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This page was last updated: 7/18/2016 10:51:30 AM

I am looking for a computer/laptop for home. What does Information Technology recommend?
Q1: I am looking for a computer/laptop for home. What does Information Technology recommend?

A: For Windows users, Information Technology recommends Dell for their strong on-site service and support contracts. We highly recommend purchasing a notebook computer rather than a desktop computer. Notebooks have become nearly as powerful and as capable as desktop computers, yet their portability is a big advantage when seeking support and while traveling. Dell has a wide variety of systems to meet your needs.

If you prefer to purchase a Mac laptop computer, onsite support contracts are not available, so you will need to deal with repairs yourself by taking the computer to an Apple store. Please contact the IT Director to help you select a Mac computer.

1. Operating System - Information Technology recommends specific Windows operating systems. Other operating systems may not fully interoperate with CWSL software or systems, and therefore may be more difficult for us to support and for you to use. We offer limited support for non-Microsoft Windows operating systems.   Information Technology recommends the following Windows operating systems when purchasing a new computer:

  • Windows 7 Professional (32-bit or 64-bit)

  • Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit or 64-bit)

  • Windows 8.1

  • Windows 10 (Home or Professional edition)

2. Memory - IT recommends at least 4 GB of RAM in a new system. However, more than 4 GB is highly recommended if you can afford it. The additional RAM will be helpful if you run multiple applications, particularly those applications which involve graphics or video editing.  If you will be using the laptop primarily for word processing, email, and web browsing, 4 GB should be satisfactory.  

3. Processor - IT recommends at least a Core i5 processor. If you plan to perform video editing or other graphics and/or CPU-intensive operations, we strongly suggest a Core i7 grade processor. For standard word processing, email, and web browsing, a Core i5 processor is generally sufficient.

4. Hard Drive -  Size: for the storage of primarily documents (mostly Word, Excel, and PDF docs, but few photos, music files, video files), a hard drive of 256 GB or less is usually ample.  It would take a lot of Word documents to fill a disk of that size. If you plan on storing a lot of media files (photos, music, and particularly video), you should consider at least 400 GB or more. Speed: the access speed of the hard disk directly affects the performance of a laptop. A faster disk means faster boot up time and faster operation. There are three levels of disks available in laptops:  5400 RPM (slowest), 7200 RPM (faster), and SSD (fastest). SSD (Solid State Drives) are by far the most expensive, but are coming down in price. These are definitely faster and generally more reliable than mechanical (spinning) drives, but come in smaller sizes than mechanical drives.

5. Video Card - the video card that comes standard is generally fine for typical word processing, email, and web browsing use. However, if you plan on doing anything graphics-intensive (video editing or watching high-definition video in full screen), a better video card is in order (one with 1GB or more of RAM).

6. Display - display size (and thus laptop size and weight) is a matter of personal preference. To determine the size that works best for you, IT recommends visiting a consumer electronics store (Best Buy, etc.) to physically check out the various size options. In general, though, if you're always traveling or moving the laptop around, a smaller size (13") is preferred. If the laptop will live most of its life sitting on a desk at home, then a larger display (15"+) would make sense.  As far as display resolution is concerned, the higher the resolution means a smaller, finer pixel, which reduces eye fatigue when staring at a screen for many hours.

7. Optical Drive - A DVD+/-RW drive allows you to write to blank DVD and CD discs. Recommended if you anticipate doing that.

8. Warranty - IT recommends at least a 3-year, Next Business Day, On-site support contract. An Accidental Damage option is available with many systems, and is a good investment if you want to be protected if you accidently drop your laptop, spill liquids on it, etc. If you anticipate keeping your laptop for more than 3 years (very common), consider a 4-year warranty.

9. Software - If this is a laptop that is being purchased with School funds (i.e. the School will own the laptop), then the MS Office suite can be installed at no cost. Our MS Campus Agreement covers all school-owned computers. In this situation, IT will install the MS Office suite for you. This is an available option for both Windows and Mac computers.

If you have a personally-owned laptop, our Microsoft license does not allow for the installation of MS Office. However, CWSL employees can get better pricing on the Microsoft Office software suite via educationally-discounted channels than ordering it through the system vendor or purchasing it from a computer store.  Therefore, it is best to order/purchase the system without the MS Office application suite. See the HelpDesk Academic Software page for more info.


As always, please email and we'll be happy to discuss your individual needs and help you select a laptop.

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