New Release: SolidWorks Crash-Free Edition

Ok, I”m pulling your leg. There is no such thing. The funny thing is that some people think there is one. Some people crash and crash and crash. I don”t doubt that there are people who have real problems with the software continually crashing, but there are also a lot of people, me included, who don”t have crash problems. It doesn”t have anything to do with a different edition of the software, it has most to do with “computer hygiene”.\n\nJust so there is no misunderstanding, what I”m saying is that if you are crashing more than say a couple times a week, the fault is most likely your own. Doesn”t it make you angry when people attack the victim? How can it be my fault? I install the software, the software crashes. Period. End of story. I didn”t write the software. It”s SW”s fault!\n\nNo, it”s your fault, and here”s why. It”s not because I”m a SW corporate shill, or because I”m trying to make nice with someone at SW I want a favor from. I haven”t sold out or caved in or given up. I”ve just seen enough of real problems and real solutions to know that that there are things that really make a difference. And if you don”t listen this time, well, that”s not my fault.\n

Crashes will find YOU personally

\nThe number 1 trait of people who don”t crash SW continuously is that we are a little bit anal retentive. If you are sloppy, or assume that because you can do things it means that you should do them, or if you don”t pay attention to warnings or best practice or recommendations, you are a good candidate for a slew of SW crashes. Basically, if your computer hygiene habits are lax, you run a greater risk of crashing.\n

Buying a computer that won”t crash SW

\nI know a lot of people are going to disagree with all of this, but that doesn”t matter to me. If you are crashing and can”t fix it, you need to hear this.\n\nThe first thing you need to do is to buy a computer from an organization that offers a warrantee. An organization that tests configurations and has a burn-in procedure, and will take the whole thing back if it doesn”t work. That means that you shouldn”t build your own. Build-your-own computers are a big source of unsolvable crashes. Underpowered power supplies, incompatible components, IRQ conflicts between obscure components, overclocking, and lots of stuff you or I don”t understand. Yes, I know there are people who are very successful with building their own computers. If you are crashing all the time and you have built your own, you are not one of them. Sorry.\n\nThere are two kinds of mistakes you can make when getting a computer to run SolidWorks: buying cheap crap and buying expensive crap.\n

Be Conservative

\nSeriously. You can still vote for Obama, but don”t push your selection of hardware and other software to the bleeding edge. Back off a little bit. The newest stuff may sound really cool, but choose the tried and true over the latest thing you saw in a gaming blog. It”s so tempting, and you gotta be cool, but if you are having crashes that you can”t solve, you need outside help, and being conservative with hardware selection is safe advice.\n\nDo you really need RAID 0? It”s 3X more likely to fail than a normal hard drive set up, and costs more. The most expensive doesn”t mean the best. 16 GB of DDR3 RAM? talk to someone who configures computers for a living. It may be a big expense that doesn”t buy you much. SLI? Bluetooth? Are you really gonna use that?\n

Video Cards

\nThis is the last time I”m going to say this. ATI Radeon cards are crap for SolidWorks. Really. I don”t care what the frame rate specs are, they are crap for SolidWorks. They are meant for DirectX not OpenGL. I know they are supposed to be compatible with OpenGL, but there is a difference between theory and practice. I know it is just corporate greed that makes you pay more for a Quadro than a GeForce, but you gotta take the hit on this one. Are you crashing with your Radeon? See. Told you.\n\nGet an nVidia Quadro. Don”t go cheap (NVS = a 2D card), but you don”t have to double the cost of your new PC with a 4600 or 5600 either. A 570 works. 1700 is better. You may not see any benefit between the 1700 and a 5600. A lot of people try to low-ball video cards. Trust me, this is not a good place to save a couple bucks. On the other hand, I think a lot of people waste money on $2000+ graphics cards that don”t deliver that much benefit. Expect to pay $300-$500 for a decent video card. It”s a business expense.\n

Operating system

\nAt this point, XP is still a safe bet, but it may not age well. New hardware that comes out a couple years down the line may not have drivers written for XP. On the other hand, your existing hardware may not have drivers for Vista, especially if you go 64 bit. From a SolidWorks standpoint, either XP or Vista should work.\n\nDo you need 64 bit? Are you on the verge of needing 64 bit? Everything is moving eventually to 64 bit. If you choose Vista, Vista requires at least an additional gig of RAM just to make it work. Vista 32 almost doesn”t make any sense. If you have data sets that drive your computer to use over 2 GB of memory, you should move to 64 bit. There is still some software or hardware that doesn”t run on 64 bit, which is a bummer. You may be forced to dual boot, so you have a machine that can run with large data sets, and will also use all your software and hardware (just not at the same time).\n

