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I am on a budget and I want to buy a laptop solely for the purposes of using Arcmap and nothing else.

The laptop I am going to buy is as follows:

HP Stream 11-d061na 11.6 Intel Celeron N2840 dual core processor. 2.16 GHz/2.58 GHz with Burst 1 MB cache 2GB RAM. 32GB solid state hard drive. Microsoft Windows 8.1. 11.6 inch screen. High definition display. Resolution 1366 x 768 pixels SD memory card reader

I think that it fits most of the criteria as listed on the website requirements (http://desktop.arcgis.com/en/desktop/latest/get-started/system-requirements/arcgis-desktop-system-requirements.htm#GUID-0D22816B-298C-4ABF-BC4E-5C32D605F055). But before I make the purchase I need a second opinion incase I am wrong!

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    Don't expect ArcGIS to run on cheap would go for a i5/i7 – Mapperz Jun 30 '15 at 20:24
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    Don't bother getting a computer for GIS with less than 8Gb of RAM; swapping on an SSD will kill it faster. – Vince Jun 30 '15 at 20:31
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    That small of an SSD means the OS and a few apps will eat up all the space. We're not even getting to GIS data.... – Paul Jun 30 '15 at 20:33
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    I have a different OS (Windows7), but my windows folder alone is 36GB. And my workstation is only a couple of months old. The SSD size doesn't appear large enough. – Jay Cummins Jun 30 '15 at 20:33
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    For ArcGIS workstations, we do an 8GB RAM minimum. But usually we aim for 16GB. – Jay Cummins Jun 30 '15 at 20:38
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While I appreciate the answers of the ArcGIS power users here, I do think they overrate what is really necessary. ArcGIS for Desktop, unless you activate 64-bit geoprocessing, can't even adress more than about 3 GB, and I have seen it crash when it attempted to do so in extensions that didn't fully catch this limitation in their code...

I have seen ArcGIS 10.0 run on a 10 year old single core 1.5 GHz with just 1.5 GB RAM. Was it a pleasure to use? No, but it wasn't entirely unusable either.

I recently installed 10.3 for a friend on a dual core Acer laptop of five years old. Back then, except for a mediocre 64bit Turion X2 processor, this laptop was quite well equipped with 3 GB RAM, a 500 GB harddisk including free secondary hard drive bay, and a 1 GB graphics card. I have done other work on this laptop before, including upgrading it with a 128 GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD installed with Windows 7, and putting the hard drive in the secondary bay for data storage. Adding an express card USB 3, this means this laptop is actually quite capable of pumping data around, especially after I completely dis- and re-assembled it to replace the dried out cooling paste of the main processor and graphics card.

Start up time of ArcGIS on most systems nowadays is longer than the startup time of the operating system, and with complex map documents, it will add up.

On the specs of the laptop above, opening a rather complex map document can take up to 2 minutes, once you are in though, the interface is quite useable. Opening ArcMap itself, without a saved map document, takes about 55-60 seconds. Slow, but bearable... To put this also in perspective: on my own 2nd generation Core i5 3.0 GHz quadcore desktop with 16 GB RAM and 500 GB operating system SSD, it also still takes about 25 seconds to fire up ArcMap, so I don't think the 60 seconds is outrageous in this perspective.

So, my verdict:

  • Will you be able to run it on this laptop? Probably yes.
  • Will you need patience now and then? Absolutely, especially opening a complex map document.
  • Will it be a pleasure all the time? No, but bearable if enough patience.
  • Will it be able to do everything and complex geoprocessing on large datasets? Not in all cases, but you should be able to do quite a lot on smaller / medium sized datasets and / or less complex geoprocessing operations and with enough patience to sit out processing time.
  • Would I recommend this configuration? No, get something better if you can afford it, especially with a tad more RAM, like 4 GB minimum.

Lastly: forget running multiple ArcMap sessions / applications on this configuration. On my own desktop with 16 GB RAM, I have had up to 4 ArcMap sessions open concurrently, with 3 running batch geoprocessing operations for days on end against their own hard drives connected via USB or internal, and the fourth session used for "normal" work preparing a map document. This has proven reliable, but you can forget doing such multi-tasking on the suggested laptop configuration.

