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Ben ConnerFlag for United States of America

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autocad 2015 hardware suggestions


I'm building a box to run AutoCAD and Revit for a custom home designer who used to use AutoCAD but has been out of the loop for several years.  I've looked at Autodesk's hardware recommendations but it seems a bit generic for my preferences.  I prefer buying and building components so I know what goes in to the box.  

The types of projects he would be doing would be custom home designs in the 5K-20K sq ft range with renderings of different views.  While $ is a consideration, it is more from the point of not wasting it.  I will get him what he needs to get back up to speed.

The only parameters I have is that I prefer Intel CPUs; was also thinking an SSD hard drive would probably be better.  Another question I have is video cards.  What part does a high-end video card play in AutoCAD design?  Is this mainly related to rendering?  

Will probably use Windows 7 unless there is a compelling reason to go to 10.

Thanks for your advice!

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Mike Taylor
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An SSD will also help as they are far quicker than spindles, so I would go with the following spec:

  • Boot    SSD   120GB or 250GB
  • Data    HDD   2TB min or better 4TB
  • Video  nVidia Quadro high-end card.
  • A great (professional grade) backup solution


Disk: They will need lots of storage. When you render anything the files are very big. If you get into high-res videos (4K these days) then you will just need even MORE disk. Hence the reason for normal mass storage. If money were no object 2TB SSD would be ideal!

Video: Yes, video rendering has a huge affect on work rate. You don't want a high-end gaming style card, you want a whole new breed: the Quadro class. There are 3 sub-classes but be warned they are seriously expensive.
You need to ask how big (resolution) the renders will be and what bit-depth. That will hone down the choice. I can't be more specific but look here:
to compare.

Finally, backup. I would go with Drobo or Synology NAS solutions. The reason is clear: you've spent 49 hours rendering a video for a customer and your disk dies and you have no backup...

Both those brands offer high-quality backup solutions. Drobo is more pricey but is meant to be even more reliable than a standard NAS but they would say that.

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Hi Mike,

Fortunately the backup piece of it I have down.  His workstation will be part of my paranoia driven network. :)

I will go with a decent SSD and nvidia card from that link.  Much appreciated!

Suggestions on Intel cpu?  16 vs 32 GB of memory?

CPU - Intel any recent will do fine. Most processing will be done by the GPU so I wouldn't go mad getting a top-end Core I7 - just the latest 6th gen chipset e.g. i7-5930K

RAM - go for 32GB if you can. RAM and disk are dirt cheap still, so why not. Just go 64-bit.
Yeah, memory comes as party favors these days at geek gatherings.

Any motherboards you have seen that are good? I tend to lean toward ASUS but have used others.


I'm a bit out of touch with motherboards. The last one I got was a Gigabyte but the name escapes me. The key thing is USB3 and plenty of RAM slots. Everything else is much of a much-ness I think.

The other factor is one that has space for heat dissipation. It's not crowded with just two disks but the GPU will pump out heat and so you will need a decent fan, which then means you need to think about clearance for the heatsink + fan.

I went with a Fractal Define case for my build.

Just one more opinion.
It would be good if you use Win8.1 instead Win7. Win8.1 64 bits works better/faster with SSD.
I have tried Win10, but it seems a bit slower than Win8.1 on the same system configuration.
Then regrading SSD size: it is better with higher size, it works faster and because the data is written in certain way to avoid wearing of the cells, so not on the same locations, higher size means also longer lifetime.
As for RAM is always better more. If you can get 32GB or even 64GB is better. Of course autocad will work also with 8GB, but for rendering programs in order to work faster and wait less one trick is to use a small piece of software which makes  RAM Disk, Then from your 32GB you make 16GB RAM Disk which is faster than SSD.
Oh!  Wasn't aware of that.  Can 8.1 be taught to resemble 7 within reason?

I do not know. I know only what I have tested.
And regarding the CPU i7 suggestion, please have a look at the performance vs price:

Maybe you should consider i7-6700K instead of i7-5930K.

I skipped over the OS bit - I thought you were going W10 :).

Yes, viki2000 is correct. W8.1 (we won't talk about 8.0) has much better SSD support than 7, so that's one vital bonus.

As for the RAM disk, a good suggestion; Starwind do a great RAMdisk for free. I so miss my Amiga but I'm guessing you're too young to know that one.

To be honest, I'd just go W10 and avoid the upgrade pain that will come later.

If you go the 8.1 route, I would install the startmenu replacement by Stardock (not free) or classic shell (free last time I looked).

Hi Mike,

Actually I've been around for a while.  Started with computers in 1972 on mainframes.

I have a love/hate relationship with W10; the big issue for me is the big brother component to it.  Probably should go with it anyway.  Not my computer.  Sigh.


I did wonder if you were my era or not, so you probably do know of Amigas then. There's *still* features that OS/hardware had that modern kit lacks. Cute names for the hardware chips at least :).

