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AutoCAD on Linux & Ubuntu – How to Run It

by Daniel Subia
Apr 13, 2019

A frustration for Linux users is when software titles are only available for Windows or Macintosh. Autodesks' AutoCAD software is one. Can you run AutoCAD on your Linux system? Let's find out.

AutoCAD on Your Linux Linux Is About Freedom

Linux Ubuntu home screen.
Linux Ubuntu home screen. Source: Daniel Subia / All3DP

Linux is a household name when it comes to the alluring world of open-source software. It offers a great deal of freedom for running software outside the Windows and Mac world. Under Linux, there are many different varieties, such as openSuse, Fedora, and the ever-popular Ubuntu. In this article, we will demonstrate how to install AutoCAD on an Ubuntu platform specifically, but the same steps can be followed for any other version of Linux.

Running an open-source operating system (OS) has loads of benefits. Rather than being stuck to the platform specifications, you’re free to customize it exactly as you’d like. However, sometimes this can create a problem when you want to run software that isn’t available for your OS. When in comes to 3D modeling, this is specifically a concern for Autodesk’s AutoCAD, which is only available for Windows and Mac PCs.

While there are plenty of other CAD alternatives, sometimes there’s no avoiding AutoCAD. Or sometimes you simply want the best. Either way, we’re here to walk you through a couple of options on how to get the best of both worlds: AutoCAD on your Linux.

AutoCAD on Your Linux Alternative Online Methods to Get AutoCAD

With AutoCAD's online portal, all you need is an internet connection to start designing.
With AutoCAD's online portal, all you need is an internet connection to start designing. Source: Autodesk

As mentioned, there are a few different ways to get AutoCAD on your Linux computer. Later, we will walk you through the steps on how to get an offline license to use as any other user would. But first, we want to introduce you to a couple of alternatives that are a bit easier to use.

Alternative #1: Autodesk’s Web Application

The first and maybe the easiest method is to utilize Autodesk’s newly-launched web application. Once you have an account and a paid subscription (free for students and educators), you can run AutoCAD via any web browser. That means there’s no OS concern at all.

Autodesk has also teamed up with Microsoft OneDrive, Box, and Dropbox to easily incorporate cloud storage into the program. That means you can get to your files from anywhere, further extending the accessibility of this new online platform.

Alternative #2: Cloud-Based Virtual Machine

The second method is to run AutoCAD on a cloud-based virtual machine (VM). Because AutoCAD is only available on a Windows or Mac OS, you’ll have to run it on a VM that mimics Windows or Mac. Cloud computing allows you to buy cloud space to run VMs over the internet.

This is greatly appealing, because, as you’ll see later, running a VM on your own Linux OS is space and operating power intensive. Therefore, this option allows you to use AutoCAD without having to commit a part of your hard drive.

The two main cloud computing platforms available are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure. They are both fully customizable. You get to choose how much space, what type of CPU, and how much memory you want to use. Plus, the pricing is a-la-carte, so you only pay for what you need!

AutoCAD on Your Linux Taking AutoCAD Offline

Ubuntu loading Oracle's VirtualBox.
Ubuntu loading Oracle's VirtualBox. Source: LinuxTechi

Online options are great for the occasional user. However, if you’re using it all the time or if you just don’t want to have to be online to use AutoCAD on your Linux, there’s an option for that too. A few steps are involved to make this happen, but once you get it set up, you’ll be good to go.

Ultimately, you’ll need to use a VM to run Windows, which will then run AutoCAD. Easy right? In fact, it sounds more complicated than it is. Let’s break it down. First, there are a few things you’ll need to run AutoCAD on your Linux:

Now we’ll walk you through the steps and give you a few pointers to make this as seamless as possible.

