Home > Hard Drive, Operating Systems, Processors, RAM, Video Cards, Workstations > The Best Hardware Configuration for AutoCAD 2013, Part 4: Processor, Video Card, RAM and Hard Drive

The Best Hardware Configuration for AutoCAD 2013, Part 4: Processor, Video Card, RAM and Hard Drive

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

So far in this series, I’ve discussed how to determine if your hardware can handle the AutoCAD 2013 upgrade, how to outline your current and future needs and how to find new hardware if you decide it’s time for a new system. If you are looking for new hardware for AutoCAD 2013, here’s some specific components to look at closely.

The Processor and Video Card

Make sure to focus on the processor and the video card when looking for a new workstation. Especially the processor. This component is the most difficult to upgrade latter on.

A video card is easy enough to change out, but they can be very expensive. If you are working with 3D models and create a lot of renderings, make sure to get a good video card. “Regular” 2D CAD work will also require a good video card. Go through Autodesk’s list. Don’t fall into the trap of getting a gaming card. CAD requirements of video cards are very different from game requirements. CAD is a precision tool. Games are not. Games need speed. CAD needs accuracy.


RAM is another component that is easy to update later. Make sure you get ECC RAM (Error-Correcting Code Memory). One of the requirements of being a “workstation” is having ECC memory. This type of computer memory can detect and automatically fix common types of data corruption. That means fewer crashes while working in your CAD software!

Each motherboard will carry a certain amount of slots for the RAM chips. Get that number of chips. Each slot has a channel in which it can pump data through. If a slot is empty, then that channel isn’t being used.

Hard Drive

What are you going to do for internal storage? I’m talking about the hard drive. Workstations typically have support for RAID, or Redundant Array of Independent Disks. Essentially this type of storage system has multiple hard drives, each mirroring the other. If one fails the workstation still works because the second drive is still running. It’s automatic and can keep your CAD users working. Of course this will increase cost, but it could prolong the life of your workstation.

How much storage space is enough? If you are storing data files, images, videos, etc. on your network instead of your workstation, then you shouldn’t need much storage. 500 GB should be enough for most systems, probably even 350 GB. Make a list of all of the software programs a user needs, include the operating system, and add up the space needed. Leave room for growth and there you go.

The price of hard drives is always dropping, and the amount of storage space on each drive is always increasing. Getting a little less storage capacity could help reduce cost.

Author: Brian Benton

  1. November 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    What a breathtaking example of non-information. “Get a good processor” “Ditto on video card” “Lots of ram” “Fast HD”. Who would have guessed? How about some useful info like: CPU cores vs. clock speed?; Xeon vs. i7?; Graphics GPU vs. video card ram? AutoDesk is notorious for a lack of actionable info: a list is not a comparison. Seems this article follows suit.

  2. November 15, 2012 at 4:12 am

    I agree that gaming cards are much different that cards for cad…thank you for pointing out the list, so I can point it out to my clients.

  3. caddhelp
    November 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm


    “… Go through Autodesk’s list … If a slot is empty, then that channel isn’t being used…”
    ARE we so naive??

    Where are the actual numbers and comparison?

  4. Jens Brandt
    December 6, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Is there a reason why SSD-disks are not mentioned as alternative for a fast harddrive?

  5. CADidiot
    January 25, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Useless contents with fancy title.
    It is better to start with Thinkstaion s30 or d30 spec as a starting point to do your custom built.

  6. Jim
    March 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Autocad will not utilize a multicore processor. Only one processor will be used the rest sit Idle.
    Belive me I just bought an EighCore I7 with 64 GB Ram and a NIVIDI 5400 graphics card. This unit runs just as slow as my 64 bit system with 16GB ram and a Walmart video card!

