How Are Industrial Computers Different Than Commercial Computers?

rugged industrial computerIndustrial and commercial computers are different mainly in terms of hardware, because they can run the same type of OS and software.

Many technical characteristics and components of industrial computers are also the same: microprocessor, storage, RAM, interface ports etc. However, what makes them really different is their ruggedized system.

Industrial computers are created for users who work in challenging conditions (extreme temperatures, humid environment, dust, vibrations etc.), where normal computers would be easily damaged. If commercial computers come in plastic-made desktop casing, with keyboards and monitors that can be attached separately, industrial computers are packed in rugged metal enclosures that protect them against water, cold, heat, corrosive substances, and many other possible dangers.

Applications supported by industrial computers

  • Machine-control, handling equipment, motion control
  • Process control
  • Gauging
  • Data collection
  • Manufacturing, cell controllers

Other differences


In terms of temperature, commercial computers should stay below 35 degrees C (95 degrees F), while industrial computers can operate over 45 degrees C (113 degrees F).

Dust and particles

Most industrial computers are built to operate without fans, which keeps dust and particles away. Some systems are provided with positive air pressure flow within the chassis, which helps keep clean airflow inside and cools down magnetic media, system components and power supplies.

Power supply and electrical design

Industrial computers are supplied with highly reliable industrial power and stabilized DC voltages under any conditions, from surges to noise on AC power sources – very common in industrial environment. They are also equipped with proper electrical design and grounding options in order to minimize hazards.

Electromagnetic interference

Electromagnetic Interference appears frequently in industrial environments, where there are large machines and motors. It may cause equipment failure, loss of communication and voltage spikes that will degrade components over time. Industrial computers ensure robust insulation, therefore protection against electromagnetic interference.

Shock and vibration

In industrial computers, different components and disk drives are mounted on special shock absorbers.


In industrial environments, computers are often affected by moisture; some must even resist during pressure washing and disinfection. Regular computers would not possibly survive, but industrial computers are very resistant to water.

Price vs. Longevity

Industrial computers are made to last. Commercial computers will be eventually disposed of, but industrial computers last for extended periods of time, due to their reinforced structure and higher quality materials. They are more expensive but they are economic in the long run, considering that their parts remain static and do not require updates during 5 years or more.

Energy consumption

Electrical consumption is an important factor to consider before purchasing any appliance. In case of industrial computers, they have low power CPUs and their electrical consumption is significantly lower than in the case of commercial computers; this will translate into money savings. This is a great advantage that results from the fact that an industrial computer is specifically designed for a job, resulting in a compact design that will require minimum power consumption.


In industrial computers, motherboards are flexible to be customized for the customers’ specific needs.


Choosing A Rugged Computer Manufacturer

rugged computerThere are many things to consider when you choose a rugged computer manufacturer, considering that there is a wide variety of options available. Basically, you must check if the manufacturer is reliable and produces devices that can meet your needs, ensuring good productivity and being a good investment overall.

Estimating your needs

The first thing to think about is what you actually need to accomplish. Choose a manufacturer that produces rugged computers with the functions that your job requires. Make sure that you consider every important detail, including the working conditions (outdoors, in rough weather conditions, exposed to dust, moisture, very high or very low temperatures etc.), the road between work sites, the required maintenance etc. Manufacturers are able to offer computers characterized by a high level of ruggedness, for particularly difficult working conditions, but also by a lower level of ruggedness.

Of course, you should also consider your budget. Rugged computers are more expensive than regular computers, but there are considerable price differences even among them. Choose a manufacturer that offers you the best balance between price and quality and be prepared to pay some extra money if you want high quality stuff.

Choosing the right features

Some rugged computers are equipped to properly protect your data even when you are changing the battery; with others, you risk to lose some collected data. Some have large displays, making imagery-rich content easy to be visualized, while others are smaller and more compact. Some displays perform better than others outside, in bright sunlight.

Manufacturers also offer computers equipped with different operating systems, so you should determine which OS you need or prefer to work with and make sure it is compatible with the software you will be using.

Some rugged computers are equipped with a physical keyboard, which allows users to collect large amounts of data, while others are handheld computers, with normal or high sensitive touch screens.

Manufacturers offer different options when it comes to the battery power too: some batteries allow users to work only for a few hours, others for a full working day or even more. They also allow the attachment of different accessory devices, so make sure that you choose a manufacturer that produces computers equipped with all the necessary ports for attaching all the accessory devices that you need in your work. Also remember to choose a computer that supports the connectivity you need.

Manufacturers produce computers that can be repaired if necessary, but they also produce break-and-replace computers; you will have to decide which type is best for you. It is also important to check what level of support is provided by the manufacturer; someĀ  will offer you all their resources, while others will provide only limited (if any!) support.

Last but not least, you must ask the manufacturer about warranties. Typically, rugged computers come with a 2-year warranty, but you must check this information before you make a purchase.

Buying Your Rugged Computer

Choosing the rugged computer manufacturer who is able to offer the ideal computer for your project is not simple, and if you are not experienced, you should first speak with a specialist.