Upgrading a home system for Revit
August 15, 2011 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to upgrade my home computer to be able to run Revit, but I'm a complete n00b for anything having to do with looking under the hood of my computer and switching out/augmenting hardware. Please help me figure out what components I've got currently, what I need to upgrade, and what potential conflicts will arise.

I have a fairly new HP computer that runs Windows 7 Home Premium on a 64 bit system. System requirements for Revit are here (you'll need to click the drop-down for the correct system - I will not be doing anything crazy, so the base 64 bit recommendations should be enough).

I'm OK on the monitor and chip as far as I can tell - I have a AMD Athlon II x4 630 2.8GHz processor, and a 1920x1080 monitor.

I know I'll need to upgrade the RAM - I've got 4GB, and need to add at least another 4 (I'd like to add 8, and supposedly can put in as much as 16 total, but I don't know in what configuration).

My video adapter is what might need a kick - I've got an ATI Radeon HD 4200, which isn't really listed on the AutoDesk site (a Radeon 4600 passes their tests, a 3600 fails to display hidden lines, but neither are "certified").

So, basically, do I need to upgrade the video card (is that what it even is any more?)? Will having to do so necessitate other hardware changes to the system? Can I safely just plug in a couple 4GB sticks of RAM?

I can come back in and answer questions as they arise.
posted by LionIndex to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
It sounds like you're on the right track! I would try running it with your current video card and see how it goes before upgrading that. Make sure you have an updated driver for your video card. In my experience, the display driver on the video card manufacturer's website was more stable than the "optimized for Autodesk" driver I got from Autodesk, but your mileage may vary, and you can certainly try one and then install the other if you have issues.

Crucial has a system scanner that will give you some recommendations on what RAM your system will take. You probably know that there are several types of RAM; once you know what you need you can shop around.

I am no expert, but I have installed, used, and supported Revit for an office full of reluctant designers. :)
posted by beandip at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2011

My 2 cents: If you can afford Revit, you should probably buy a real professional video card. The one you have is an onboard chip that shares memory with the system RAM. I seriously doubt you're going to get any adequate performance out of it for real pro work.
posted by BeerFilter at 2:21 PM on August 15, 2011

My 2 cents: If you can afford Revit, you should probably buy a real professional video card.

Aha, there's the rub - I can't afford Revit. I'm getting from someone I'm doing moonlighting work for. Like I said, I don't plan on doing fly-throughs or completely rendered models just yet - probably just workaday models that will function as construction documents.

I guess the crux of my question is this though: if I do decide to upgrade the video card, will I have to replace or reconfigure anything else? Like, will I be able to just stick it on the motherboard I've already got?
posted by LionIndex at 3:30 PM on August 15, 2011

What's the model number of the HP or the memory currently installed?
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:30 PM on August 15, 2011

First of all, your CPU does not meet the requirements they list on their website for the 64-bit version, only the 32-bit version. Their site says it requires at least a Intel Core i5-2300, which is a very fast CPU. However, that requirement seems suspiciously high compared to the 32-bit Vista/7 and 64-bit XP requirements, so you're probably ok.

Secondly, your ATI 4200 is a built-in GPU (built into your motherboard, not a standalone product.), which means it probably won't cut it. It's equivalent to roughly a standalone ATI HD2400, which makes their list, but is not recommended or certified.

You could possibly gamble and go with a gaming card. I use an ATI 4870 with no issues in Solidworks 2010 (Which is basically a pared-down FirePro 3D V8700). Workstation cards are just gaming cards that are a little more stable and certified, sometimes with more Video RAM.

Finally, RAM is usually pretty straightforward, but you need to know some things first. Namely, how many slots do you have, and how many are being taken up by your existing RAM? You'll want to buy RAM the same speed as your current stuff, but apart from that it's not too complicated.
posted by JauntyFedora at 7:57 PM on August 15, 2011

Their site says it requires at least a Intel Core i5-2300, which is a very fast CPU.

It says that, or an equivalent AMD processor. I've got a quad-core 2.8 GHz, which seems to match spec.

What's the model number of the HP or the memory currently installed?

