Computer Recommendations for Students, Faculty, and Staff


Purchasing a computer can sometimes be a daunting task. There are so many configurations, brands, and choices available. We're hoping this guide can help you make a decision.




Any computer, no matter the brand, is the sum of all the parts it's made up of. This listing of the most critical parts can help you figure out what you may need.

  1. Operating System (OS):

    • Function: The OS is like the brain of the computer. It manages all the software and hardware, enabling them to work together. It provides a user interface, manages files, and controls the computer's resources.
    • University Use: It allows us to run applications, access files, and use the computer efficiently. Common OS options include Windows, macOS, and Linux.
  2. Processor (CPU - Central Processing Unit):

    • Function: The CPU is the computer's brain, performing calculations and executing instructions. It's responsible for the speed and overall performance of the computer.
    • University Use: It's crucial for running complex applications, simulations, and handling multitasking. In a university setting, it ensures smooth operation of research software and academic tools.
  3. Memory (RAM - Random Access Memory):

    • Function: RAM is like a short-term memory. It stores data that the CPU is currently using or will use soon, allowing for quick access and retrieval.
    • University Use: RAM ensures that multiple applications can run simultaneously without slowing down the system. This is vital for working on projects, running software, and multitasking.
  4. Memory (Hard Drive or SSD - Solid State Drive):

    • Function: The hard drive or SSD is like a long-term memory, storing data permanently. SSDs are faster than traditional hard drives and are becoming more common.
    • University Use: It stores the operating system, software, documents, and multimedia files. It's crucial for long-term storage of research data, projects, and personal files.
  5. Graphics Card (GPU - Graphics Processing Unit):

    • Function: The GPU is designed for rendering graphics and performing parallel processing tasks. It's crucial for high-quality visuals and complex calculations.
    • University Use: It's essential for tasks involving graphics, such as computer-aided design (CAD), video editing, and simulations in fields like engineering, architecture, and multimedia.
  6. Screen Size:

    • Function: The screen size refers to the physical dimensions of the display. A larger screen provides more visual space.
    • University Use: Larger screens are beneficial for multitasking, research, and viewing detailed documents or presentations. They are especially useful for disciplines that involve detailed data analysis.
  7. Camera:

    • Function: The camera captures images or video. It enables video conferencing, recording lectures, and taking photos.
    • University Use: Cameras are used for virtual classes, video meetings, and recording academic events. They enhance communication and collaboration among students and faculty.
  8. Microphone:

    • Function: The microphone records audio. It allows for voice communication and audio recording.
    • University Use: Microphones are crucial for virtual meetings, online classes, and recording lectures. They facilitate clear communication and content creation.
  9. Networking Card:

    • Function: The networking card, or network interface card (NIC), enables the computer to connect to a network, either wired or wirelessly.
    • University Use: It's essential for accessing the internet, connecting to campus networks, and collaborating with peers. It supports online research, communication, and accessing shared resources.


Tips and Tricks

  • Check Department Requirements:

    • Some university departments may have specific requirements or recommendations for computer specifications. Check with your department IT to ensure you meet any specific criteria. You can also contact us to ask any specific questions about any of the parts listed on this page - we can provide some general guidance!
  • Determine Your Needs:

    • Identify the purpose of your computer. Different majors and academic requirements may necessitate specific features. For example, an engineering student might need a powerful processor for simulations, while an art student might prioritize a high-quality graphics card for design work.
  • Consider Portability:

    • Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, decide if you need a laptop for portability or if a desktop would better suit your needs. Laptops are versatile and suitable for on-the-go studying, while desktops often offer more power at a lower cost.
  • Look at Battery Life (for Laptops):

    • If you're considering a laptop, check the battery life. A longer battery life is beneficial for attending lectures, studying in libraries, or working in places where power outlets may not be readily available.
  • Evaluate Processing Power (CPU):

    • Choose a processor that suits your needs. For general university tasks, a mid-range processor should be sufficient. However, if you're involved in resource-intensive activities such as video editing, programming, or 3D modeling, consider a more powerful CPU.
  • Check RAM and Storage Capacity:

    • Ensure the computer has enough RAM for multitasking and running software smoothly. Additionally, consider the storage capacity, especially if you'll be working with large files. An SSD (Solid State Drive) can also significantly improve overall system responsiveness.
  • Graphics Performance (for Design and Engineering):

    • If your academic work involves graphics-intensive tasks, such as graphic design, video editing, or CAD, invest in a computer with a dedicated graphics card (GPU).
  • Connectivity Options:

    • Ensure the computer has the necessary ports for your peripherals (external drives, printers, etc.) and connectivity options such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • Consider Future Upgrades:

    • Choose a computer with some degree of upgradability, especially if you're on a tight budget. Upgrading components like RAM or storage in the future can extend the life of your device.
  • Read Reviews and Compare Prices:

    • Research different models, read reviews from reliable sources, and compare prices from various retailers. This will help you find the best value for your budget. Usually you can find the model number of the computer - plug that into YouTube to watch reviews!
  • Warranty and Support:

    • Check the warranty offered by the manufacturer. Additionally, consider the availability of customer support and service centers in your area. A good warranty and reliable support can be crucial for the longevity of your device.


Related Information

See our Computer Discounts for Students & Personal Use article for information on items you can purchase as a student, or for personal use as Faculty/Staff!

For Faculty/Staff department-purchased computers, see Important Computing Equipment Specs and Purchasing Instructions for Staff and Instructors.

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Article ID: 714
Fri 2/23/24 9:27 AM
Mon 7/15/24 8:49 AM

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