIDWORKS. If you’re using SOLIDWORKS and get stuck using the lower end graphics card, the result will be slow or sluggish behavior when zooming or rotating around 3D models.  

Switchable Graphics setting turned off.

For the common user, who doesn’t want to learn the intricacies of the switchable graphics functionality, you can disable (uncheck) the Switchable Graphics option. This will ensure that your workstation always uses the high-end graphics card.

BIOS Setting for Intel SpeedStep.

You can also adjust the “Intel SpeedStep” setting. This setting is found in the BIOS, usually in the section which manages performance. Similar to the switchable graphics functionality, this setting will allow your computer to manage the performance and power consumption of the CPU in order to maximize battery life and minimize power usage.

SpeedStep can result in sluggish performance due to the computer managing the CPU power consumption and throttling back the full capability of the CPU by lowering its computing speed.

Disable setting for SpeedStep.

Adjusting Virtual Memory Page File Size

The page file size (or virtual memory settings) is particularly valuable to users who commonly run into the following error message.

Warning dialog that available system memory is low.

Virtual memory is essentially a way of simulating RAM. If your computer runs out of physical RAM, you can shift some of the RAM data onto an empty section of your hard drive (this empty space is your page file). This allows your computer to continue running after you have exhausted all of your RAM.

Advanced system settings.

The setting for your virtual memory page file size can be accessed by doing a search in Windows for “Advanced System Properties.”

Click the tab for Advanced, then the first Settings button.

Once you enter the “Advanced System Properties,” click the tab for Advanced, then click the first Settings button to adjust your system performance.

Click the Advanced tab then Change.

On the “Performance Options” screen, we can see that our current “Total paging file size for all drives” is 4,000 MB, or 4 GB. This is a little low and is likely contributing to the SOLIDWORKS error message indicating that the system memory is running low. Let’s adjust this number.

Setting the virtual memory page file size.

Choose the option for Custom size and enter a minimum and maximum size for the paging file. After these values have been set, you will be asked to reboot.

There are various rules regarding how this file size should be set, but a workstation with 16 GB of RAM can have a page file of 12 GB. This will give a nice increase in virtual memory (from 4 GB to 12 GB) and will very likely alleviate the “system memory running low” problem.  

Conclusion

There are several things to consider when purchasing a new workstation to run SOLIDWORKS. When specifying the hardware for your new workstation, you will want to take care to choose the appropriate CPU, RAM, hard drive and graphics card. Once the new workstation arrives at your desk and has SOLIDWORKS loaded, you might still have performance issues, which can be addressed by adjusting some settings, including the settings in the BIOS for Switchable Graphics and SpeedStep, and the amount of virtual memory.


About the Author

Toby Schnaars (AKA: TooTallToby) has been a SOLIDWORKS user, instructor and enthusiast for the past 20 years.  He has fielded over 10,000 tech support cases and has instructed over 200 SOLIDWORKS training classes.  He has earned the ranks of both Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert and Elite Applications Engineer (CSWE + ELITE AE). 

Toby regularly posts videos of SOLIDWORKS tips and tricks on his YouTube channel TooTallToby. 

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