It doesn't say anything on the actual box (like, a logo or anything), but my receipt says it's a HP P6510F. It's got 4GB of RAM installed, but I don't know the configuration or type. When I purchased it, it was supposedly upgradable to 16GB. Is there a way to determine the type of RAM without opening up the box?
posted by LionIndex at 10:39 PM on August 15, 2011

Your quad-core 2.8GHz is significantly slower than the i5-2300, but it's probably close enough, like I said.

There should be a sticker on the back somewhere with the service number or the like, but assuming you bought the stock config and didn't order any upgrades, it looks like you have 4 RAM slots, of which 2 are filled with 2 GB apiece of DDR3 1066. This means you can pick up 2x4GB for a total of 12 GB no problem.

With regards to the graphics card, the computer only comes with a 250W power supply, which means upgrading to a significantly better graphics card than yours would put you at risk of blowing your power supply out. Decent 400-500W power supplies can be had starting at about $40.
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:26 AM on August 16, 2011

P.S. There aren't too many 2x4GB 1066 kits of RAM, this being one of them, but you can typically downclock faster RAM at the 1333, 1600, and 1833 speeds as well. This 1333 kit is actually cheaper
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:32 AM on August 16, 2011

Is it at all possible to just take out the 1066 RAM that I've got and replace it with 1333 without downclocking it, or is that a system limitation rather than a compatibility issue? It might be better to just do that and fill up all four slots. I don't know if Revit is like AutoCAD, but all the performance issues I've ever had with ACAD were memory related, rather than processor speed, or at least that's our office IT guys would tell me.
posted by LionIndex at 6:43 AM on August 16, 2011

From the HP website:
Memory upgrade information:

Four DDR3 DIMM (240-pin) sockets
Supports 1 GB, 2 GB, and 4 GB DDR3 DIMMs per socket
Supports Dual channel memory architecture
Supported speeds
PC3-10600 @ 1333 MHz*
PC3-8500 @ 1066 MHz
*DDR3-1333 modules run at 1066 MHz if three or more modules are installed.

Non-ECC memory only, unbuffered
Supports up to 16 GB on 64-bit PCs (DIMMs run at DDR3-1066)

So basically you'll be limited to 1066 MHz if you want to go higher than 8 GB, since 6 and 8 GB sticks are not supported. The difference in speed between 1066 and 1333 is pretty negligible anyways.
posted by JauntyFedora at 10:41 AM on August 16, 2011

OK, great. Thanks for the notice about the power supply.
posted by LionIndex at 11:20 AM on August 16, 2011

Just for the benefit of future browsers, I'll list what I ended up doing here.

Based on the advice given here and my own research, I ended up getting a pack of three 4GB memory sticks that rated at 1333 MHz from my local Fry's. As noted, the 1066 memory was basically the same price for just one 4GB stick.

Fry's doesn't carry professional video cards, so I had to order it from NewEgg, basically using the link provided by BeerFilter. I cross-referenced the NewEgg list with the Revit requirements and the available expansion slot on my motherboard, which was a PCI Express 16. Turns out there's only one ATI card that would fit in there and meet Revit specs, so I got that one (the Fire GL 7600).

That video card requires a 450W power supply, so I went back to Fry's and got a 650 just to be extra-mega-double sure that nothing else in the system was underpowered.

Just this last Saturday, I opened up my computer for the first time ever and put it all in. As it happens, it was actually really easy - the only thing that was the least bit complicated was noting the connections from the power supply, and the new power supply I got has something like 4x the possible connections my old one did, so that got a little hairy. Otherwise, piece of cake. I took the old supply out first to get all the wires out of the way, then put in the memory (I put in the 3 new ones and took out one of the old ones so I now have a total of 14GB avaliable), then knocked out the plates on the back of the case and put in the video card. Then I put in the new power supply and hooked it up to everything. After that I hooked up all the peripherals again and powered up. The video card took a restart to figure itself out, but otherwise it went perfectly, and I'm now running Revit on my home computer.

The whole process was surprisingly easy given how much I was stressing over it. It seems that the hard part is making sure you're getting the correct components in the first place, and after that it's a breeze.
posted by LionIndex at 1:29 PM on September 26, 2011

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