Do I Need a Graphics Card to Run AutoCAD Software? 

Do I Need a Graphics Card to Run AutoCAD Software?

Are you wondering if you need a graphics card to run AutoCAD software? If you’re looking to get into AutoCAD software, it’s smart to ensure you have a sufficient computer for the job. 

A graphics card is highly recommended for AutoCAD software, particularly for very detailed 3D modeling. While you may be able to “get by” in some cases without a dedicated graphics card, it will slow you down and could leave you feeling frustrated. For the best information on required computational power, look at the specific requirements listed for the AutoCAD software you want to use. 

You need a computer with enough power to easily run the system you choose. In the sections below, we’ll talk about a few more things to keep in mind when preparing a computer for CAD software. 

Why Your Computer Needs a Graphics Card for AutoCAD Software

A graphics card, or GPU, or just a video card is a piece of hardware that deals with video and images. You often hear about gamers using graphic cards to help run the complex graphics and images in their games. Without a good graphics card, you will run into all sorts of problems. 

After we talk about the reasons a graphics card is necessary for a smooth experience with AutoCAD, we’ll talk about the differences between several different types of graphics cards – particularly those that are built into the computer already, integrated graphics cards, and those that are attached to the computer, dedicated graphics cards.

We’ll also talk about why not all graphics cards are created equal, and you want to ensure you get one that’s suited for the work you’re doing. 

Here are the reasons it’s wise to have a graphics card for AutoCAD software: 

  • Better overall performance 
  • Realistic imaging 
  • Zooming and rotating 
  • Processing time for final renders 

Now let’s look at these things in more depth. Know that this is just a small sample of some of the things a graphics card can help with. Some types of designs will require different equipment. 

Better Overall Performance of AutoCAD 

Having a graphics card will just make your experience better in every way. There are many reasons for this, but the best way to describe it might be to use an example. 

Though not necessarily related to how it works, the example we’ll give below will help you understand how a graphics card can improve your AutoCAD experience. 

Imagine you rent a DVD from the video store. You’ve been looking forward to watching this movie and you sit down ready to enjoy the film. But as you’re watching you realize that someone failed to clean the disk, or it was scratched. The entire time you’re watching the movie, you have to endure a bunch of skips and pauses. Not only is this jarring and irritating, but it makes the movie last longer and causes you to miss the story. 

A similar thing happens when you try to run AutoCAD software on a system that can’t handle it. Instead of a smooth experience where you can easily do what you need to do, you run into a bunch of glitches, freezes, and a choppy experience.

Let’s talk about a few more specifics. 

Realistic Imaging 

If you’re doing some high-level AutoCAD work, you’ll struggle to get by without a powerful graphics card. These days, it’s not uncommon for people to design and create photorealistic 3D images on their computers. These designs are complete with minute details like the textures of a carpet, realistic lighting, and accurate shadows. 

All of this hyperrealism is meant to give us the best experience when it comes to design, allowing some to even use VR technology to experience their design with full immersion. Again, for this level of detail and realism, the computer is doing a lot of heavy lifting and a graphics card is a huge help. 

Now let’s talk about some other practical aspects of using computer-aided design software. 

Zooming and Panning 

Just the simple task of zooming in on detailed images can be difficult for an underpowered computer. A similar (though different as was a mechanics) situation that anyone can understand is zooming in on a map on our phones. When our phones are slow, the map breaks up and won’t load, leaving us sitting there, waiting and wondering. 

The same thing happens when using advanced AutoCAD software on a low powered computer without a good graphics card. If you’re trying to zoom in on an image, you want that image to load and change sizes quickly. Without a good graphics card, the image may take time to load, slowing you down and reducing the experience. 

Let’s talk about one more technical aspect of graphics cards and AutoCAD software. 

Final Rendering of Images 

Once you’ve completed a design, you’ll want to perform the final rendering. Without a graphics card, this process can take a lot more time. Also, when you try to load a complex image onto the system, it can be difficult. 

The bottom line is that you want your system to be able to comfortably do all the work you need to do. Being slowed down will only lead to frustration. This is especially a problem for beginners. They might think that they just don’t understand the software when really, it’s the hardware and software components that are holding them back. 

Now let’s talk about two types of graphics cards. 

Integrated and Dedicated Graphics Cards for AutoCAD 

Let’s talk about two types of graphics cards, namely integrated and dedicated. We’ll look at the differences between these two and why the latter is usually preferable for AutoCAD and CAD in general. 

Some people say you don’t need a graphics card for CAD software. However, the truth is that what they really mean is you don’t need a dedicated graphics card. What’s the difference? That’s what this section is all about. There are many names for these (as is the case in the tech world) but we will just call them integrated and dedicated. 

Two types of graphics cards: 

  • Integrated 
  • Dedicated 

Let’s look at these in more depth. If you’re curious, here’s a video about the computer and graphics card needed for CAD

Integrated Graphics Cards 

These cards are built into the motherboard of your computer. Most computers will come with some type of graphic card built in. These graphics cards allow you to watch videos online and play simple games, and for their purpose, they usually work pretty well. 

However, when you’re trying to run more advanced software such as AutoCAD, the integrated graphics card isn’t always up to speed. For a better experience, you can try to buy a computer that already has a high-powered internal graphics card, but most people end up buying a dedicated graphics card for these more strenuous tasks. 

But the benefits of the integrated graphics card are that it’s cheap, and it can get you by for low-level tasks. Let’s talk about the dedicated GPU, which is what most people are talking about when they say graphics card. 

Dedicated Graphics Card for AutoCAD

The dedicated graphics card is installed into the computer after purchase and requires that the receiving computer has a port compatible with the graphics card. 

The dedicated graphic card represents a significant cost, but it also allows you to have a much smoother experience when dealing with powerful AutoCAD systems. If you’re serious about using AutoCAD software, then you should research good graphics cards. 

Get the Right Graphics Card for CAD 

Just as there are two general types of graphics cards based on how they are installed into the computer itself, there are also various types of graphics cards for different tasks. In this section, we’ll talk about a common mistake people make when they go and buy themselves a graphics card for their AutoCAD software. 

Graphics Cards for Gaming 

Some graphics cards are designed specifically for gaming. A common question is: can I use a gaming graphics card for CAD? You can, but you’ll probably have a better time with a workstation graphics card that is designed for CAD. 

Graphics Cards for CAD

There are specific graphics cards designed for AutoCAD and CAD in general. If you know that you will primarily be using graphics cards for CAD, then look for a graphics card that is made for CAD software. Also, if you can, look at different people who have had similar experiences. 

Final Thoughts on Graphics Cards and AutoCAD Software 

You will need some type of graphics card to run AutoCAD software. Technically, you could get by with an internal graphics card, but only for smaller tasks – and you won’t have as smooth an experience. 

A dedicated graphics card that’s designed with CAD in mind will give you the best experience. Also, don’t forget the importance of a good computer. Everything will come into play when you’re using AutoCAD software, and you want to give yourself the best possible experience.

It’s not fun to constantly troubleshoot a crashing computer. Spend the money and get the set up the CAD software requires. But if you’re just doing simple CAD work or learning how to use the software, an expensive graphics card is not required.