    • August 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      JIm-We use AtoCAD 11 for architectural/interior design purposes and are rebuilding a new system using Win 7 Prof 64bit. Our older unit has an i7 930 2.8GHz, 12GB RAM. We are considering getting, an i7-3770 at 3.4 GHz, 16GB RAM, 256 SSD, 2TB HD, NVIDIA 680GTX, etc. $1880. Thoughts? Thanks

  7. Michael Meio
    March 8, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    This is by far, the most useless thing I’ve read regarding hardware recommendations for an AutoCAD workstation. I mean, what was said essentially? For example, it recommends ECC RAM? then why not stating you need a server class motherboard for starters?, why no mention of the chipset such motherboards carry for supporting both ECC and SATA III?? …yeah, you need ehm.. a good video card… ??? WHAT IS THIS?.. “.. AutoCAD is moving to multicore OH RLY? yeah, ehm… for rendering???? what about the REAL TIME DISPLAY of THE ACTUAL 3D WORK PEOPLE SHOULD BE DOING WITH THE SOFTWARE!!!!!
    The truth is, AutoCAD’s performance has suffered since the introduction of the infamous RIBBON. Users are less productive!. Autodesk is making it worse to the point that not even workstation class GPU’s are able to shine where they should.
    Why is every one so scared of stating it?. What? do we have to be insulted by these articles? I mean, not necessarily we have to be IT tech to understand everything about the hardware but those that know a bit of it just got a slap on the face reading this.
    If you are afraid someone could pull a plug by being straightforward and honest, you’re in the wrong business!
    Truth is:
    You don’t need ECC.
    You waste money on workstation GPU -you will do fine with a non OC’d gaming GPU w/2Gigs.
    Quad cores are adequate -simply because you need them for other apps/software. More cores=paperweight-.
    WIN7 64 & 8Gb RAM will do -more if your drawings are huge or you don’t know how to keep things neat.
    You don’t need RAID
    You’ll definitely LOVE SSD HD for the programs and standard Hard Drives for files and backup. If you keep your backup updated and make use of a cloud storage, you will be better than having any RAID config. RAID will only help you if a drive fails but there can be many other equally catastrophic scenarios.
    I would go with this: Please, keep in mind this is not an overclockable setup. IMO you don’t require OC for such job.
    MoBo: 1155 socket H77 chipset
    CPU: Xeon E3-1230 V2 -this has no integrated graphics, runs cool and doesn’t waste power while being superfast-.
    RAM: 16 Gb of whatever best non overclocked speed the Motherboard can take
    HD: 120Gb SSD (OS+Programs), 250GB+ mechanical for files, 500GB mechanical for Backup.
    GPU: Any Nvidia based 550 or better w 2GB memory no overclocking will do. I’ve seen 480’s that work wonderfully.

    After all this, it will happen that AutoCAD may or may not run smoothly. Autodesk have done such a poor job on visiting the performance issues that it became unpredictable and the reason why they have “partners” and need “certification”. And it appears they will not solve it anyway, because they are pointing to the cloud and your so called “workstation” will end up being a remote terminal.

    Good luck!

    • Qzma
      February 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      Your statement about Ribbon was idiotic. Ribbon made progress. It made people work faster, becouse with Ribbon they know where the buttons are!!! They know it, they can navigate quickly and no MF with some idiotic customized UI will stop it.

  8. April 16, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Mr. Micheal Mieo, you are wrong on so many concepts that I cannot explain here.
    First of all workstation graphic cards are specially made for CAD programs and they have specific “DRIVERS” made for these programs, if you can create a good driver yourself for an gaming card you can use it for a CAD application.
    Second CAD dose not use those multiple cores provided by a processor, it only uses one core, so the option is to buy a very fast 4 core processor with the highest clock speed.
    That will give you performance, and a workstation processor has lot more I/O’s than a desktop processor, so that is going to perform.
    Third, go for a fast RAM, fat means 1600 Mhz or more, it dose not matter if you install 16Gb or 32Gb of 1333mhz ram, but it does matter if you install 8Gb of 1833mhz ram, becoz its going to preform.
    RAID arrays help in storing and retrieving data fast and they are durable.
    SSD can help a lot, so you can opt for that too.

    • Michael Meio
      April 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Mr. Swapnil:
      It is true that workstation GPU’s have a software application niche and of course, specially developed drivers. But in particular, when it comes to AutoCad, perhaps it deserves some looking into. I kindly invite you to check out Cadalyst benchmarks: most workstation class GPUs can’t cope with a gaming GPU. You begin noticing a gain on the highest end, most expensive units. Remember that AutoCad dropped OpenGL long ago. Now, this is for the drafting part.. We can’t even consider the use of a workstation GPU for rendering in AutoCad.. it’s a total waste. So, again: you do not need a WS GPU for AutoCad.
      About multicore: Please read my post again: “-Quad cores are adequate -simply because you need them for other apps/software. More cores=paperweight-.”.

