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Recommended (not minimum) Tableau Desktop System Requirements

 

We often talk at length about the hardware requirements for Tableau Server, but what about Tableau Desktop? In this post, I want to show you how a relatively inexpensive increase in your laptop or desktop hardware spec can go a long way to improving your Tableau Desktop experience and productivity.

 

According to Tableau’s tech specs page, the minimum requirements for running Tableau Desktop are:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 or newer (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Microsoft Server 2008 R2 or newer
  • Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Opteron processor or newer
  • 2 GB memory
  • 1.5 GB minimum free disk space
  • 1366 x 768 screen resolution or higher

Similarly for Mac the requirements are:

  • iMac/MacBook computers 2009 or newer
  • OSX 10.10 or newer
  • 5 GB minimum free disk space
  • 1366 x 768 screen resolution or higher

 

Wow, that’s pretty low spec right? That would allow us to get Tableau up and running on some of the more sluggish PCs in the workplace right now, which is great news! But what happens when we want to connect to our large dataset and build some big dashboards that run lots of complex queries?

The fact is, if you’re going to be using Tableau on a regular basis, connecting to more than just a few thousand rows in an Excel file, and you’re planning on building out some workbooks with a moderate amount of complexity, then you’re probably going to want a better spec PC.

If we really want to Tableau ‘at the speed of thought’, then we should do our best to avoid timeouts and crashes caused by resource constraints, so here’s what I believe should be the recommended minimum system requirements for Tableau Desktop. Now for the disclaimer – these recommendations are based on my experience installing and using Tableau Desktop in many, many different customer environments:

  • 64-bit architecture only (come on people it’s 2017)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 SP2 or newer (or Microsoft Server 2008 R2 of newer)
  • Intel Core i3/i5 or AMD Athlon processor or newer
  • 8GB memory (to cope with large datasets and complex workbooks)
  • Solid-state drive (SSD) disk, with 5 GB minimum free disk space
  • IE9 or newer

“Prove it!”

Now let’s put some science behind this. Well, some anecdotal science at least.

I decided to test Tableau’s performance in a Windows virtual machine in Parallels on my Mac, switching up the CPU and RAM and then comparing the time taken to do various tasks, for example, loading a datasource, viewing number of records, taking an extract etc.

In my first scenario, I set my Windows 10 virtual machine at 1 single vCPU and 2GB RAM, and for the second scenario, I boosted the spec up to 4 vCPU and 8GB RAM.

I settled on two tests to perform in each scenario:

Test 1

Using a TDE file of 1.5GB in size and 21.3m rows, I dragged a dimension onto Rows, which will produce a list of 1.19m UK postcodes. I know is a silly thing to do but I wanted to see how long it would take to render.

Test 2

Using a 94MB CSV file containing a list of all UK Postcodes, I extracted the data into a local TDE saved in C:\Temp. Extracting data in Tableau Desktop is a common practice and can often be rather time consuming, so it follows that if we’re working with Tableau all day every day, we want this to complete as quickly as possible.

Between each test I shut down and restarted Tableau Desktop, there were no other Windows applications running on the VM.  For reference, I used Tableau v10.2. The results are below:

I think the results are pretty clear, in the higher spec machine we saw viz compute and extract times almost halve.

Now I appreciate that your results may vary, since this is a virtual machine on my Mac laptop rather than the real thing, but I hope this clearly illustrates how having a little more grunt in your work laptop can go a long way to greatly improving your productivity with Tableau!

Jonathan MacDonald

London, UK

8 thoughts on “Recommended (not minimum) Tableau Desktop System Requirements

  1. Hello Jonathan, thanks for this article. I was wondering if you were seeing the same differences when working with reports on the server. I personally noticed that my desktop was performing better than my laptop and attributed it to hardware and this proves it but I was still thinking maybe it’s a placebo and the performance differences are only there in the desktop application. TIA

  2. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So good to find anyone with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is one thing that is needed on the web, somebody with just a little originality. helpful job for bringing one thing new to the internet!
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  3. Thanks Jonathan, this is so helpful.
    I use Tableau on MacOS and Alteryx on a Parallels VM. I upgraded to 32GB RAM and now see less Swap used in Activity Monitor. The Alteryx interface can be really laggy and workflows take many minutes to run. So I’m not confident that I’ve got the best allocation of memory to the VM.
    Now I need to replace a 2010 27″ iMac. My employer is keen for me to have a MacBook Pro. On the 16″, the 16GB RAM can be configured to 32 or 64. But I’m still sceptical that a MacBook Pro is the best long-term investment. I’m just going to use it as a machine connected to two 27″ screens, keyboard, mouse and trackpad. So it seems an expensive way of getting less processing power than I’d get with an iMac. Software becomes more and more hungry with every upgrade so I’d rather go for another 27″ iMac with a high spec. Can you offer any advice?

    1. Hi Helen, ultimately it’s up to you and your employer to decide whether a desktop or a laptop is the right choice for your workload. Personally, I use Tableau and Alteryx on a Macbook Pro and have no problems with either, but my workload will be different to yours. One word of warning though about the new Macbook Pros – Tableau and Parallels are not compatible with the new M1 chips in them, so if you wanted to purchase a new Apple device that supported both applications, you’d have to buy the soon-to-be discontinued Intel Macs. It’s unclear when we can expect support from Tab/Alt for the new platform, but something to consider.

  4. I am running Tableau Desktop 2020.2 on an HP Laptop with 8GB of RAM and an Intel i5-7200U 2.50GHz CPU running on Windows 10. I still see many times where Tableau Desktop crashes or I get a System running low on resources message. Would it benefit me to get more memory or a system with a faster CPU or both?

    1. Hi Jon, depends on your workload. If you’re working with very large datasets or data that takes a long time to query, or you have a particularly complex set of dashboards/workbooks, then you may want to consider beefing up your specs. Tableau performance will also vary based on some other factors, like what other applications you have open/running at the same time, and if your Tableau Repository folder is stored on a network share (this is sometimes the case in corporate environments, and can really impact Desktop performance).

      1. Hi Jonathan… Thanks for getting back to me. My Repository is on my local PC. There is one caveat I forgot to mention in that I am working remotely and running through a VPN. This performance seems to be fine though until I run a dashboard through Tableau Desktop that connect to large datasets.

  5. Ah yeah VPN’s can severely impact query performance as they’re often throttled in corporate networks to ensure an even distribution of bandwidth. If you find that your performance improves when you’re working locally on the same network (not over VPN) then that’ll be the reason. If you are not already extracting your data, then you might be able to speed things up by using an extract which is basically a local copy of your dataset.

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