Setting up a BIM workstation can take some time. From unboxing to actually being ready-to-work you have to go through various ‘layers’ of installation, like:

  • updating Windows
  • installing major software packages
  • installing addins
  • installing useful system utilities that speed up your day

In a large, corporate IT environment, most of this is handled by an IT department, and usually these are set up as deployment images. However, in a small or medium office, you may have to do some of this work yourself.

With that in mind, I’m sharing my notes on the steps I took to get my Metabox portable BIM workstation up and running. I may start to put links against most of these steps as time allows, because I have posted about a lot of these programs before. Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or advice.

Installation Order – from unboxing to System Image:

  1. Windows 10 Pro (preinstalled)
  2. Sign in with a new, temporary, local user admin
  1. Do Windows Update Fix (see below)
  1. Setup E: drive (secondary large HDD, change drive mapping)
  2. Login with Microsoft (personal Id)
  3. Place OneDrive onto E: drive
  4. Change PC name
  5. Move Windows Downloads folder to E: drive
  6. Samsung Magician install – test speed of SSD. Very nice.
  7. Install Office 365 64-bit (work Id)
  8. Login with both Ids
  9. Change OneNote backup storage location to E: drive
  10. Delete previous Windows installations using Disk Cleanup
  11. All Windows updates again
  12. Box Sync install
  13. 3dconnexion software install
  14. Ccleaner install
  15. Teamviewer install, setup, login
  16. Set Desktop Scaling to 150%
  17. Revit 2015 install (not entire suite) from IDSU2015 media, perpetual license
    1. Transfer activation via Export / Import to Autodesk Id
    2. Confirm activation
  18. Building Design Suite Ultimate 2016 (subscription)
    1. Revit 2016
    2. Navisworks 2016
    3. AutoCAD MEP2016
    4. Raster Design
    5.  (not entire suite) via Install Now
    6. Confirm activation
  19. Infrastructure Suite 2017 (subscription)
    1. browser download method
    2. Revit 2017
    3. Navisworks 2017
    4. Civil3D 2017
    5. Raster Design
    6. Confirm activation
  20. Install Revit 2016 SDK R2
  21. Download and install latest version of Autodesk Desktop App
  22. Install Locate32
  23. Change Desktop App storage location to secondary drive?
  24. Autodesk Updates
    1. 2015 Updates

2016 Updates

  • Revit 2016
    • Revit 2016 Release 2
    • Revit 2016 R2 Update 6 Fixes
  • AutoCAD MEP 2016
    • AutoCAD MEP 2016 Service Pack 1
  • Navisworks 2016
    • Navisworks Manage 2016 SP4
    • SP4HF1
  • AutoCAD 2016
    • AutoCAD 2016 Hotfix 4

2017 Updates

  • Revit 2017
    • Revit 2017 SP2 Fixes
  • Autodesk Vehicle Tracking 2017
    • Autodesk Vehicle Tracking 2017 SP1
  • Recap 360 Pro 2017
    • Update 2 v3.0.2.12
  • Map 3D 2017
    • Map 3D 2017 SP1
  • AutoCAD 2017
    • AutoCAD 2017 SP1
  • 3DS Max 2017
    • 3DS Max 2017 SP2

Install BIM 360 Glue desktop app

Install latest Glue addins (Revit 2015, 2016, 2017)

Bit of a strange dialog box menu disappearing issue… so:

  1. Reinstall Chipset drivers
  2. Install Extreme Tuning Utility (for CPU overclock)

Had to manually remove ‘old’ Bim 360 glue addin from 2016 install, %programdata% location

Navisworks Exporter updates

  1. Navisworks 2016 R3 Exporter install
  2. Tested ok

Revit addin install:

  1. RTV Exporter
  2. Bonus Tools
  3. Unifi
  4. Revitlookup?
    1. All versions?

Uninstall Dynamo 0.9.1 (from 2017 install)Install Dynamo 1.1Install Autodesk ScreencastInstall Revizto

  1. Download building models

Set up Outlook

Install Firefox

Install Github Desktop

Install 7-zip https://sourceforge.net/p/sevenzip/discussion/45797/thread/3097bf8b/

Install Bluebeam Revu and activate

Reinstall Box Sync (due to some sync errors)

