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ArcGIS Pro please help w/ specs and new purchase

08-23-2023 08:43 PM
New Contributor

I'm grad student that has been working on macs my whole life. Now I'm faced with having to buy a windows laptop simply so I can run ArcGIS Pro. I really don't want to spend $1,000 for literally one semester - but these are the specs I was given by instructor and they seem to only add up to about that for any device that meets them all:

512 gb SSD

8gb RAM

i7 processor

2GB dedicated video

I imagine this guy believes these to be the minimum requirement because that's the minimum that HE would use being a 20 year professional in the matter. I am simply trying to get through one friggin semester of Intro to GIS for my masters. I don't know enough to tell if these specs are mandatory or not - but I can't find them all in one machine without getting to $1,000. I am hoping to be able to get my hands on something for 500-600 --

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

5 Replies
MVP Esteemed Contributor

Solved: Recommended computer specs - Esri Community

the link in the above gives the minimum, recommended and optimal pc specs.

If you have a mac, then see this link for alternatives to buying a pc

Run ArcGIS Pro on a Mac—ArcGIS Pro | Documentation

... sort of retired...
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New Contributor III

It does depend on whether you simply need a 'knockabout' for a short period of time, or are potentially investing for future use (whether with GIS or not). It also depends on what sort of GIS work you will be doing: viewing vs geoprocessing, vector vs raster, 2D vs 3D etc.

For lighter GIS work, a previous generation i7 should be sufficient - or one of the later i5s. Don't go back too far in the generations i.e., stick to the last 2 or 3 for i7; or last 1 or 2 for i5. Use CPU benchmarking websites to help guide you. I really doubt you need the latest generation machines for this specific use-case - certainly not the latest i7s. You may also get away with integrated GPU as opposed to dedicated - bearing in mind Pro is capable of 3D work, and not all users will be doing this. But the gamble with an under-spec (which is what this would be) is that it will be on the slippery slope from a 'bit more laggy' to 'unusable'. If you take the gamble: keep the receipt.

SSD - the lack of an SSD won't break Pro, it'll just make it slower. You can go HDD if that's what it's sold with, or a smaller SSD if you know you won't max it out with data. You may find a better drive elsewhere that's cheaper than the difference in cost from the retailer - if you're happy to swap-out.

RAM - wouldn't go any lower than 8GB. If you do look at older machines, bear in mind that motherboards can only support up to a certain amount of RAM. If you know you have a machine that can support 16/32GB RAM, then starting on 8GB allows room to expand if you need to*. Buying an older machine that can only ever support 8GB doesn't give you any wiggle-room. This may or may not be important, depending on your long term intentions with the machine.

* if this is something you would consider, then start thinking now about how many RAM slots you're getting, and how distributed the RAM sticks are.  You may find 8GB means two slots with two sticks of 4GB, meaning you have to buy 2 x 8GB to double your RAM. If it has two slots and one 8GB stick, then the same upgrade is half the cost. If it has one slot and one 8GB stick then brace yourself, as the single sticks get very pricey as you go up in size.

But before parting with any serious cash... I would recommend dual-booting or virtualising Windows on the Mac, at least to start with - to see how acceptable it is. If not, you could then use cloud-compute services such as AWS EC2 to trial out a few different instances to work out what specification gives you the best performance for your needs - like a 'try before you buy' (but at an hourly cost however). I wouldn't advise using cloud-compute for the semester itself however unless you have a really clear idea of hours, and a good memory to stop the instance immediately when it's not needed. Otherwise, if could cost you more and you get nothing out of it!


MVP Esteemed Contributor

It really depends on what you need to do with it. There are ways of running Pro that wouldn't break a sweat on the minimum specs, and ways that would crash it quick.

If it's just for one semester, I'd take my chances with a refurbished machine. I ran Pro successfully on a 10-year-old laptop for basic vector data workflows. Wouldn't trust it for heavier geoprocessing or large raster work, but it was surprisingly capable for the rest.

Also, what do you need Pro for in the class? When I was in school, most of the deliverables were just the maps we made, exported as images or PDFs, and those could technically be made in any program, for all the instructor knew.

Another option could be something like Amazon AppStream. If it's just for one semester, you could basically rent space on a virtual machine that runs Pro at the necessary specs, then terminate it afterward. I expect you'd come in well under the cost of a typical machine.

- Josh Carlson
Kendall County GIS
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Regular Contributor II

For years I ran Parallels on a Mac for ArcMap. (I have a Dell now.) If you have an Intel based Mac, Parallels is the best option because of its graphics driver.

If you don't have an Intel Mac then I'd suggest finding a cloud based solution. It's what Esri used in the remote class I took a month ago.



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Esri Contributor

Is there a computer on campus you can run Pro on without having to buy your own machine? Most campuses have either a computer lab or GIS lab with the software installed already ... it would mean you could only do your GIS work while on campus, but could be better than getting another computer entirely. Just a thought.

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