A CAD software in use.

Today, we depend on the computer for a lot of things, especially home entertainment and gaming. This includes work too, most notably for professionals that utilize computer-aided design (CAD) to facilitate workflows and processes.

Considering CAD consumes a lot of the PC’s resources to manage complicated projects and blueprints, can robust gaming PCs be good setups for running different CAD software as well?

Yes, gaming PCs can be good for running different CAD programs due to their adequate system specs. They are a great starting point for junior developers or designers to explore CAD applications, like AutoCAD or SketchUp, pertaining to their work.

For those that are interested in purchasing one for their technical drawing and design tasks, gaming PC bundles might include a high-resolution monitor too, depending on the reseller. As such, it might be advantageous for us to regularly browse online stores and events if we’re looking for one.

Dedicated employees who depend on CAD software to streamline their duties mainly have proper workstations set up at the office. Back at home, though, they usually have a backup PC that’s capable of handling the same work-related applications as well, with the computer also being used for hobbies like gaming during their spare hours.

That’s why many architects and engineers have high-end PCs inside the house; they can quickly resume work at home if needed, playing the latest triple-A (AAA) games to release stress afterward, provided they install them on different drives to separate them from job-related folders.

Do I Need a Powerful PC for CAD?

Every CAD program requires a computer capable of managing its complex processes, supplementing its heavy resource consumption. Does this mean we need a PC with premium hardware to use CAD effectively? 

Yes, we need a moderately powerful PC to run CAD software smoothly, particularly one that has a fast Central Processing Unit (CPU) and large Random Access Memory (RAM). That being said, older CAD programs commonly have lower hardware requirements, making them usable on lower-end computers too.

For context, here’s Tyler Beck’s 2021 video sharing about the main components expected of a PC for CAD applications:

For AutoCAD users, we can refer to past years’ computer requirements from Autodesk’s official web page as well.

Although not viewed as one of the PC’s primary aspects for CAD, our computer’s storage capacity should also be taken into account, as added by the video above. CAD projects can take up a lot of the system’s internal memory, with hundreds of files stored inside the computer. For gamers who work professionally using CAD applications daily, 1TB of storage memory just won’t cut it.

Additionally, PC drivers should also be updated to their latest versions. Some 3D CAD programs might not function well if our GPU drivers are outdated, given that many people are embracing newer graphics technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), today.

Which CPU is Suitable for CAD?

When drawing sophisticated designs and blueprints, a computer will use its extensive ‘brain power’ – meaning, the CPU – to calculate hundreds (even thousands) of computations and projections simultaneously. Hence, the CPU needs to be up to the task.

In my opinion, we should aim for these CPUs as the bare minimum for CAD projects:

  • Intel Core i5 @ 2.5GHz or better
  • AMD Ryzen 5 @ 2.5GHz or better

Bear in mind, the lower the tier of a CPU, the more it struggles to handle intense processes while running CAD software. This might not apply to basic design and modeling jobs, though, like 2D rendering.

A strong CPU can help stabilize PC game download times while we continue to work at the same time too. Hey, I’m guilty of downloading Steam games in the background while completing projects concurrently, and I’m sure many others out there do it as well!

The CPU also plays a huge part in streamlining animation, which an elite gaming PC would have no trouble with. If our work revolves around simulations and industrial designs, a fool-proof CPU is a must-have.

Is the GPU Important for CAD?

Many CAD programs are used to illustrate real-world functionalities and scenarios based on a respective visual design and layout, so isn’t the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) – a.k.a. graphics cards – considered a crucial component for CAD too? 

Yes, the GPU is an important hardware that’s utilized by 3D-intensive CAD software. However, its role isn’t as crucial as the CPU and RAM, especially when it comes to managing 2D CAD projects or applications. 

For dedicated professions, like architects or civil engineers, a powerful GPU is necessary, particularly a gaming one for those who are also PC hobbyists. Some even use gaming keyboards for their precise keystrokes and prompt feedback, completing the package!

To minimize the costs incurred when building or buying a CAD-ready computer, we can have one that doesn’t come with a disc drive instead, using an external hard drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD) as backup when we need it.

A comprehensive PC setup can indeed be quite expensive, so it’s fine to brainstorm for alternatives to make everything work within a budget, especially for those who are still fresh in their careers.

Does CAD Take Up a Lot of RAM?

Big design drawings and maps consistently draw their sources from computer assets when loaded by a CAD program. So, doesn’t this use up a lot of the PC’s RAM?

Yes, large CAD projects usually consume a lot of the computer’s RAM. Essentially, 3D industrial plans or extensive design layouts might have hundreds of the same textures and materials loaded for one respective drawing, so the RAM helps out by letting us load them from the RAM instead of the primary storage drive, saving time.

This works the same way for PC games as well, meaning a large chunk of the in-game assets are stored inside the RAM after the first time they are loaded, making subsequent loading times significantly faster.

Investing top money in the best hardware for CAD is genuinely a worthy endeavor if our work demands it. As a PC gamer, I’d say the same thing for PC gaming too.

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