Five Basic Windows 10 Computer Skills Every Engineer Should Know

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At PADT we provide help to many of our customers who have trouble with their ANSYS simulations. At the top level, though, there are some computer skills for Windows that we consider basics that every engineer should know. If these are skills you already have in your tool belt, fantastic! If not, hopefully this information will help you be more effective in your simulation tasks.
Also, since most of us have been or are currently being updated to Windows 10, I’m providing the instructions for Windows 10. Windows 7 is similar, though.

1. Run as Administrator

This allows us to run programs, a.k.a. “apps” with administrator privilege, even if our login credentials don’t allow this level of usage. This is the case for most users of engineering software. Certain components of ANSYS, including the CAD Configuration Manager and the Client ANSLIC_ADMIN Utility require changes to your computer that non-admin rights won’t allow. By running as administrator, we allow the program to make the needed changes.

To do this, click the Start Menu, then find the program (app) you need to run in the resulting list, such as the Client ANSLIC_ADMIN Utility. Next, right click on that program, select More with the left mouse button, then select Run as Administrator with the left mouse button. If you are prompted to allow changes to your system, click Yes. Here is what it will look like:

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2. View File Extensions

When using Windows Explorer, now known as File Explorer in Windows 10, by default you probably won’t see file extensions. Instead, you’ll see the prefix of files, but won’t see the endings of the file names. This will be the case when browsing for files to open or save as well. Sometimes you can rely on the icons associated with a file to know which program it’s associated with or the Type field in the list view, but sometimes there are conflicts. For example, an ANSYS Mechanical APDL macro file will have the extension .mac. You can probably guess that there is at least one other major company that can have software that uses that extension. By viewing the file extensions, even if the icons are wrong, we can more easily identify the files we need. Here is how it’s done:
Click Start, then File Explorer:

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The default view using “Details” in File Explorer will look something like this (file names don’t include extensions):

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To view the extensions, we click on the View menu in File Explorer, then Options, then Change Folder and Search Options.

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The way I set this option for all folder on my computer is to then click on the View tab in the resulting small window, then uncheck the box for Hide extensions for known file types, then click Apply to Folders, then click OK.

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Now the list view (using Details under the View menu) in File Explorer looks like this, with each file showing its extension in the list:

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3. Define and Edit Environment Variables

Environment Variables are values that are used by certain programs to define settings. For example, an environment variable can be used to specify the license server for certain programs. It’s good to know how to define and edit these if needed. To do this, we bring up the control panel. In Windows 10, click on the Start button, then Settings:

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A quick way to get there is to type “environment” in the search window in the resulting Settings window:

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The search should find Edit the System Environment Variables. Click on that:

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In the resulting System Properties window, click on the Environment Variables button in the Advanced tab:

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A new window will open with a list of currently defined User variables (just for your login) and System variables (for anyone who is logged in), like this:

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You can click on an environment variable to edit it using the Edit… button, or you can click on the New… button to create a new one. One ANSYS-related environment variable that occasionally needs to be set is ANSYSLMD_LICENSE_FILE. This is only needed if the default license server specifications aren’t working for some reason. You won’t need to set this under normal circumstances. Just in case, here is how to define it, using the New… button under System variables. We type in the Variable Name, in this case ANSYSLMD_LICENSE_FILE and then the Variable Value, which in this example is 1055@myserver.

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When done defining and editing environment variables, we click on the OK button to complete the action and get out of that environment variable-related windows.

4. Check Usage of Your Computer Resources

As simulation experts, we are often pushing the limits of our computer resources. It’s good to know how to check those. First is disk space. An easy way to check disk space is to bring up File Explorer again. Click on This PC on the left side. This will give you a snapshot of the available space on each hard drive that is accessible on this computer:

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Next, we may want to check CPU or memory utilization. Perhaps we want to make sure that our solution is running on multiple cores as we have requested.
To do this, hold down the Alt, Control, and Delete keys on the keyboard, all at the same time. Then click on Task Manager in the resulting window (it will look for a second like your computer is going to restart – it won’t actually do that).
In the resulting Task Manager window, click on More details:

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In the resulting window, we can click on the Performance tab and view, for example, the current memory utilization, or we can click on Open Resource Monitor and get even more details, including utilization on each CPU:

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5. Search for Large Files

It’s very common in the simulation world to end up filling up your disk drives. Therefore, it’s good to be able to find large files so we can delete them if they are no longer needed. For a simple way to do this, we’ll start with File Explorer again. This time, we’ll click in the search window at upper right, but won’t actually type in anything. We just want the search tools menu to appear:

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Next, click on Search under Search Tools, followed by Size, then Gigantic (I will argue that 128 MB isn’t all that gigantic in the simulation world, but Microsoft hasn’t caught up with us yet):

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Windows will now perform a search for files larger than 128 GB. If any of these are no longer needed, you can right click and delete them. Just make sure you don’t delete any files that are truly needed!

That completes our discussion on 5 computer skills every engineer should know. In conclusion, these basic skills should help you be more productive over time as you perform your simulation tasks. We hope you find this information useful.

Also read: Windows SQL Server by SaveOnIT.Com.