Computer Requirements

We are occasionally approached by prospective students looking for advice on what sort of a laptop to purchase to pursue a degree in Computer Science.  While computer specifications are constantly changing, we list below some general guidelines for minimum and recommended specifications, current as of 2020.

Windows Laptop

Minimum Requirements

  • Intel Core i5 processor (with VT extensions)
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
  • Built-in web cam and microphone

Recommended Requirements

  • Intel Core i7 processor (with VT extensions)
  • 16 GB RAM (or more)
  • 1 TB Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Built-in web cam and microphone
  • optional: dedicated GPU  (The integrated graphics in modern CPUs is quite good for general use, but if you are interested in gaming or graphics-intensive work then you will want a dedicated GPU. )

Mac Laptop

Minimum Requirements

  • MacBook Pro
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD

Recommended Requirements

  • MacBook Pro  
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 1TB SSD

A few IMPORTANT NOTES to keep in mind:

  • Students enjoy discounted prices on new Macs.  If you are shopping online, make sure you look for the Shop for University option on the Apple website, or talk to the Campus Computer Store.
  • Another option is to scroll to the bottom of the Apple website and look for the Refurbished and Clearance link.  Refurbished Macs still carry full warranty and are cheaper than new.  But be sure and compare the price to the educational-discount price, and not the list price.
  • Apple often runs a deal in the summer aimed at students, such as "buy a computer and get such-and-such apple accessory for free".  Search for an Apple Back-to-School deal page on the apple website.
  • The newest Mac laptops have fewer upgrade options than in the past.  For example, on most new laptops, one cannot upgrade the RAM at a later date. Therefore, it is very important to choose a model that has sufficient RAM and storage to serve you for the life of the system.