Yes, I do know what you mean with the intrusion aspect. You can disable most of those things but it's a hassle most people won't even know to do.

What about monitors?  My tolerance level on monitors is binary: it works/it doesn't work.  I suspect someone doing a lot of autocad work might have a different perspective.

One thing important that you did not mention is: what is the maximum budget for your box?
That's because it isn't cast in stone.  We will get him what he needs but just don't want to squander $.  I was originally guessing it would cost between $1500-$2500.  So far that seems about right.

So far from the discussion, I'm looking at the following:

for the basic m/b, memory and CPU, and a Quadro M4000 for a high-end graphics card:
Quadro M4000

Will still need a case, monitor(s) & p/s (I have 2 high-end server spares never taken out of the box, so that isn't a problem).  And drives.

Does the m/b appear compatible with the video card?  This is where I am weak on in terms of hardware compatibility.  I typically find out after I try putting it together.

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I hear that (pun intended).  I sit 8' from a server room that has the door open at all times, so noise can be monitored.  So noise becomes an issue for me as well.  

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Thank you both for outstanding answers!  I always learn something when I post to EE and this was no exception.  I'm sure he will be tickled to death with this workstation when it finally gets assembled.  Probably by this weekend.

Best wishes!

It is always a pleasure to tap the experience and brainpower of those who hang out on EE.  This question was certainly no exception.
A last word from my side.
My work PC is assembled by a company named Silentmaxx.
It is a german company and unfortunately their website is only n german, but you may use Google Chrome to automatically translate the pages.
You should have a look at their configurations just to get an idea what components to buy, because everything what they offer is configurable. so you can see the name of the components.
They offer now intel with 14 core which costs over 1200€ only that CPU, but you do not needed. Just take the CPU types what they offer and compare performance vs. price on the specific websites.
Here is an overview:
Then you see somewhere down CAD workstations and they offer 0dB (no noise at all) next configurations for CAD:
 Basically they have silent PC, as mine only 3dB compared with normal 30dB:
and also 0dB, no noise at all:

P.S. It would be nice if you can post later a feedback with what you have built and how much did that cost.
Hi - thanks for the comment. It does sound like a pretty mean system.


Be happy to.  Here's the laundry list so far:

Intel I7-6700K 4.0 Ghz
Kingston 32 GB memory
MSI Z170A m/b
Silent Base800 (BGW02) case
Samsung 850 EVO M.2 drive (500 meg)
Seagate SATA III 4TB drive
ASUS MX279H 27" dual monitors at 1920x1080 ppi

Will see how well the onboard graphics controller does rendering.  If it is too slow, will add an Nvidia Quadro M4000 card to help.

Without the graphics card the total will come in around $1600 or so.  Far cry from my original IBM 5150 PC. :)

Your case is not silent enough.
If you look at the Technical Data - Pre-installed Fans - Noise level @ 12V (dB(A)) then you see:
Front: 18.8, Rear: 19.2

Now, due to the case, that may be attenuated a bit, but I do not think goes down to 3dB as mine from the above german site.

You may try it, but if it is not silent enough, either maybe be prepared now in advance and buy a quieter one or if you like the price/space/design of that one, then may you should consider also quieter fans.
Oops.  Thanks for pointing that out!  Will take a look at those.  Thanks!

On the MSI Z170A m/b, while it says it supports up to 3 monitors, how many does it support natively?  I thought 2, but now I'm thinking it is just 1.

In which case I would need the Nvidia card.

Look here:
You have 1DVI-D port and 1 HDMI port on the back side.

Onboard Graphics

• 1 x HDMI™ port, support a maximum resolution of 4096x2160@24Hz, 2560x1600@60Hz
• 1 x DVI-D port, support a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz

Download motherboard datasheet from here:
page 22.
Wow. The second reference is especially impressive.  Way more than I've had to think about before. But then I never worked with a high end graphics card before.


Picked up the ASUS Z170-A motherboard and on it is a socket for a M.2 (NGFF) socket 3 SSD.   I didn't catch the subtlety on this and got a Samsung 850 EVO mSATA 500 GB drive which obviously doesn't fit.

What should I be looking for on the product description?  Are there 500 GB M2 SSD drives that fit this socket?

What did you already buy? Motherboard and the SSD? Or only the motherboard?
M2.NGFF seems more for laptops than for desktop:

Of course are M2.NGFF 500GB:
But on motherboard there is only 1 such socket.
Download the user manual from here and check it out on page 1-28:

Why don't you go with SATA standard 6GB/s?
There are 4 such connectors
Already bought an ASUS Z-170A motherboard which has that connection on it.  Thought I would use that for an SSD drive and use a 4TB SATA III drive for secondary storage.  

Will that SSD drive fit this connector?  It has 2 notches on it while the diagram in the user manual has only 1.  I'm a bit paranoid now. :)

Motherboard manual page 28 explains that supports M key.
The Amazon M.2 SSD support B+M key. It should work.
Here are some informative pages:
What is the benefit of having both the B+M key on an M.2 SSD?

