What You Need for SOLIDWORKS (Hardware Requirements)

Everyone in the engineering world has heard of SOLIDWORKS. The computer program revolutionized the field when it burst on the scene in 1995. 


Since then, the software has evolved into dozens of different versions, so finding the right one for you is an individual job.


The foundational requirements are in the hardware sector of your computer. If you don’t have the right system configurations, the perfect program isn’t going to help.


This article will walk you through everything you need to SOLIDWORKS in your engineering job.

1. SOLIDWORKS Hardware Requirements

SOLIDWORKS 2019, 2020, and 2021 are the three versions most compatible with today’s processors and operating systems. SOLIDWORKS 2018 and earlier work on some computers, but the features and capabilities aren’t worth the trouble it takes to get them running.


Each of these is found in Standard (basic), Professional (intermediate), and Premium (advanced) versions, so the required hardware depends on the system you use.


Please note: All three of the versions below operate best with a strong internet connection on a computer with installed antivirus software.

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Hardware Requirements

The newest version of SOLIDWORKS software is also the most complex. Your CPU will need a lot more memory to meet this version’s system requirements than with past versions.


Here’s exactly what you’ll need for each version of SOLIDWORKS 2021:

SOLIDWORKS Standard Requirements

This version is for engineers who only need to design simple flow simulations or create projects with simple parts (less than 200 features.)


For optimal performance, you’ll need to have:


  • Intel Core i5, i7, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz minimum clock speed)
  • Windows 10 operating system (Incompatible with Windows Home)
  • 8GB or more of free memory
  • Standard hard drive or Solid State Drive (SSD) > 250GB with 10% of your drive capacity open
  • NVIDIA Quadro or P2200 graphics card (GPU)

SOLIDWORKS Professional Requirements

The intermediate system is the choice for people who need to design complex parts, advanced shapes, and more than 200 features (but less than 1000).


It requires:

  • Microsoft Windows 10 OS (Incompatible with Windows Home)
  • Intel Core i7, Xeon, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz or faster)
  • At least 16GB of memory
  • Solid State Drive (SSD) > 250GB, with a minimum of 10% drive capacity open
  • NVIDIA Quadro or RTX 4000 graphics card

SOLIDWORKS Premium Requirements

The advanced system is the go-to for engineers who regularly work with complex parts, hybrid modeling, and advanced features. If your assemblies typically have over 1000 components, you’ll need the advanced program. 


To run this program, you need:


  • Intel Core i7, Xeon, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz or faster )
  • Windows 10 OS (Incompatible with Windows Home)
  • 32GB of memory or more is necessary
  • Solid State disk drive (SSD) > 250GB of 10% drive free space open 
  • NVIDIA Quadro, RTX 5000, RTX 6000, or RTX 8000 certified graphics card

Learn how to use all of this program’s powerful features in our SOLIDWORKS online course!

SOLIDWORKS 2020

Although it’s not the latest version, SOLIDWORKS 2020 might possibly be the most popular version on the market right now, due to its many upgrades.


Looking at investing in this program? 


Here’s what you’ll need:

Standard Package

The most basic tier is good for simple parts and small assemblies of under 200 components.


It requires:


  • Intel Core i5, i7, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz or faster)
  • Windows 10 or 7 OS (although Windows 7 support and upgrades are no longer available)
  • At least 8GB of memory
  • Standard or Solid State Drive (SSD) > 250GB with 10% free drive capacity 
  • NVIDIA Quadro  P2200 graphics card

Professional Package

The intermediate system is the go-to for engineers designing complex parts with advanced shapes and over 200 (but under 1000) features.


You’ll need:


  • Intel Core i7, Xeon, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz or faster)
  • Windows 10 or 7 OS (no upgrades support available for Windows 7)
  • Minimum 16GB memory
  • Solid State Drive (SSD) > 250GB with 10% drive capacity available
  • NVIDIA Quadro or RTX 4000 graphics card


Don’t have a Windows operating system? Here’s How to Use SOLIDWORKS on a Mac.

Premium Package

The advanced system is for people who need to design projects with very complex parts and assemblies with anywhere from 1000 to 200,000 features.


If you’re often doing hybrid modeling or need large flow simulations, the advanced version is your solution.


To use this program, you’ll need:


  • Intel Core i7, Xeon, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz or faster)
  • Windows 10 or 7 OS (no upgrades support available for Windows 7)
  • Minimum 32GB of memory
  • Solid State Drive (SSD) > 250GB with 10% drive capacity available
  • NVIDIA Quadro, RTX 5000, RTX 6000, or RTX 8000 graphics card

SOLIDWORKS 2019

When the 2019 version came out, it upgraded the graphics performance of previous SOLIDWORKS products and made it easier to see minute details without the Large Assembly Mode feature. 


This was one of the biggest complaints with previous versions, so if you can find 2019 cheaper than 2020 or 2021, you might be perfectly content with this older program.


Not to mention, the SOLIDWORKS Simulation and SOLIDWORKS Visualize features perform very well on this version.


Here are the hardware requirements for each package:

Default System

For the default system, sufficient for simple parts and small assemblies with less than 200 components, you’ll need:


  • Intel Core i5, i7, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz or faster)
  • Windows 10 or 7x64 OS (incompatible with Windows Home)
  • Minimum of 8GB of memory
  • Standard or Solid State Drive (SSD) > 250GB with 10% drive capacity available
  • NVIDIA Quadro, P600, or P1000 series graphics card

Intermediate System

The middle version of 2019 is called the Basic System, and it’s used for any programming that needs complex parts with advanced shapes. It supports moderate flow simulations and 200+ features (but less than 1000).