      I would really like to learn about those concepts you mentioned I’m wrong about.

      I truly believe there will come a moment on which people will openly stop relating AutoCad with Workstation, simply because the more we look into it, the more we find out that for the majority of users there is no need for such things. A hardware guide must scope these aspects prior to publishing. It is supposed to help a decision making process that hardware manufacturers are misleading on. It is my personal opinion -and that of other posters here- that this guide did not serve it’s purpose at all.

  9. Tom
    April 16, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Wow! Clearly still spouting the Autodesk party line. How’s the red jello tasting?

    Multicore – only if you’re rendering otherwise things limp along on a single processor. Speaking of speed they’re biggest hit wasn’t the Ribbon it was when the migrated somewhere around the 2006 version from native coded interface to offloading it to 3rd party like flash so we could have skins and crap lowering performance for the sake of a ‘pretty’ interface. Anyone remember the mapskinmap command to help performance?

    I wonder if the chuckleheads in the mother ship will ever catch a clue that performance should ALWAYS trump pretty. Sadly I’ve gotten used to outrunning the interface and waiting for it to catch up hoping the whole time that it doesn’t fall on it’s side twitching.


    • Michael Meio
      April 25, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      From Mr. Tom:
      “Speaking of speed they’re biggest hit wasn’t the Ribbon it was when the migrated somewhere around the 2006 version from native coded interface to offloading it to 3rd party like flash so we could have skins and crap lowering performance for the sake of a ‘pretty’ interface. Anyone remember the mapskinmap command to help performance?”

      Agree.. in terms of inner clockwork this is 100% accurate. But the Ribbon introduction added steps for things that used to be so simple and straightforward.. Simply put, no matter what kind of hardware performance you can get, there’s always a far side on the UI part.

      To give advise for an AutoCad user about hardware requires a conversation. I recommend multicore simply because there are other software to use that could take advantage of them. Having a quad core is a must IMO.. but having more cores -again, depending on the user’s demands- is a waste of money. Again, you’re right on this one.


  10. Joe Mauer
    August 26, 2013 at 11:52 am

    This article is essentially useless. We want to know how RAM speed and timings affect CAD. We want to know how the amount of cores affect CAD. C’mon, you’re killing us.

  11. Adrian
    October 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    You think they don’t know what we are asking for ? They don’t want to say, that’s for sure. Only they know the reason. I hate big companies that don’t care anymore about the things they used to care when they grew up.

  12. Les
    October 20, 2013 at 2:35 am

    When I have to finish model on a deadline I do not give a crap about supposed precision or less jagged edges or better looking textures, I need to zoom and pan fast and rotate model fast, where fast is a relative term. If I can zoom close enough, I get precise. Nothing can provide more speed than a processor with fast single thread performance (talking about modeling not rendering). As of today, card only need to be fast enough so it does not create a bottleneck for the CPU. Cards do not accelerate things much in CAD anymore (they did in past – those of my age will remember display lists), but they may slow things down – i.e. ECC memory or eye candy driver. As to precision, I do not eyeball my vertices, I snap to them, so even if it might (never had an issue with it) look not precise, CAD “knows” what point I have picked and redraw or regen clear things up. Remember display is only more or less imprecise representation of extremely precise model. What counts is that you can see what you are doing and the final product – good looking output. “Professional” cards are waste of money, budget needs to be directed to overclockable (for the brave) CPU – multithreading not needed, motherboard that allows easy overclock, not to aggressive for reliability, decent air cooler and SSD. Unless you render you will never see CPU load of more than 38% on a quad core, so overclock generated heat is never a major concern. If rendering is a big part of your workload get as many cores and threads as you can afford. I do not render, someone else is doing it for me, I model, and I build my own rigs for modeling. No Quadros, no Fires just mid-grade GTX and lots of GHz.

    P.S another waste of money are RAIDs for speed and 15000 rpm gizmos. SSD is the best by a big margin, RAID for reliability is a good idea though. RAM timings? That is good if you salivate over benchmarks, makes no difference at real life work.

