It’s like Deja vu all over again…


Now, if I could just remember who said that?  I’m just kidding.  I know Yogi Berra said it but why a cartoon bear would be talking about memory is beyond me.  As our technology has grown so has the amount of memory necessary to make it run.  Have you seen the minimum system requirements for the last couple of releases of Civil 3D?  They are substantial and, as you might suspect, so are the number of memory-related support cases. 

Since the beginning of time (according to the Microsoft Calendar) our hardware and software has played a cruel game of technological leap frog, dragging us kicking and screaming right along with it.  At the moment, Civil 3D is patiently waiting its turn to make the next leap.  Civil 3D is a 32-bit application in an increasingly 64-bit world.  If the memory footprint for Civil 3D exceeds 2 GB (regardless of how much memory is in the system) Windows will terminate the program. This is a limitation of 32-bit computing. 

Typically, 32-bit operating systems allocate 2 GB of total memory to all open applications regardless of how much memory is installed in the machine.  Any additional installed memory is reserved for the operating system.  The total allocation can be increased to 3 GB by implementing a /3GB switch in the operating system.  This is the maximum amount of memory that can be allocated in a 32-bit environment. 

The same 3 GB limitation exists on a 64-bit system running 32-bit applications.  Even though a 64-bit system may have increased RAM capacity and superior memory management capabilities, out of memory scenarios will still occur.  As expected, the /3GB configuration will result in some improvement in performance.  What was not expected were reported instances of performance degradation using the switch when working with large datasets, specifically when plotting drawings containing large images.  (I don’t know what large means anymore so I can’t give you an example.)

Memory can be monitored using the Windows Task Manager as a gauge but it may not provide information quickly enough to avert out of memory errors.  The Task Manager displays information in almost real time, sometimes showing memory usage in the 1.4 GB – 1.8 GB range when an application is actually hitting the 2 GB operating system limit.

System Requirements

So, what are the minimum system requirements?  I hate this question.  You finally muster the courage (and cash) to upgrade your R14 and I have to be the one to rain on your parade.  The ensuing exchange is usually not suitable for print.  Just remember, I like most of y’all.  Please, do not shoot the messenger!

Civil 3D 2010

  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate/Business/Enterprise or Microsoft Windows XP SP2 or SP3. Microsoft Windows XP 64 and Windows Vista 64 are supported in 32-bit compatibility mode only.
  • Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon dual-core processor, 3 GHz or higher with SSE2 technology
  • 4 GB RAM – suggested /3GB switch (on 32 bit operating systems)
  • 7 GB disk space, 2 GB free after installation
  • 1,280 x 1,024 display with true color, 1,600 x 1,200 or greater recommended (OpenGL accelerator with full OGL ICD support not required), 32-bit color video display adapter (true color), 128 MB or greater, Direct3D-capable workstation-class graphics card. Multiple monitors are supported.
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 or later.
  • DVD drive

Note: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate/Business/Enterprise offers better OS memory management over Microsoft Windows XP SP2 or SP3. Microsoft Windows XP 64 and Windows Vista 64 are suggested over 32 bit operating systems, due to 4GB of memory being available to applications.

Vault Server

The Autodesk Vault server components can be installed on the same computer as AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010 software if the computer complies with these requirements:

For 32-bit:

  • Windows XP Home and Professional SP2 or later, or Windows Vista SP1 or later, including Enterprise/Business/Ultimate/Home Premium
  • Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon dual-core processor, 1.6 GHz or higher with SSE2 technology (for Windows XP), Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon dual-core processor, 3 GHz or higher with SSE2 technology (for Windows Vista)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 1.6 GB free disk space for installation
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0
  • DVD drive

For 64-bit:

  • Windows XP Professional x64 Edition SP2 and later, or Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 or later, including Enterprise/Business/Ultimate/Home Premium
  • AMD Athlon with SSE2, AMD Opteron with SSE2 technology, Intel Xeon with Intel EM64T support with SSE2 technology, or Intel Pentium 4 with Intel EM64T support with SSE2 technology2 GB RAM
  • 1.5 GB free disk space for a clean system with no .NET installed, otherwise up to 1.7 GB
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0
  • DVD drive

System Recommendations

What is the ideal system configuration to run Civil 3D?  I don’t know.  Honestly.  I am the most technically lame tech guy that I know.  Fortunately, I know people and I posed this question to the technical-est, geeky-est, brainy-est tech guru in my little black book.  (For those of you not old enough to know what a little black book is, think of it as a manual contact list.)  I have seen this guy do things on a computer that may or may not be legal.  Let’s just say that all systems security is not created equal.  He knows his stuff.