Processor

\nThe big question here is dual or quad? Depends. If you use Cosmos or Photoworks a lot, go quad. If you do complex sheet metal parts, go dual. If you do surface modeling, quad might help, but I would go dual. In general, clock speed is important, and quads generally have slower clock speeds than duals. If you are doing machine design, quads are probably not going to help you much. Complex drawings of large assemblies may benefit from quads. Much of this is still black art, because SolidWorks refuses to say anything really definitive here. I know that multibody models take advantage of multicore processors, but don”t have any direct experience with quad core or double dual core.\n

PC or Mac

\nDon”t be a moron. Would you buy a Volkswagen Beetle to haul lumber? No. You wouldn”t. Sure it”s cute, but it”s not made for the job. If you buy a Mac to run SolidWorks, you might as well just throw away $2000 and get something that will work better. Mac does not offer an adequate selection of hardware. They break most of the recommendations I”ve made here. If you want a Mac, that”s fine. Go get a Mac, but I wouldn”t recommend it for anything other than casual use of SolidWorks. I know, some people claim they work great, but people claim to get good results with Radeon cards, and some people actually voted for Jimmy Carter. Lots of things sound like a good idea at the time, but what it does in practice is what”s important. Mac gives you very limited options for video card and processor. The options they do give tend to be ridiculous, such as dual quad cores and the 5600 video.\n

Other software

\nI always keep 2 computers. An older one for messing around (iTunes, internet, email, installing junk apps, etc) and one for real work (SolidWorks, MS Office). Don”t install crap on your SolidWorks computer. Really, just don”t do it.\n

System Maintenance

\nFirst, make sure you have a back up image of your computer set up. Really, do it. Make sure the image is taken when things are fresh and new. If you have to reformat your hard drive and reinstall the OS to get this, it will be worthwhile. If you are crashing a lot, a reformat may be in the cards for you anyway. Remove software you don”t use. Use C-Cleaner to clean the crap out of your registry, and your temp file junk. Run defrag once a week. It is best if you can run without real time antivirus, but make sure you are behind a good firewall, and make sure to scan all your data at night.\n\nJust in general, treat your computer as if your job depends on it. Be sober and serious about what you put on it or in it. Be a little anal about this because it will prevent you from crashing a lot. Go home and play World of Warcraft, turn the radio on or use your iPod instead of iTunes, use an old retired CAD box to put junk apps on, with a KVM switch to change between CAD box and junk box.\n

Dealing with corporate IT nazis

\nIf you have to deal with corporate IT nazis, sorry. Sometimes they put stuff on your system that is the cause of problems. If they make you use Novell, it”s time to find a new job. If they put monitoring software on your computer, I”d scan my ass and fax it to the CEO, tattoos and all. Companies that don”t trust their employees need to stop hiring off the bottom of the barrel or fire their paranoid IT director. Computers are tools, not priviledges.\n\nI understand that none of this is really helpful advice, but you often can”t win the fight against bad IT policy, so I recommend taking any revenge you can. I busted an IT department at a large company when I was brought in as a consultant and the IT fellow completely wasted a day of paid consulting time. He was apologetic and cooperative for my second visit (after my report to the boss).\n\nAt one job I was able to negotiate semi-IT status as the CAD admin. This company had a great bunch of guys in IT. They truly helped rather than hindered the effort. You”ve often got to make the case to management as to why SolidWorks users need more control and access than word processor or spread sheet users.\n

Summary

\nAnyway, I hope you get the picture. Having no crashes is no accident. It really does make a difference when you are more careful about what you do.

22 Replies to “New Release: SolidWorks Crash-Free Edition”

  1. @SoupMan
    Ok, you win. The fact that you can’t do simple maintenance on your computer is someone elses fault. Now that we have that settled, I’m going to close comments on this post. Thanks for being so wonderful.

  2. @SoupMan
    Ok, so a year and a half after I write the post SW has a bug that everyone finds out about, and somehow that is a vindication for sloppy maintenance? I think you’ve missed the point. But I’m fine with folks missing the point on this one.

  3. Wow
    I just came across this article and have to say that for the most part I agree with what you say. But, to lump EVERYONE together in one big generalized group saying and I quote “No, it’s your fault” and yet when YOU have a crash, it’s not your fault. Talk about a hypocrite. Do you smack your chin at the top of a door frame when you walk through a doorway?

    My experience started with SW2006 and I found that SW2008 seemed to be the most stable version in my opinion….very rarely had a crash thankfully. Then when 2009 came out the issues started only to be followed up by 2010 which can arguably be considered worde than 2009.