Install FreeFileSync

IFC Exporter Addins for Revit

  1. 2016
  2. 2017

Install Tekla Bimsight

  1. Move BIMsight storage location to E: drive

Properties+ addin for Navisworks

  1. Version 2.1.0 covers 2015, 2016, 2017

Install Advanced RenamerExport the ‘currently installed programs’ list from CcleanerInstall NotePad++

  • XML tools plugin
  • Use Language – XML for dyf etc editing.
  1. Install Paint.Net
  2. Install drivesnapshot
  3. Ccleaner – cleanup, empty recycle bin etc
  4. Revizto
  5. Create system image – done


Windows Update Fix

All Windows Updates

  1. Failed!
    1. And rolled itself back
    2. And wifi died
  2. Reset the pc using Windows Reset
  3. Connected to Lan port (no need for drivers)
  4. Internet problems so:
    1. Download all metabox drivers (1.8 Gb)
    2. Install Chipset
    3. Install Killer Wifi (2 x reboots)
    4. Killer BT (1 x reboot)
    5. Airplane mode utility (1 x reboot)
    6. Intel Management Engine interface
    7. Control Centre Utility (1 x reboot)
    8. Now, use Fn + F11 to turn off sleep mode.
  5. Almost thought wifi was working, but then…
    1. IRQL_ error again, BSOD
    2. Reboot BSOD
    1. Reset PC again!
    1. Now, use this page first https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10
    2. Download 3gb and update
    3. Multiple restarts
    4. Finally windows is up to date

Other software installed:

  1. Install BD writer software
  2. Install imgburn
  3.  Install Collaboration for Revit 2016
  4. Install Killer network software (updated)
  5. 1.jpg.png

  6. Install Onetastic (for OneNote macros etc)
  7. Install Dynamo Studio
  8. 2.png

  9. Install Google Chrome (For Flux.io etc)
  10. Install JDK 64 bit
  11. 3.png

  12. Install Bimserver:
  13. bimserver-1.4.0-FINAL-2015-11-04
  14. bimserverjar-1.5.55
  15. Install Adobe Flash Player
  16. Install Oculus software
  17. Install Vive software
  18. Install Irfanview
  19. Install Unity
  20. Install Enscape
  21. Install Wix https://wix.codeplex.com/releases/view/624906
  22. Install Q-Dir

Other errors and notes:Boot error fix:

  1. Received the winload.efi error
  2. Disabled UEFI boot
  3. Restart
  4. Enabled UEFI boot
  5. Restart
  6. Working again

XTU Update error:

4.png

 

C:\ProgramData\Intel\Intel Extreme Tuning Utility\Temp
Or

What specification did I end up with?
(Read the previous Part in this series to see how we established some baseline specs)

After checking out a few different manufacturers and comparing pricing, I decided to go with a Metabox rig.

Here are the details:
Metabox Prime-X P870DM-G

  • 17.3″ 4K QFHD 3840×2160 IPS WVA Matte 60Hz (100% SRGB) NVIDIA G-Sync LED
  • NVIDIA GeForce 980 (GXX) Extreme 8GB GDDR5 VRAM with G-Sync
  • Intel Core i7-6700K Processor (8M Cache up to 4.2 GHz)
  • 64GB DDR4 2400MHZ (4 x 16GB)
  • Samsung 950 Pro 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD
  • 2TB 5400RPM Slim line HDD
  • Killer 1535 AC Low Latency WIFI and Bluetooth

As you can see, it meets the following requirements:

  • 64GB RAM
  • High end desktop gaming graphics (not mobility)
  • High end consumer CPU
  • PCIe M.2 SSD

Here are some of the other things in the box:

  • External USB Slim Blu-ray Reader/Writer Optical Drive
  • Win 10 Professional 64BIT License & Media – Installed & Ready-Out-Of-The-Box
  • 2 Year Metabox Platinum Care Onsite Pickup Protection
  • Power DVD Bluray & DVD Playback w/ Burning Suite

And here is what it looks like when compared to a Surface Pro 3 (my previous site office rig):

A__B017.jpg

Metabox Prime-X P870DM-G

I’ve been using this system for serious work for about 2 months…

  • How did I set it up, and
  • How does it perform?

We will consider these question in future parts in this series.

So, you are in the market for a new BIM workstation? Recently I was too, and I wanted to share my experience and the ‘process’ of specifying, buying, and setting up a BIM workstation.