Operating System of choice:

  • Vista 64
  • SP2
  • Vista’s “UAC” Disabled
  • Classic Theme enabled


  • AM2+ or AM3 AMD DUAL core chip (faster is better)
  • AMD motherboard with at least 8gb RAM
  • A cheap ($100) 1 Terrabyte Hard Drive
  • A fast ATI “gaming” card in the $300-$500 range; maybe something like this:

Civil 3D doesn’t offload much of its work to the graphics card so an expensive ($1000+) Autodesk certified/supported graphics card may be overkill.  NewEgg is a good web site for researching hardware since you can sort by rating or price.  How can you not love a frugal super-stealth-hacker-tech guy? 


Memory errors can occur during any process. Typical scenarios include: processes involving a large number of objects or files; working with files that contain large images; and even executing normal drawing functions if other applications are running. Repeatedly using the UNDO function involving complex objects such as grading groups or corridors will almost certainly fail. The following list details more common causes.

Drawing files are too complex 

Drawings that include multiple XREFs, multiple layouts, large raster images, large amounts of purge-able data, or large amounts of XClipping and/or Wipeouts will tax system resources.

Temporarily unload XREFs and images not necessary for the immediate procedure and purge all drawing files (including XREFs) to remove any junk data.

Third party programs/data 

Third party applications can increase the memory footprint of the drawing.  They can also cause drawing corruption if they are not writing data to the drawing file correctly – especially if they are not written for the latest version.  This applies to legitimate third party programs, homemade LISP routines and VBA applications. 

Temporarily remove third party applications, custom LISP routines and VBA applications to see if this reduces the frequency of the errors.  Confirm all legitimate and custom applications have been updated to your current CAD application before reintroducing them to the program.

Drawing corruption 

Corruption, purge-able data and unreferenced application signatures can cause a drawing file to use more memory than expected.  Audit and Purge all drawing files.  Use the -Purge command with the RegApps option to purge unreferenced application signatures.

Bad memory or insufficient system resources 

The operating system should have at least 4GB of total memory available (this is physical RAM + virtual memory).  At least 2GB of this should be physical memory for optimum performance.  Ensure these systems have 2GB of RAM as well as at least 2GB of virtual memory allocated. 

Bad blocks in RAM can cause the system to fail with memory errors even if sufficient resources exist. You might consider swapping the physical memory sticks with a machine that is not experiencing these errors to see if this affects the problem.

Recommended Solutions

Following are a few ideas on how to gain more memory and/or maximize the available memory.  

  1. Install more RAM. With more RAM Windows dependence on the swap file is reduced and performance increases.
  2. Check the space available on the hard disk drive. Not only is space needed for various temporary files, but it is also needed for the Windows swap file. If your swap file is dynamic (grows and shrinks in size as needed) then freeing up space by deleting files or removing programs you no longer need will give the swap file more room to grow. If the swap file size is static (does not change), then freeing up more space on the hard drive will allow you to adjust the size of the swap file.
  3. Check and adjust system swap file settings. When Windows runs out of available RAM, it writes some of the information in RAM to the swap file so it can clear that area of RAM and reuse it.  If you prefer a static swap file, you may need to increase the maximum size of your swap file to avoid the out of memory errors. See Autodesk related solutions, Windows Help, and the resource guide for your operating system for more information about performance and how to configure the swap file.
  4. Install Service Packs. Officially, there may be nothing in a service pack readme file indicating memory issues were addressed. Unofficially, some memory management improvements are almost always included. Either way, support stalls at upper levels without the service pack(s). Install them.
  5. Close unnecessary applications. Identify programs that are running and close those not needed for your current application. The operating system allocates RAM to all open applications – not just the active application.  Use the Windows Task Manager (CTRL+ALT+DEL) to identify runing applications and processes and click End Task to shut down any unnecessary applications.
  6. Use FDOs. Consider linking to images as FDOs (Feature Data Objects) rather than using the Map > Image > Insert command.
  7. Reduce the amount of information you are working with. Simplify the drawing. Avoid hatching large areas. Unload unnecessary images and/or XREFs. Avoid excessive use of TrueType based text. Close all drawings not necessary for the current task.
  8. Empty TEMP folder. Empty your temp folder on a regular basis.
  9. Set FIELDEVAL = 4. Fields are only evaluated on plotting thus saving from constant regens.
  10. Set INDEXCTL = 2. This will index the drawing making any further work in it much quicker.
  11. Layout REGEN options. The Layout Regen Options (System tab of the Options dialog) controls the LAYOUTREGENCTL system variable. It can improve performance by not saving layout tabs to memory.  When the LAYOUTREGENCTL system variable is set to 1 or 2, the amount of additional memory used is the size of the Model tab’s display list multiplied by the number of viewports in each layout for which the display list is saved.  When set to zero a regen is forced each time you switch tabs but the tabs are not committed to memory.
  12. Adjust display performance. On the advanced tab of the System Properties set Visual Effects to Adjust for best performance.
  13. Use the /3 GB switch. The following document describes the 3GB Switch in Windows.  This document was written for Revit but applies to AutoCAD, Architecture and Civil 3D. The published document can be downloaded from this link

