Choosing the right industrial PC

Industrial PCs are mainly used for process control and/or data acquisition. Industrial PCs offer different features than consumer PCs in terms of reliability, compatibility, expansion options, ruggedness and lifespan.

Panel PCs, laptops and PC tablets are covered in another buying guide.

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  • How to choose an industrial PC?

    When you choose an industrial computer, you need to have a clear idea of the intended use and where you will install it. These two criteria will help you determine the size (i.g. compact) and type (i.g. rack-mount) you need, the technical features that are important to you and the peripherals that need to be integrated (touch screen, hard disk, etc.). You will also need to know the working environment well. Ask yourself these questions: Is it damp? Is it cold, or on the contrary, very hot? Is it dusty?

  • What are the differences between a consumer PC and an industrial PC?

    Advantech industrial PC
    Advantech industrial PC

    An industrial PC is very different from a PC for general consumers. Here are the main differences:

    • Temperature: a consumer PC usually operates at 35°C, while an industrial PC works well in temperatures up to 85°C. Some extremely robust and custom-designed models are capable of operating at temperatures as low as -70°C.
    • Shock and vibration: consumer PCs are much less susceptible to shocks and vibration than industrial PCs. For this reason, many components of industrial PCs, including hard disks, various cards and optical drives, are mounted on shock absorbers that provide mechanical insulation to protect them from shocks and vibration.
    • Dust: dust accumulation in a PC can lead to overheating and system malfunctions. Industrial PCs that are equipped with one or more fans are also equipped with filters to prevent dust from getting in. Today, there is an increasing trend of Fanless PCs, however, in a very dusty environment it is highly recommended to choose an industrial PC with a ventilation system.
    • Humidity: an industrial PC is designed to withstand humidity better than a consumer PC.
    • Power supply: in a factory, there are often voltage problems. Industrial PCs are equipped with power supply units that offer stabilized DC voltages.
    • Modularity: industrial PCs offer many extension options. This means that storage space, additional cards, etc. can be added at a later date. The modularity of industrial PCs allows them to be adapted to your required use, and therefore to be used for longer.
    • Durability: the average durability for an industrial PC is 7 years. This is due to a longer period of commercialization for the components, which guarantees that the PC can be maintained longer.
  • What type of industrial PC should you choose?

    Contec embedded PC
    Contec embedded PC
    • Embedded PC: an embedded PC is a specialized computer system implemented in a device, an intelligent system or a larger installation. These computers come in an infinite number of shapes and sizes, from small devices that power smartphones to all-in-one solutions that manage large earthmovers or military equipment. Embedded PCs also play a key role in the Internet of Things, enabling connections between machines, people, places and objects.
    • Panel PC: a panel PC is an industrial PC with an integrated screen.
    • Box PC: a box PC looks like a desktop PC from the outside, but is adapted to industrial use. It has a hardened casing, is equipped with a filtration system, etc.
    • All-in-one PC: this type of PC includes all the elements of a computer – screen, tower, keyboard and mouse – in the same casing.
    • Server: this is a powerful computer, often rack-mounted. Servers provide various features and functions, often referred to as “services”, such as sharing data or resources between several clients and performing calculations.
  • What technical characteristics should you take into account?

    AAEON motherboard
    AAEON motherboard

    As with consumer PCs, there is a wide choice of characteristics depending on the expected performance of the machine:

    • Processor type: this is the first criterion you should define when you are going to buy an industrial PC. The processor is also known as the CPU (Central Processing Unit) and it executes the machine instructions of computer programs. The choice of this component will depend on the computing power you require for your application. For simple uses such as data acquisition, you will not need to opt for the best CPU available. For complex CAD/CAM calculations or multi-tasking, you will need a more powerful processor. Cost and energy consumption are also factors you should consider.
    • Memory: RAM or random access memory provides the processor with data quickly. The choice of RAM will have an impact on the speed of the PC.
    • Storage: for data storage, there are HHD (hard disk drives), SSD (solid state drives) or external storage (external hard drives, USB keys, Cloud solutions, etc.).
    • Ports and extensions: these are the inputs and outputs of your equipment. These include the screen, video output, etc.
    • OS (Operating System): Windows, Linux, etc. The OS must be compatible with the existing equipment and systems.


    • Processor type
    • Memory
    • Storage
    • Ports and extensions
  • What type of storage should you choose? HDD or SSD?

    Toshiba HDD
    Toshiba HDD

    The HDD (hard disk drive) is the classic hard drive. The SSD (solid state drive) is more recent. The SSD is smaller, faster and quieter. SSDs last longer. They require less electricity and are not sensitive to vibrations and magnetic fields. SSDs require less access time and cause less latency. On the other hand, SSDs are about three to five times more expensive than HDDs.

    When you should choose an HDD:

    • If a large storage capacity is required.
    • If low price is a priority.
    • For a reading a high number of programs.

    Best uses for SSDs:

    • To make starting up the PC and programs faster.
    • To increase the accessibility of the files you work with a lot: photos, audio and video.

    There are also:

    • Storage servers: these are autonomous file servers, connected to a network, whose main function is centralized data storage for clients.
    • The Cloud: data storage is deported and accessible from anywhere via the Internet.

    Types of storage:

    • HDD
    • SDD
    • Storage servers
    • Cloud
  • What are the main standards for ruggedized industrial computers?

    Kontron rugged industrial PC
    Kontron rugged industrial PC

    There are many protection standards for computers. Here are a few that will help you find the ones that correspond with the conditions of use of your PC:

    • IP code: you will need to know the environmental conditions you will be working in in order to select the IP code you require. The first digit of the IP (Ingress Protection) code indicates protection against solids, the second digit indicates protection against water or other liquids. Industrial PCs generally have a rating of IP65 or IP67.
    • ATEX standards: these concern protection where there is a risk of explosion. There are industrial PCs that comply with ATEX standards for use in hazardous areas.
    • MIL-STD-810: this is a military standard that establishes a set of tests to determine the suitability of equipment for military operations. This standard is often used as a reference in the commercial laptop industry.
  • What other characteristics are important to consider when choosing an industrial PC?

    Many speed and maintenance problems in computers are caused by fans.

    The fan is one of the most fragile components of a PC. It is quickly damaged by dust and grease, which can cause the computer to overheat. Advances in cooling technology have made it possible to develop fanless PCs. These can help you improve the reliability of your machines and reduce your maintenance costs.

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