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Office of International Education

Buying a Computer

There are a lot of things to consider when buying a computer. Each vendor offers different options, complete with minor alterations that make comparison difficult. However, there are a few basic characteristics on which you can focus to help you narrow the field. The table below provides recommended specifications for most users. Certain higher-end applications may require an adjustment to these specs.

Recommendations as of February, 2010 

 Components and Factors  Recommended

Processor Speed

2.0 GHz or higher for most desktops and full size laptops 1.5 GHz or higher for mobile processors like the Atom found in Netbooks and the like


2 Gigabyte (GB) minimum

More is better if you use Vista

Unless you use a 64-bit processor, buy no more than 3GB

If you do use a 64-bit processor, 4GB may be useful

Hard Drive (Gigabytes - GB)

100 or more


DVDRW - Record and play DVD's and CD's. Double-layer (DL) is still a matter of choice

Connectivity for off-campus users

Consider boradband via DSL or cable. Modems will still work, but are becoming less of a viable alternative


Ethernet Card - 10/100 mpbs recommended and needed for on-campus, residence hall broadband access  Wireless Card - 802.11 b/g/n recommended

Monitor (Diagonal Size)

17" or higher LCD - save space and use less power


B/W Laser Printer


Basic Office Suite (Word Processing, spreadsheet and presentation) such as Microsoft Office Suite or compariable free software like Open Office, Star Office and others.  Antivirus Software - Campus provides free Symantec Antivirus to all students. SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT 32 VS 64 BIT: Most 32-bit software  will run on a 64-bit system. However, you will likely run into difficulty with some antivirus software and most  printer drivers. Before selecting a 64-bit system, make sure you will be able to get 64-bit versions of these types of software. You will also want to check that any other software you intend to load is available in a 64-bit version or that a current 32-bit version is compatible. There is no central source for such information - you need to check with each vendor's web site or other support resource.


USB Memory Key/Flash Drive and a good Carrying Case


The speed with which innovation takes place and the amount of competition in this market make choosing a computer difficult at best. The following table details our thoughts on machine selection for the date listed above. While we recommend "Core 2 Duo" processors, this does not mean one must purchase only Intel products. Comparable processors from AMD and processors from other vendors are fine as well.