The B+M keys on an M.2 SSD allow for cross-compatibility on various motherboards as long as the appropriate SSDs protocol is supported (SATA or PCIe). Some motherboard host connectors may be designed only to accommodate M-key SSDs, while others may only accommodate B-key SSD. The B+M keys SSD was designed to address this issue; however, plugging in an M.2 SSD into a socket will not guarantee it will work, as that will depend on having a shared protocol between the M.2 SSD and the motherboard.

Lord, this stuff has gotten complicated.  Sigh...

Thanks much!

I would not play with M.2 type socket/SSD. It is also hard when you clone, transfer data externally - if that comes in future. You would maybe need adapters again.
I would just take the standard SATA III SSD 6GB/s. It has compatibility for sockets/connectors with many other motherboards and external drive cases, in our times. M.2 is too new and I would use it only where is really needed, as notebooks.
Thanks; looking at the specs on it reminds me of a comment a friend of mine makes: the nice thing about standards is, there are so many to choose from. :)

Please don't tell me about standards, because my hair starts to go out straight through my hat :(
I worked and work with enough of them, hundreds of pages each and they are many.
For several years I had the chance to have an inside look at the reports which are not available to the public, but only to the standardization panels before the publication, which is done in steps.
Now I can tell you what is nice about standards.
The nice thing about standards is that are made by the powerful companies to protect their economical interests. Even exceptions to certain technical curves were made only to coop with the products from certain companies. And you know what?, you and me and the common citizen, the common engineer cannot do anything about it. All of us will follow was is legislative technical dictated by the standards. That is the nice part about the standards...if you are on the right side :)
Ok, this isn't exactly hardware related, but I have the SSD defined as the 1st boot drive; trying to install Win 10 from the flash drive and it wants to install on the SATA drive instead.  Is that the only option I have?  Would have expected it to install on the SSD drive.


Unplugged the SATA drive so all that the BIOS sees is the SSD; Win 10 did not see a bootable drive.
This is on the Z170-A ASUS m/b.

Is your SSD that new ugly M.2 type? It seems is a trouble maker. If you did that, I think you are stubborn because did not buy a normal SATA SSD.
If everything is new and HDD/SSD without files, you may tray a workaround, long and ugly: install Win10 on HDD SATA, make sure is bootable and works fine. Then clone the new installed system on SSD. See if now boots only with SSD. You must make the system working, alive with the new motherboard and Win 10. Then you may inspect how the SSD is seen by Win10.
Nevertheless, I would check first carefully the BIOS, boot menu to see what are the options for that new ugly M.2 type. You must read the user manual of your motherboard step by step, page 103,  2-51, chapter 2.8 onward in the user manual.
On page 8 it says to configure M.2 ugly as SATA:
User generated image
On page 36:
User generated image
On page 93:
User generated image
You should change the setting of M.2 to SATA, then o BIOS boot from SATA storage devices.
Had it on SATA and that didn't work; changed it to M.2 and now the drive is visible and available for install.  

Much appreciated!

Just wanted to follow up on the hardware.  All is working now.  The workstation is so quiet that I can't hear anything from it over the ambient noise in the office.  And the cpu/memory/ssd combination cut tasks that were in the 20 minute range down to 2 minutes or so.  Booting takes about 1-2 seconds and is up.

Just installed the AutoCAD suite so I haven't had an opportunity yet to try anything taxing like rendering.  Will let you know how that turns out.

Greatly appreciate all the advice I got with this.  Could have been a real mess otherwise.

I am glad you did it and I am happy that you give the feedback.
Really boots in 2s?
Did you try to use RAM Disk too? You should try that for rendering tasks.
How much did it cost in the end? And what is the final configuration?
Didn't even need the RAM disk yet; yes, after the POST screen disappears, about 2 seconds near as I can tell.  

Loaded AutoCAD and am just doing the first rendering now.  I didn't pick up the dedicated graphics card yet to see how it did as a baseline.  The sample house with a backyard rendering looks like it will take about a half hour to render, so will pick up one of the graphic cards for the workstation.

Total cost so far is about $1700 (with Win 10 included).  If I recall the graphics card I was looking at was in the  $400-500 range.

Look for a quieter graphic card with 2-3 monitors output and at least 2GB memory, maybe 4GB would be better.
Speaking of graphic cards, I see a lot of them have Displayport connectors on them; the monitors I got in have hdmi and vga connections.  I see there are DP to HDMI cables all over the place.  I assume the conversion works well enough?  Anything I should watch out for?
I use a cable 15m Display Port from Lenovo laptop to HDMI projector. I have no problems and the image quality is OK.
Wow.  Had no idea they could be that long.  That's encouraging.  That also tells me I could go to a HDMI projector when the one in our media room craps out. :)