EDIT: This article has been updated in Building a Solidworks PC – 2017 Edition
The core of a good Solidworks workstation should be a fast CPU, lots of RAM, and a Solidworks approved workstation graphics card.
Solidworks performance is limited by the CPU and unfortunately only runs single-core for everything except simulation and rendering. An Intel i7-4770 processor will provide good performance for the price even if you’re using only a single core on the chip.
16GB of RAM is a minimum and important for dealing with large assemblies. This stuff is cheap and can easily be expanded in the future.
A basic CAD workstation graphics card should be sufficient and won’t hinder performance. They key here is stability and performance with Solidworks which is why you want something like the Quadro K2000. Workstations graphics cards are essentially glorified gaming cards but they have extremely stable drivers.
Those are the important bits, the following list covers the complete build. All components are from Amazon because they have fairly competitive prices and good customer service. Shop around though, your experience may vary.
The system price at time of writing is is $1495. Part prices are not listed here because they seem to change week to week. Expect the system price to trend downward in the next few months.
Processor – Intel i7-4770 – good performance for the price
Motherboard – MSI Z97 PC Mate LGA – feature-rich motherboard to provide flexibility in the future, has a fancy BIOS and will support up to 32gb of RAM
Graphics Card – Quadro K2000 – you’re paying for stability here
Memory – Kingston 16GB – fast and cost effective
Storage – Samsung SSD 840 EVO-Series 500GB – a nice solid state drive for speedy performance, I think it’s important to stick with a name brand here to ensure good performance over the life of the drive
DVD – LG Electronics 24X – sigh, can’t quite escape physical discs yet. With writing feature for all of your documentation purposes.
Case – Corsair Carbide Series 200R – a nice clean case that’s easy to work on
Power Supply – Rosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 550W – Solid power supply with more than enough wattage, will support expansion in the future
OS – Windows 7 64-bit OEM – The old standard here, I prefer it over Windows 8
That’s everything you need for a complete build! The case comes with all necessary hardware and fans, the power supply has all the cables, and the CPU has it’s own cooler and heatsink.
Need monitors? I’m a big fan of the 24-inch Dell Ultrasharp because of the positioning flexibility. It’s easy to setup your dual monitor view in any configuration. Ergonomics are a big deal if you’re sitting in front of monitors for 8+ hours a day.