One tip to get a little extra performance out of your SolidWorks system is to turn off your Add-ins.
For those that don’t know, Add-ins are software extras bundled with different packages of SolidWorks or supplied by third-party Gold Partners. They let us pull parts from a huge pre-defined library of bolts, screws, washers and nuts (Toolbox add-in), create photorealistic renders (PhotoView 360 add-in), simulate stress and strain on assemblies (Simulation add-in), or create automatic first article inspection reports (InspectionXpert add-in), all inside the SolidWorks interface. They’re useful, powerful, unique tools, but most folks don’t need them on all the time.
To see what Add-ins you have currently on, go to your ‘Tools’ pull-down menu, then all the way down to ‘Add-ins…’ Depending on your package of SolidWorks, you’ll see a window somewhat like this:
There are two columns of boxes you can check; the left hand column is what’s on now, the right hand is what will be loaded each time you start SolidWorks. I’ve got my Routing, Flow and 3D mouse add-ins loaded, but the last time I used Flow was for my convertible top-down/top-up MPG blog post many days ago. So why is that bad?
Another tool we use in Tech Support is perfmon, short for Performance Monitor. If you go to a command line in Windows and type ‘perfmon’, it will come up. (Searching for ‘Performance Monitor’ in Windows 7 also brings it up.) If you really want to know how much memory a program is using, this is the tool to use, not the wimpy CTRL-ALT-DEL Task Manager, (which isn’t short for anything at all). Perfmon lets you track literally hundreds of real-time variables about your machine on the same graph. I’ll just show you one to make it cleaner:
Since the graph wraps around horizontally, the red vertical line is when now is.
I’ve hit the green plus button at the top of Perfmon, then added a counter for ‘Process’, ‘Virtual Bytes’, for the process SLDWORKS.exe. This is a good representation of the memory my SolidWorks session is using, and at last count the blue line is flat at 834,183,168 bytes, or about 834 MB, which is in the range I’d expect with no part or assembly files open.
(Note: the counter is reporting in bytes, which are in the millions, but the graph only goes to 100. You can right click on the graph and choose ‘Properties’ to multiply the counter by a scale, and you’ll need to, to make your line fit on the screen.)
But what happens now if I turn on other SolidWorks Add-ins, like the Toolbox or PhotoView 360? Let’s see:
WOW! Look at that huge jump in memory usage!
Okay, I’m being a good scientist and not adjusting my graph scales to make the results more sensational, but I’ll change the scaling just this one time so you can see:
I closed SolidWorks to clear the memory before repeating the test, which is why the line starts off so low. The first jog in the vertical line is where SolidWorks paused to make me hit ‘OK’ on a pop-up window, and then it loaded completely and flatlined at around 850 MB, which is close to last time. I hit the Toolbox and Toolbox Browser add-ins and it jumped to around 950 MB. Adding PhotoView 360 made no noticeable change, but adding CircuitWorks did, taking it around 1000 MB of memory usage.
Some people don’t even work on files that are 150 MB in size, and just turning on a few add-ins took the same amount of memory, for no benefit? And a larger SolidWorks footprint to load means longer start-up times, longer shut down times, and less memory to do anything else on the computer.
Lesson learned: I’m going to turn off my Routing and Flow Simulation add-ins, not just now but in the start-up column too, and only turn them on when I need them. But I’m going to leave my 3D mouse add-in on because I use it every time I’m designing something (if you’ve never used a 3D Connexion mouse with your SolidWorks, please give us a call for a test drive- it will reduce wear on your mouse hand and change how you do everything). With those changes, my SolidWorks clocks in at a svelte 800 MB and loads about as fast as I can make it:
So turn off those add-ins you don’t need! Your RAM will thank you, and so will your co-workers if you’re sharing Professional or Premium licenses over a network. (Having just one Premium add-in on pulls an entire Premium license from the pool.) That’s all, and see you next time!
P.S.: Okay, I know you’re wondering about it, so here you go. Every one of my SolidWorks add-ins turned on at once:
(That’s 1325 MB of memory taken up, half a gigabyte more of my memory taken up than before, without a single file open!)