Adding more RAM = More speed?

Hi All,

I have an older PC I run smaller Solidworks assemblies on, but its painfully slow compared my newer comp. I would like to get a bit more life out of it. I can add more ram from 2gb to 8gb. I have run registry cleaner to fix that, but to no avail. Shall I just start saving for a new one?



Ram will help in instances where your model starts pushing over 2GB (which isn’t that hard)

A quick test to see if you’ll actually benefit would be to open up your Solidworks model and hit ctrl+alt+delete - then you should see a processes tab which will show your total memory usage. If you’re over 2GB, more ram will help - but in general, PC performance is gated by your CPU. RAM is a cheap upgrade, as long as your machine doesn’t take much older memory which is harder to find new.

If you have a newer computer, why do you want to use the old one?

Struggling to work with SW is almost certainly a RAM bottleneck. Being slow to execute commands and calculate features in SW could be a CPU bottleneck.

Your PC ownership situation is a little confusing. You have a new computer but you’re using this old one still? And then you mention saving up for yet a new one? What is your priority here?

If you still intend to use the old PC just get more RAM, and max it out. It’s practically free these days.
Do note that 32-bit Windows has a maximum RAM usage of 4GB so if you don’t have Win64 there’s no point in upgrading beyond that.

I need both computers, one is often used by my intern. Thanks for the feedback

Yeah, don’t forget the 64 bit mention in there, if you are on Windows XP or an operating system that is 32 bit, you can not leverage more than 4 gigs of ram. (In Windows XP you can use the /3GB startup command to improve the memory usage of 4 gigs).

Also for older PC’s keep in mind that some motherboards will not support more than a certain amount of memory, and that some CPU’s will not properly support the 64 bit operating system.

If you have a desktop PC, you can get a lot of bang for the buck these days with a CPU/Motherboard/Memory upgrade. In the US ~$400 can buy you a very fast CPU, new mobo and more memory. That will be a huge performance boost and time is money…

Hi Mike,

Thanks so much for the helpful feedback. I think it makes much more sense to get like a mini pc and a cheap monitor on ebay. somthing like this

Just crank up the cpu memory etc. What is MOBO?


Mobo is short for motherboard.

I wouldn’t necessarily invest in a small form factor PC like that unless space is really an issue for you. You can get a small to normal sized desktop tower and reap the advantages of generally lower prices and easier upgrades down the road.

Usually with a small form factor PC you’ll find if you want to add more ram down the road, you’d need to remove the ram you already have because it may only have 2 memory slots while a normal desktop will have 4. Same thing goes if you ever need to add a second hard drive, faster video card, etc.

Ahh ok great points. ANy suggestions on places to buy from? thanks again

Just upgrade the memory on what you have for now, odds are your next new machine could use it too.

I would recommend not spending money on a new “low-end” system, even if it would run SW adequately for a lot of purposes. The computer shopping advice I was given in 1998 was “wait as long as you can, spend as much as you can, and don’t look back,” and my experience since then spending more and less on computers bears that out.

I can’t agree with either of those points and I’ve been building computers since I was 7.

RE: Memory - RAM is incredibly cheap right now (In the US you can get 8 gigs of DDR3-1600 for under $60, and that is more than you’ll need for most CAD applications), and is not often forwards compatible once technology changes happen. If you add DDR2 to a 4 or 5 year old PC, it is not compatible with a newer machine. Even if both machines use current DDR 3 standard ram, if you add a slower speed memory (DDR-1066) to a newer machine, it will force the newer memory to run slower. Not to mention memory standards flop all over the place based on chipset (triple channel became double channel, which forced you to optimize memory pairings differently).

The logic of buying an ultra high end system is terribly flawed for several reasons.

1 - High end technology goes obsolete just as fast as low end technology. It may be incrementally faster, but when the next “big thing” comes out, you’ll be left in the dust. EX If 5 years ago you spent thousands of dollars upgrading to the fastest Pentium 4 processor, you’d still be stuck with a single core 32 bit chip. If you had gotten a slower processor, once the dual, quad, and now hex core chips were released - you’d realize that a really cheap quad core processor is generally going to improve your productivity than a super fast single core.

2- Desktop technology has dropped in price dramatically, which means the new “Mid Range” is only a small price difference away from the entry level. For example the difference right now for a high end CPU (3770k, 8 thread CPU - ~$250) and the mid range 3570k 4 thread CPU is around $40 USD. Would you spend $40 for 2x the performance? Sure why not. You could spend $2000 on the same chip in Workstation form, but why would you? You don’t get 10X the performance…in fact you don’t even get 2x the performance…you would literally spend $2000 to get a ~1.2x boost in most cases. Total waste of money.