Over the years, I have been involved in setting the recommended specs for quite a number of CAD and BIM machines, and have used various suppliers – from big name brands, to the smaller PC builders. I personally feel that the big name brands rarely make sense in terms of what you get for what you spend. Many large firms will go with HP or Dell because they have some kind of long term agreement with them. But for small to medium businesses, you can definitely shop around to get maximum performance for your budget.

Target Applications
Firstly, you really need to clearly define the purpose of this machine… and this often boils down to “Which software am I going to use most of the time?” It can be good to put an estimated percentage on this.

For me, it would be something like:

  • Revit 30%
  • Navisworks 30%
  • Revizto 20%
  • Other 20%

Portability
Secondly, you need to determine if you need portability. I move around quite a lot, typically spending a few days in a site office, a day in our head office, and a day or two doing training or implementation work each week. So I need a powerful machine that can jump from desk to desk. I’m not overly concerned with battery life or even weight, as it won’t ever really be a ‘lap’ top, but rather a portable desktop workstation.

VM? VR?
I thought it would be worth mentioning that some people at this point would immediately jump to running a thin client of some sort, connected to a web host virtual machine with heaps of grunt. And that makes sense for some people. But I need to be able to run things like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and the internet connection is simply not good enough in parts of Australia to completely rely on a virtual workstation

vr1.png

Form Factor
With that in mind, I wanted to build the fastest portable Revit, Navisworks and Revizto machine without going too crazy on the budget. The Director here at Virtual Built understands the importance of good hardware, which is great. I have been in the situation at previous jobs where you are wrestling to get an outdated piece of hardware updated or refreshed… it can be a drawn out battle!

Moving on, what does the above actually mean in terms of platform and specs? I looked at mobile and compact tower PCs, but it didn’t seem practical. Some of these have a monitor engaged on the side of the tower, but again, this wasn’t really well suited to running meetings.

So, I ended up looking at laptops. I started to focus on gaming laptops. Because a big part of how we work involves Revizto, and Revizto is built on Unity, and Unity is a game engine… it makes sense that good game hardware will run nicely. I have already come to the realisation that high end (Quadro) graphics in terms of ROI doesn’t make a lot of sense on Revit, and even with Navisworks I don’t see it as a huge advantage. If you were doing a lot of 3dsMax work, maybe the high end graphics would be more important.

Memory (RAM)
It is actually quite difficult to find a laptop that can take 64GB of RAM. I feel that 64GB RAM is the new baseline if you are working on any kind of complicated BIM projects, such as large hospitals. This helped prune down the list to just those gaming laptops that could handle big memory.

CPU
My comments about Quadro graphics cards kind of come into play here as well. Most people in a normal working environment will simply get better value from the high end consumer Intel CPU range (such as i7), rather than going with Xeon/s. And I was more interested in clock speed than cores, because while Revit is getting better at using multiple cores, it still isn’t really there yet.

Graphics
So, what graphics card should we go for? Many laptops come with the M (Mobility) range of nVIDIA graphics, like 980M and so on. I guess I’m an nVIDIA guy? I was pretty interested to learn that some high end gaming laptops actually take a full desktop graphics card architecture and cram it into the portable form factor. This means I could have a portable machine, without sacrificing any graphics prowess.

Storage
Obviously, the main drive needs to be an SSD, minimum 512GB. But did you know about PCIe M.2 SSD drives? These things are ridiculously fast. We will also probably need a big secondary drive to store large datasets, including a sync location for our company Box storage. This doesn’t need to be an SSD, but it could be if the budget allows.

nonssd.png
Non SSD drive performance

 

ssd950.png
PCIe M.2 SSD performance

Other
Some peripheral choices are not hugely important, but I think that getting the fastest and best network interfaces (Wifi and LAN) actually do make a productivity difference. Minimum of 3 or 4 USB3.0 ports if you can, and a few different graphics outputs – HDMI and mini DVI at a minimum. Would also be nice to have integrated Miracast (Wireless Display adapter) as well.

Summary
What does all of this mean? Well, let’s try and sum up the spec in one sentence:

A laptop with 64GB RAM,

the fastest i7 processor that can fit into the budget,

desktop nVIDIA gaming graphics (minimum 970),

a PCIe M.2 SSD primary drive, 2TB secondary,

and fast network interfaces.

In Part 1 of this post, we discussed the briefing and specification of a high end portable BIM workstation. But which one did I get? And how did it perform? You will find out in the future Parts of this series…