  • Just because ArcGIS isn't 64 bit and can't address more than the 32bit ceiling doesn't mean more memory would go to waste. The OS is going to take up some as well, and that will take away even further from what Arc has available. Not to mention background processing, whether 64bit or not, is a separate process. Bottom line, 2GB is the minimum requirement to run the software per specs so yes it's 'enough' and that's what the question asks. However that SSD is likely a killer - Win8 needs 16-20GB, plus another 2-3 for Arc, never mind data and swap space as comments have already mentioned. – Chris W Jul 2 '15 at 23:58
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    Chris, almost every "consumer" computer running Windows 8, whether desktop or laptop, currently being sold in shops, doesn't have more than 4 to 8 GB maximum. Suggesting Window 8 needs "16-20 GB" therefor seems utterly incorrect. Yes, besides RAM, windows uses more memory as virtual memory or paging files, and these require free space on the SSD or hard drive, but that doesn't mean Windows 8 needs 16 GB RAM. In my experience so far, setting about 4-8 GB virtual memory, should allow you to export even large A0 layouts to PDF at 300dpi including imagery from within ArcGIS. – Marco_B Jul 22 '15 at 11:08
  • You have misread my comment. Windows 8 requires 16GB (32bit) or 20GB (64bit) of hard drive space, which is why I mentioned it in relation to the SSD since OP asked about at 32GB SSD. I did not say it needed that much RAM - both 7 and 8 have a minimum requirement of 1GB for 32bit and 2GB for 64bit. The only thing I really said regarding RAM is that just because Arc is 32bit doesn't mean a machine running it couldn't be more advantageous with more than the 32bit address limit. – Chris W Jul 22 '15 at 17:20
  • Yes, I misunderstood it. You are right, 32 GB for the operating system and other software installs, let alone any GIS data, is really restricted, although the "data" problem could be solved with external storage. I am actually surprised they sell it with only 32 GB, as 64 GB was already quite common as minimal storage back when SSD's first became mainstream a few years ago. Then again, this whole configuration is not exactly "recommended"... – Marco_B Jul 27 '15 at 12:54
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This computer will not perform well with ArcGIS. Trust me, you will eventually care about the processing speed as opposed to whether or not it will simply run. The only way I could recommend using this computer is if you have ArcGIS installed on a remote computer (i.e. with good specs) and you connect via remote desktop/VPN using this laptop.

As a point of reference, I am starting to see performance problems on an old laptop running ArcGIS 10.3 with better specs: Intel i5 4-core @ 2.3GHz, 6GB RAM, 500GB HD. My rule for minimum practical specs for an ArcGIS machine is 8GB RAM and a processor capable of running at high clock speeds since ArcGIS has limited multicore functionality.

The best bang for your buck would be to buy a desktop computer running a i5, i7, or Xeon processor. Desktop computers are typically better at cooling and, therefore, are typically better suited for running processors with higher clock speed >= 3GHz. Parts are cheaper and can be upgraded easier too.

  • Or get your hands on ArcGis 9.3, that would run fine under those specs... Seriously, how much is a couple of sticks of RAM compared to ArcGis? I am surprised you can still buy a dual core Celeron; that's only as powerful as an Android tablet (a cheap one), I've seen better specs on a mobile phone! If you can retrograde to 32bit Windows, that will save some memory. What are you trying to do? Perhaps you can save a bunch using QGIS - enough to buy a top-end notebook. I wouldn't even use a laptop of those specs for writing documents, it would only be good as a web browser (no games). – Michael Stimson Jun 30 '15 at 23:06
  • @MichaelMiles-Stimson he may be planning to use ArcGIS' Home Use Program, which only costs $100/year. – Dan C Jun 30 '15 at 23:56
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    That's still more than that notebook is worth @DanC, limiting it to 32bit and having a 4GB page file ArcGis will function but very quickly run into problems as more layers are added... pagefile will burn out the SSD very quickly (SSDs don't like being constantly written to), without one it would be almost unusable for more than a few vector layers and an uncompressed raster layer (definitely not ECW/JP2 which consume RAM to decompress). As the saying goes "pay peanuts, get monkeys". – Michael Stimson Jul 1 '15 at 0:02

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