    Please use a little bit of rationale when talking about people outside your own little world.

    1. I guess this old blog post is still tickling nerves. Ok, I’ll tell you what. I’ll be as charitable as you. My experience with version reliability was exactly opposite of yours. I think 2010 is pretty good, and 2008 was pretty bad.

      Anyway, the point of the post is that “you” (not you specifically, but “you” whoever is having problems with a lot of crashes) can control your own fate to some extent. If you are crashing a lot, it may be your fault. There are plenty of people who don’t crash a lot, and that is also their “fault”.

  4. Matt,
    True that the Hitler comment was an exageration but sometimes people need such analogies. I’m trying not to hang on every word you write but it’s hard because it almost looks like you don’t read what I write. Looking at your response: ‘If you keep failing’. Where did you see that I was failing? No, instead I actually make sure applications don’t fail instead of expecting users to follow a very strict path. It’s obvious you took offense to my initial comments and it’s also VERY obvious that you hate the general computer user. It’s also obvious you didn’t get that I’m not a solidworks user but rather the individual supporting the users with problems (using machines as speced by Solidworks web site)

    Quoting you again: ‘When I crash, it is usually due to data…’.
    According to this article, IT’S YOUR FAULT, nobody else.

  5. So Matt, what your saying is, blame the thousands of users for miss use of software instead of the small group of programmers who didn’t make it bullet proof. That’s what Hitler did in WW2. He blamed the Jewish for Germany’s problems.

    It’s time for IT professionals (help desk, software developers…) to take accountability for their mistakes and to stop blaming users. I’m so tired of hearing IT people saying users are the problem. NO, users aren’t the problem, they are just trying to do their work. If you didn’t provide them the right tool, then it’s your fault.

    1. SoupMan,

      First of all, when you start comparing people to Hitler, it is a sure sign that you are exaggerating, and not just a little. What I’m saying is that it is possible to use the software successfully if you follow some common sense rules. I’m not asking you to index War and Peace, I’m asking you to pull your tongue out of the electrical socket. I can say that I follow the common sense suggestions, and I don’t have tons of crashes. I push the software in some directions harder than most people. When I crash, it is usually due to data corruption, and when I crash a lot, it is always due to data corruption. Data corruption is still the programmer’s fault, but I can sometimes fix that. It’s the difference between pointless crying and maybe a little swearing with determined hard work. If you keep failing, that’s good for me. I could use some extra work right now. Please send your employer to my site so they can see the difference between a whiner and a doer.

  6. @SoupMan
    Well, the difference between you and someone who follows the suggestions is that you are going to be grumpy, blaming people without results, and, in your words, “CRASH AFTER CRASH AFTER CRASH” and people who can follow the suggestions are going to be less dissatisfied and more productive. You tell me which method is “Bull crap”.

  7. Although I don’t fully agree, I think your post is a very good guide for those starting to spec a system to use solidworks

    The part about it being peoples fault if software crashes is Bull crap. By stating that you agree that Microsoft has no blame in the millions of bugs they’ve ever had. In addition you also approve that releasing 3-6 service packs per year is acceptable (that’s what Solidworks does).

    Here’s a little history to prove my point:
    – When we first started with Solidworks, we had no problems
    – 2009 was released, we upgraded all users. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. Until service pack 3 came out, we would experience CRASH AFTER CRASH AFTER CRASH… Once service pack 3 was released, problems all went away
    – 2010 just came out not long ago. When it first came out we had small issues. Service pack 2 came and and now all users systems crash between 3 to 10 times a day

    All this to say that large applications like Solidworks are very difficult to adapt to the variety of systems out there. I’m a software developper and I can assure you that you can rarelly blame a user for doing what he does. If the software ISN’T strong enough to sustain your user habits and environements, then you must define what these environments and habits MUST be.

  8. Doesn’t selecting ‘Verification On Rebuild’ kinda do this?

    ****

    I’m not entirely sure I understand what you’re saying here. VOR makes sure there are no geometry self intersection errors, it doesn’t verify that there are no data errors. I’ve heard the request several times that SW provide some sort of data verification other than sending your stuff to support.

  9. Ditto what Greazz256 said.

    The one thing I would add is that there seem to be certain problem files that increase the odds of crashing. I’ve had SW Corp clean up a problem file, but it was delayed enough that it wasn’t worth re-doing all the work we’ve added to the file since the copy they had was created.

    I wish SW would make an “audit” command available to detect corrupted files. Even if the command didn’t fix anything in a file, at least we had a chance to detect where a problem is early in the game.