3- New technologies emerge often enough that if you blow your budget and wait 5 years to upgrade, you’ll miss out on a lot. For example I built my last desktop right before USB 3.0 came out. So now that everyone has fancy USB 3 hard drives I’m sitting there waiting for a day and a half for my machine to back up. You’ll ALWAYS be better setting a budget for a medium level system (in the US that is anywhere between $500-1500 these days) than spending $2k on a system and waiting longer. A $1000 system 3 years from now will be faster than your $5000 system is today…that’s just Moore’s law in action.

I don’t have any particular recommendations on where to buy from, esp if you’re outside of the US but here’s what I would suggest if you want to try to find a decent deal.

-Dell Outlet - Dell has a decent selection of refurbished and scratched and dented PC’s at a reasonable price.
-Find a nerd friend who can build a computer, buy them a case of good beer, and have them build the PC for you.
-See if you have a local “Deals” site like - they usually aggregate up the better deals and you can wait to find a good deal to jump on. Lots of vendors have sales around the holidays, and while they aren’t great, it can help.

For specs right now I’d look for something that has the following:

-Processor: Intel i5-3570 or i7-3770 if you can splurge (K series does not matter if you are buying a pre-built machine and won’t be overclocking)
-Ram - 8 gigs is plenty for most CAD, but if you do a lot of video editing, very large database work, or other very large files you can throw in 16 gigs for cheap. If you are buying a pre-built machine, I would never recommend to upgrade from the vendor. Order the minimum amount of RAM and then buy the upgrade yourself, it takes 2 minutes to do and will save you at least 50%
-Graphics Card: I’d recommend an Nvidia card over AMD/ATI, and preferably something that ends in the x50 or x60 series (560 gtx, 650 gtx) - those should give you the best bang for the buck. The x40 series would probably work too, but has noticeably slower memory which will hurt you when working with large shaded models.
-Hard drive - if possible, go with a machine that has an SSD + a standard hard drive. An SSD is currently the most noticable performance boost you can make on a PC. Loading times will be fractions of what they once were, and you’ll never be able to go back. SSD costs have come way down, so it’s not that hard to find even a smallish SSD to load the operating system and your programs on, and then store all your data on the actual hard disk.
-Monitors: Check Ebay and Google for the “Catleap” or “Yamasaki” 27" IPS monitor. It’s a high DPI 2560x1440 27" display that you can usually find for $300-400 USD. These are actually A- grade panels from Apple/Dell, but IMO the risk of a few dead pixels and a cheap case is worth it for the phenomenal image quality and price.

/nerd rant

Ditto almost everything Mike said, specifically the point about Moore’s Law not playing nicely with high-end computer pricing.

I have a different take on the suggestions though. If you’re buying a PC for the workplace I would almost never go custom-built unless it comes from a company that has on-demand tech support. It’s tempting, especially economically, but tech support is way more vital in the workplace than anywhere else. Any tech support plan almost certainly pays for itself within a few months. For our particular workstations we can call support and talk to someone immediately, and watch as they diagnose/fix our problems remotely. That is hours, or maybe days, saved.

Resellers do a variably decent job of this, e.g. Tekserve is pretty good but Best Buy is awful. But the real prize is a direct support plan from the manufacturer, like Dell or Boxx.

You guys rule! Thank you so much for the super helpful tips. I have a pretty good sense of what kind of guts my station will need, but its really helpful to hear what you all say.

Thanks again!

Yeah well my parents owned a Radio Shack when I was 7(which was when Radio Shack was actually relevant to the computer business) so your nerd creds don’t impress. :slight_smile:

I’ve never been in the market for truly monstrously overpriced “workstations” but my statement absolutely stands. Of course the most high-end stuff is poor value, but so is the lower-end stuff. Get a decently high-end machine and it’ll be years before you need to think about a computer again. Get something cheap for-now (and I’ve done it plenty of times) and in two months the novelty of the deal you got has worn off and you just wish it was faster. And that’s more true now than in the past as CPUs are NOT getting faster in step with Moore’s Law, they’re just adding more parallelization which only some of the tools we use can actually exploit.

Well you said “Spend as much as you can” - which I agree with if your maximum budget is $1000-1500. Which is what I would call a “decent high end machine” as well. But it’s certainly not high end, especially since most people go out and spend $3000 on a Macbook, I wouldn’t agree with spending anywhere near that much on a desktop.

Right now the delta between a low end (Cheap AMD or I3 CPU) to the “Decent” high end of an I7 with dedicated video is only about ~$500.

I agree with not getting a $400 desktop with an integrated GPU and 3000 copies of trial antivirus bloatware installed. But I would never tell someone to go out and spend “as much as you can”.

In '96 my brother spent $17k on a SGI O2…that was literally spending “As much as you can spend”.