  13. Admin
    October 23, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Buy a processor with the highest ‘single threaded performance’ as AutoCAD isn’t a multi-threaded application. Buy a i7-4771. Refer:


    Buy an SSD as AutoCAD takes a long time to load and crashes often. Samsung 840 PRO with five years warranty. Buy a good quality motherboard with 10K capacitors because you don’t want to go through the process of changing your licence from a machine that no longer works. Buy an ASUS Sabertooth Z87. Buy 32 MB of quality RAM. CL9 1600/1866 MhHz. You don’t need ECC ram or Xeon CPU’s. Are you doing 2D/3D AutoCAD or AutoCAD Civil 3D work? Then buy a quiet NVIDIA Geforce card. Tom’s Hardware has shown that they are better than Radeon cards. I have a Quadro 2000D and it wasn’t worth the money for Civil 3D. I’d only buy a Quadro if I was rendering large drawings. Recommendation for a video card would be a GTX770 or GTX780. Don’t forget that AutoCAD uses DirectX now so gaming cards will work fine. In fact DirectX is a gaming API. Don’t cheap out on your power supply. Buy a Seasonic or equivalent.

  14. January 6, 2014 at 5:17 am

    Here is a list of “single thread” performance of the most common CPU’s http://www.cpubenchmark.net/singleThread.html . AutoCAD only utilises single thread except if the user adjust AutoCAD with “whipthread” setting to 1, 2 or 3 but this enables AutoCAD to make use of more threads while redrawing and regen, this is about it what AutoCAD is capable of to increase efficiency. Perhaps the most costeffective CPU for AutoCAD computer is Intel Core i3 3250. The top performance CPU’s like 4770K and Xeon E3-1280 are only 1,21 times faster than the I3 3250 🙂
    The problem with AutoCAD is not hardware related, it is purely software related, this goes also for many other Autodesk products like Inventor but certainly not all of them, some Autodesk software are fully multithreading. But this is the reason why more and more designers and CAD users have turned away from Autodesk software to f.i. Solid Works, PTC Creo and alike.

  15. February 20, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Auto cad will not utilize a multicolor processor. Only one processor will be used the rest sit Idle.
    Believe me I just bought an EighCore I7 with 64 GB Ram and a NIVIDI 5400 graphics card. This unit runs just as slow as my 64 bit system with 16GB ram and a Wallchart video card!
    data backup

  16. Bill Elam
    July 23, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    I just need to know what is the basic configuration for my PC. Our two man office will go to pencil and paper before spending $4k+ for a workstation/desktop. Yes, we need to upgrade to the newest MS OS, 8.1Pro most likely, and need the basic PC configuration. Telling me Intel Xeon says nothing to me as there are multiple versions of the Xeon processor. Why can’t we just get “the minimum system requirement” instead of the ultimate workstation configuration. Even Dell, who seems to be in bed with Autodesk, wants to sell just the most expensive pre-built computers.
    Autodesk is going the way of MS/pc computing. They increase speed and drive/memory size, then increase the programing to eat up all of the advantage those updates were supposed to bring. You end up with an expensive machine (more complicated to use) that is no faster than the old one that was tossed into the recycle bin.
    Just give me what I need to do my job without bankrupting my business.

  17. Bill Elam
    July 23, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    And it is my understanding that Autocad does not utilize multithreading so multicore processors are no advantage at all, except when running other programs that do use multithreading technologies.

  18. Benny
    August 6, 2014 at 2:00 am

    All of this is Greek to me… I want to know the best and fastest gaming Ie graphics hard drive with the most memory that wont die on me like my Seagate barracuda. I want to know if 1 tb is better than 3tb I am lost?????…… Woman in need!!!!

  19. Bahle
    March 4, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    What causes the computer to be slowly but it is using AUTOCAD software and have fast microprocessor and big RAM??

  1. October 31, 2012 at 6:40 pm
  2. October 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm
  3. October 24, 2014 at 6:22 am
  4. October 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm
  5. October 25, 2014 at 4:53 am
  6. October 25, 2014 at 9:15 am
  7. October 25, 2014 at 8:08 pm
  8. October 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm
  9. October 26, 2014 at 6:18 am
  10. October 26, 2014 at 9:21 am
  11. November 8, 2014 at 6:51 am
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