    Joe Dunfee

    ****

    Oh, yeah, totally agree. I crashed like 7 times on Friday doing draft features on one particular part. Very rarely crash otherwise. Started working on a different part and the crashes went away. I totally agree about the “audit” feature. Honestly, the things SW is most likely to put into the software come from Inventor and Solid Edge. Convince one of them to do that sort of feature, and SW may follow suit.

  10. Hi all,

    Great article, but left me a little worried, and I’d love anyone’s opinion on this:

    Just ordered the stuff for a new all-around system, and went with a radeon 4870, since all the Autodesk stuff now supports it, and it seemed preferable to selling my soul for a fireGL (I’m a student, and this is also my only computer.) I was hoping I’d also be able to run SW competently for basic stuff (50-100 part assemblies, not much rendering, but some use of Cosmos). I was under the impression that the FEA calculation stuff is more CPU limited, so I got a core 2 quad, but I guess it’s moot if SW crashes constantly. Am I totally screwed?

    Thanks!
    -G

    ****

    G,

    You might not be totally screwed, but the Radeon isn’t going to do you any favors with SolidWorks. I think the nVidia Quadro 570 is one of the less expensive cards that are recommended. The quad proc should be ok if you’re doing Cosmos. The rest of it will depend on stuff like memory and mobo, and I can’t tell you if that will work or not.

  11. Matt,
    I agee with all you’ve said and would loved to written this post myself as it’s word for word my experances too.
    Steve Hanwright

    ****
    Thanks, mate!

    Matt

  12. Lots of good points, but from the side of a user who experiences large numbers of crashes, with a fresh install of windows xp x64, a properly spec’ed, prebuilt workstation, and following most of the above, these things don’t always help.

    For my company at least the majority of crashes occur with huge assemblies (>15000 parts) and even more so with the solid works routing. We have to open files fully resolved due to the frequency of pseudo random crashes with lightweight. That being said, another employee here works mostly on relatively small components and never has problems with crashing. Which leads me to my point, I think that there probably are people who need to maintain there computers better, or should pay more attention to what hardware they use, but the bigger difference between those who crash and those who don’t is probably what they are working on.

    I also firmly believe when you pay money (let alone a large sum of money) for software you should be given a fully tested, fully working piece of software. We don’t buy solid works to be beta testers.

    I should also note that even with all the annoyance of having solid works crash frequently, not to mention the wasted hours of work waiting for models/drawings to reload (some of which take >20mins) Solid works is still infinitely better then making all of the drawings by hand or even with autocad.

    ****

    If you’re running Routing, you’re what I call a “high risk user”. Routing has historically been terrible from a stability standpoint. I haven’t used it much in a few years.

  13. Matt,

    If you were going to order a brand new CAD workstation from Dell right now what are the specs that you would get on it. We don’t do a lot of complicated stuff, mainly solid bodies and assemblies in the 500-1000 part range.

    Jason

    ****
    Check this out. I recently did buy a machine, just not from Dell. https://dezignstuff.com/blog/?p=176

    Anyway, I’d get get the fastest Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB RAM to start, 570 or 1700 graphics, and Vista 64 dual booted with an old recycled XP 32 license you have lying around which you can install yourself later. It kind of depends how much money you want to throw at it. I think you can get a perfectly good stripped down CAD box for at or just under $2000. If you want quads, the 5600 graphics and RAID and water cooling, and DDR3 with 15k rpm drives or solid state drives, you could easily get up to $6k or more.

    I’d stay away from the Xeons, quads, ddr3 and high end graphics. I’m not an expert at this stuff, but people who I take advice from are, and that is the direction they steered me. The reasons were that the gains you get are not in proportion to the money you spend.

  14. I couldn’t agree with you more, Matt. I’ve been up on that soapbox myself in the past a few times.
    It never ceases to amaze me how a small segment of users constantly have crashes, and immediately blame the software, when there are so many others that don’t experience crashes at a comparable rate. You’d think it’d make that small segment scratch their heads and think “hmmm, maybe it *is* something I/we did…”
    No matter, it just provides future post fodder.

    ****

    Thanks, Jeff. Yeah, these people crack me up. They complain about the software, but they don’t do anything about it.

  15. Hi
    good points
    If one dosn’t have a 2nd computer vmware is a good option
    to be used for tests or other software .This way you keep your main machine clean and it’s also very easy to recover if something go wrong.

    Thanks
    Dudi Peer

  16. Great post. This will be news to many, but it should be common sense.

    Thanks,
    Rod Levin

    ****
    Rod,

    Thanks. I expected resellers would agree with this point of view. It was one I developed when I worked for a reseller. People don’t believe resellers when they say this stuff, but it really is true.

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