To run this version, you’ll need:


  • Intel Core i7, Xeon, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz or faster)
  • Windows 10 or 7 x64 OS (incompatible with Windows Home)
  • At least 8GB of memory
  • Solid State Drive (SSD) > 250GB with 10% drive capacity available
  • NVIDIA Quadro or P2000 series graphics card

Advanced System

The advanced system is for engineers who need to design projects with advanced surfacing features, hybrid modeling, and complex parts of 1000 - 200,000 features. It’s also good for those who need large flow simulations.


For this version to run smoothly, you’ll need:


  • Intel Core i7, Xeon, or equivalent AMD processor (3.3 GHz or faster)
  • Windows 10 or 7 x64 OS (Incompatible with Windows Home)
  • At least 16GB of memory
  • Solid State Drive (SSD) > 250GB with 10% drive capacity available
  • NVIDIA Quadro, P3000, or P4000 series graphics card

You can match your SOLIDWORKS program with your existing hardware or purchase hardware that will run your preferred SOLIDWORKS version, but make sure they are both compatible.

2. Who Needs SOLIDWORKS?

SOLIDWORKS is one of the most popular programs used in the engineering industry. Anyone with a career goal that involves engineering or design can benefit from learning this software. 


Careers in drafting, engineering, architecture, and design will lead you to creating 2D and 3D drafts. SOLIDWORKS simplifies and streamlines these tasks.


Let’s break down an example of how this program makes work easier for a couple of engineering jobs, starting with drafting.


As a drafter, you regularly create both 2D and 3D drawings interchangeably. You’re not the engineer, but you work with them to combine the plans that will put together the finished product.


With SOLIDWORKS, the measurements you need to specify each facet of the plan are part of the CAD program. All your calculations and simulation sequences are quickly performed for you. This helps you to make an assessment as to a product’s feasibility and functionality. 


The need for real-world prototypes is obsolete because you can make all your modifications and improvements in SOLIDWORKS before you move into hands-on drafting simulations.

Engineering is another popular career path where SOLIDWORKS is beneficial. As with drafting, this program helps you to produce finished schematics and plans to create a final mechanical system in 2D and 3D form.


With the tools in SOLIDWORKS, you can test things like stress levels and tolerance in each section of your designs. If a feature is likely to cause problems later, it will show up in your testing. You’ll also be able to assess costs and material inventories in the computer program as you go.


SOLIDWORKS is an engineer’s dream program, as it guides you in designing your final products with analysis tools that point out structural weaknesses and other problems. You can modify the design inside the program without having to start back over.


Anyone who plans on using design processes and simulations in their job can benefit from SOLIDWORKS.

3. Getting Certified in SOLIDWORKS

You don’t need a certification in SOLIDWORKS, but it would sure look good on your resume!


Engineering is a field where there is high demand, but there’s also major competition for the brightest minds. Having a SOLIDWORKS certification, or multiple certifications, may be just what you need to land your dream position. 


There are dozens of SOLIDWORKS certifications you can obtain, from beginner to expert level. Each of these adds a specialization to your CV that could help you stand out from other applicants.


Taking in-person or online SOLIDWORKS courses not only bumps up your knowledge, but it also shows your employer you have initiative and determination.

4. Why SOLIDWORKS is the Global Choice

There are other CAD tools on the market, but everyone keeps coming back to SOLIDWORKS. There has to be a good reason this program has worldwide popularity, right?


Aside from the significantly advanced features, there are other benefits to purchasing and using SOLIDWORKS that make it popular with engineers everywhere.


The standard license is $3,995, and this price has not increased since the first version was released in 1996. You can add on a subscription for tech support, upgrades, and other features for an extra $1,295 per year.


It’s an investment that more than pays for itself, making it attractive to those who know the value.


Users who have switched to other programs after using SOLIDWORKS often return because of the ease of use. It has shortcuts, design properties, and features that make it more efficient than other alternative programs.


Not all programs have sharing capabilities, either, but SOLIDWORKS does. The program lets users share editable files with their suppliers and customers in multiple formats. You don’t need to have the same CAD/CAM software to be able to share and view files, which is important in business.


With these advantages, as well as the program’s capabilities, SOLIDWORKS continues to remain ahead of the crowd in its industry.

5. Alternatives to SOLIDWORKS

Just because SOLIDWORKS is highly recommended doesn’t mean it’s the only software out there that gets the job done.


Engineers have a lot of other choices, including:

FreeCAD

FreeCAD is a 3D modeling program that allows users to import and export files in different formats and model 3D images. It’s free and OpenSource.

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a limited CAD program that is free for students, startups, and hobbyists. It has a variety of 3D modeling and simulation tools. Standard versions run anywhere from $25 - $40/month, and the Ultimate version is $125 - $190/month.

OnShape

OnShape has a lot of import and export options, add-ons, and other functions. This CAD program stores its data on a central database instead of saving files on the local drive.


This software is free for non-commercial use. For those who want to use it commercially, it runs $125/month.

If you want to use SOLIDWORKS but the cost is keeping you from doing so, RocketGear has a program for students that could be your solution. SOLIDWORKS 2020 Student lets users have up to 40 hours per month free. 


If you need to run SOLIDWORKS beyond that amount, it’s a small per-hour charge. This is a cloud-based program, so you can run it on Internet Explorer or your favorite browser of choice.

Conclusion

The right program combined with the necessary hardware and machinery makes your job a lot easier. Whether you’re an amateur looking to design small projects or an engineer with a complex job to perform, SOLIDWORKS has a version that will streamline your tasks from start to finish.


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