AutoCAD on Your Linux The Virtual Machine

DDR3 RAM. Source: digitaltrends.com

The first thing you’ll need is a VM to run inside your Linux operating system. This basically allows a computer to run inside a computer. There are a few options out there:

  • VirtualBox: A full virtualizer for x86 hardware from Oracle. It’s free to download. There are several different options, as well, so you can make sure you’re getting the specifications you need.
  • QEMU: A free emulator and virtualizer that’s open source. It even has a Contribute page for users to report bugs and contribute to improve the software.
  • Gnome Boxes: Easy to use, it makes complex virtualization in Linux as simple as possible. It’s great for both new and advanced Linux users.
  • VMWare Workstation Pro: A commercially-developed platform for Linux and other OSs. You’ll have to pay for it, but it packs a lot of punch.
  • UCS Virtual Machine Manager: A Linux VM management tool specializing in working with cloud VMs and enterprise-level virtual systems, like the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud. The software is open source and free to use.

Regardless of which you choose, downloading and installing the software is as simple as clicking through the setup process. Install the program, open it up, and the virtual world will be yours.

AutoCAD on Your Linux Technical Notes Before You Begin

How Virtual Machines operate on a computer.
How Virtual Machines operate on a computer. Source: Kisspng

Before we move on to the next step, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when using a VM.

A VM will never be more powerful than the computer on which it is running. Both the Linux OS and the VM OS will be sharing resources. In fact, it will always only be a portion of the full power of your computer. You will allocate resources when you set up Windows in the VM, such as how much shared RAM or how much hard drive space to use.

Memory and Hard Drive

For example, if you have 8 GB of memory on your computer, you might set 4 GB to use on the VM. While the VM is running, it will use 4 GB of memory and the host computer will only have 4 GB of memory. When the VM is shut off, the host computer will get the full 8 GB back.

Hard drive space allocation is different. Once hard drive space is set for the VM, that disk space will always be reserved for the VM, even when it is not running. For example, if you have a 500-GB hard drive and allocate 120 GB for the VM, your physical computer will make 380 GB available for Linux and 120 for the VM.

System Requirements

It’s important to note the system requirements to run AutoCAD need to be met within the VM. Because you will be sharing resources, your physical machine must have much higher specs than what is required for AutoCAD alone. Your physical machine will need to support Linux, the virtual install of Windows, and AutoCAD. Whew, that’s a lot!

With a 64-bit Windows 7 OS, AutoCAD requires a 1 GHZ of CPU speed, 4 GB of memory (8 GB recommended) and 4 GB of hard disk space for installation. Therefore, you will need to set up your VM with these parameters as a minimum.

AutoCAD on Your Linux Setting Up the Operating System

Windows 7 running in Ubuntu using VirtualBox.
Windows 7 running in Ubuntu using VirtualBox. Source: UbuntuPIT

Once you’ve got your VM set up and ready to go, it’s time to install an OS that AutoCAD is compatible with — either Windows or Mac — inside the VM. Here, we’ll use Windows as an example.

To start, you’ll need to open the VM in a window on your Linux computer. Then through this window, proceed with the Windows download and installation. Go through this process to install a standard version of Windows, with no special specifications necessary.

Once you have Windows up and running, the VM will automatically configure your real hardware to use inside the virtual environment. This includes your keyboard, mouse, USB ports, and network card. Now you should have access to the full Windows OS. You can choose to make this full screen and only operate within it, or you can leave it in a smaller window just to use a specific program, for example AutoCAD.

AutoCAD on Your Linux Downloading and Installing AutoCAD

AutoCAD installation screen.
AutoCAD installation screen. Source: Daniel Subia / All3DP

With Windows up and running in the VM window, downloading AutoCAD is as easy as downloading any other software. Just visit the Autodesk website and download and install the AutoCAD software. Note that you’ll need to set up an account on the Autodesk website. This just asks for an email address and password.

Installing AutoCAD on your Linux can be lengthy and will require a reboot of the computer. Remember, when you reboot the computer, you do not reboot your physical computer. You are only rebooting the VM.

Once you have AutoCAD loaded in your VM, you’re ready run the program. After that, using AutoCAD is as simple as these four steps:

  1. Turn on your Linux computer.
  2. Open and run your VM, selecting Windows as the OS.
  3. Launch AutoCAD in the VM and log in to the program.
  4. Begin using AutoCAD and start making awesome 3D projects!.

Feature image source: Mercado Libre

License: The text of "AutoCAD on Linux & Ubuntu – How to Run It" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.