The 3GB Switch and Civil 3D1

For more information on the 3GB switch, refer to the following Microsoft MSDN article:

To Enable the 3GB Switch on Windows XP

  1. Right-click My Computer. Click Properties.
  2. In the System Properties dialog box, click the Advanced tab.
  3. On the Advanced tab, under Startup and Recovery, click Settings.
  4. In the Startup and Recovery dialog box, under System startup, click Edit.
    The Windows boot.ini file will be opened in Microsoft Notepad.
  5. Save a backup copy of the boot.ini file on your computer, in case you need to revert back to the original version of the file.
    Note: The contents of the Boot.ini file may vary from computer to computer.
  6. Select the following line in the boot.ini file: multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS=”Microsoft Windows XP Professional” /fastdetect
  7. Copy (Press CTRL+C) this line and paste (Press CTRL+V) it immediately below the original.
    Note: Your string may be different from the string shown. Be sure to copy the string from your boot.ini file, not the string shown here.
  8. Modify the copied line to include “ /3GB”, as shown in the following example.  (Note: Do not overwrite any existing lines.)  multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS=”Microsoft Windows XP Professional 3GB” /3GB /fastdetect
  9. Save the boot.ini file and exit Notepad.
  10. Click OK to close each dialog box. 
  11. Restart your computer.
  12. During startup, select the 3GB option. If you do not select the 3GB option, the system will default to the 2GB memory setting.

If there are problems during startup, you may need to update some of your drivers.

To Enable the 3GB Switch on Windows Vista

  1. Right-click Command Prompt in the Accessories program group of the Start menu. Click Run as Administrator.
  2. On the command line, enter “bcdedit /set IncreaseUserVa 3072”
  3. Restart the computer.
  4. Right-click Command Prompt in the Accessories program group of the Start menu. Click Run as Administrator.
  5. On the command line, enter “bcdedit /deletevalue IncreaseUserVa” 
  6. Restart the computer.

To disable the 3GB switch on Windows Vista

If you experience any problems when using the 3GB configuration, you can switch back to the original configuration.

Disabling Map 3D Functions3

By default, Civil 3D loads all the Map 3D functions. If you are struggling with performance, stability, or Out of Memory issues, and don’t often use Map 3D commands, you can disable the auto loading feature to increase available memory. 

A Windows Script File (.wsf), is used to toggle on or off the auto loading of Map 3D files on startup of Civil 3D.  Shortcuts to the script file are created on the desktop and modified to either enable or disable the auto loading.

Note: this file makes a change in the User registry settings, so permissions to edit the User registry settings are required.

  1. Save and unzip the attached file to a specific location on your computer
  2. Right-click on Civil3DMapControl.wsf, and select “Create Shortcut”
  3. Right-click on the Shortcut icon created, and select “Properties”
  4. On the General tab enter an appropriate name, such as, Civil 3D (+ Map)
  5. On the Shortcut tab, make the appropriate addition to the end of the Target field (place a space after the “…\Civil3DMapControl.wsf” entry):

For Civil 3D 2009: //Nologo /2009 /Enable (substitute Disable for second shortcut)

 For Civil 3D 2010: //Nologo /2010 /Disable (substitute Disable for second shortcut) 

  1. Repeat steps 2-5 to make another icon to enable autoloading.
  2. If auto loading is disabled, you can always manually load all the Map files during a current session by typing “_MapStartWSpace” on the command line.

Do not try to run Map commands without doing this first, or Civil 3D will crash.  The next time you start Civil 3D, it will still disable auto loading.  

The following link is to the published Autodesk Technical Solution detailing instructions and links to the necessary files. 

Complete and Forward Customer Error Reports (CERs)

The CER and assessment and are read at Autodesk to determine an appropriate action. Recommendations to install software service packs and hot fixes are the most common but they may, in some cases, recommend hardware upgrades or request data sets for testing.

A technique we encourage is to code the CERs so we can easily identify and track conditions within your company. The code we use, TCAD:<your company name>, should be entered at the beginning of the CER comment. 


1 Autodesk published technical solution TS1071001

2 Autodesk published technical solution TS1069947

3 Autodesk published technical solution TS13390398

Autodesk Support Team (Case No.1-4104018963)

Autodesk Support Team (Case No.1-4333663844)

Autodesk Support Team (General Discussions)

C:\Program Files\AutoCAD Civil 3D 2009\Help\c3d_best_practices.pdf


One Response to “It’s like Deja vu all over again…”

  1. M. Norton Says:

    Well written. Inciteful. I laughed. I cried. What a truly remarkable piece. BS. I’m actually posting just to see how the comment displays on our blog. :)

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