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Recommended Computers for Incoming Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Recommended Computers for Incoming Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Penn State University does not require students to bring their own personal computer to campus. However, students will be required to use computers frequently for communications and academic activities. Personal ownership of a computer, whether it is a desktop or laptop model, will enable students to benefit from their in-class and out-of-class activities to the fullest extent.

Penn State ITS provides wireless internet, also known as "WiFi", equipment (802.11a/b/g/ and n) in Walker building.  You can learn how to connect to the wireless using your PSU ITS credentials at <A HREF=""></A>.  Wireless networking services are provided at various on-campus locations, including on-campus housing, which adds to the Internet and collaborative computing environment.

With the expanding wireless capabilities and increasing dependence on computers for individual and group work at various campus locations, it appears that there are many advantages to having a laptop computer with built-in wireless capability. Since the purchase of a computer may be one of the largest single expenditures made by a student and since portability also increases security risk, students need to closely guard their investment and take steps to secure their computer when not in use.

Incoming Undergraduate Students

The typical computer has a useful lifetime of roughly four years. Incoming freshmen who already own a desktop or laptop computer capable of networking (wired and wireless) with a system that is no more than three years old will most likely be able to use this system into their sophomore year.

Upon entering the junior year, most students will likely be using the Department of Meteorology computing system for the majority of their scientific work, while still using a personal PC or Macintosh for spreadsheets and paper writing. For those without a computer or with an older computer, the department also has a dedicated computer lab for students to use as part of their studies.

Incoming Graduate Students

Graduate students in their first year are typically assigned a space in the graduate student teaching assistant office, where departmental computers are available with access to both the Windows and Linux networks. When a graduate student begins active research, the graduate student’s advisor typically provides a computer for research activities.

Although graduate students are provided with access to computing resources, it is still advised that each graduate student consider purchasing a laptop computer for their use during graduate school and beyond.

Computer Recommendations

For those who do not already own a computer or plan to purchase a new system, the following information is provided for a minimum laptop system configuration. This system should provide acceptable performance for the majority of undergraduate and graduate students through their studies here at Penn State.

• Intel multicore processor at 2.0 Ghz or faster (or AMD equivalent), Apple Intel Duo Core or equivalent

• 4GB RAM minimum

Hard Drive:
• 1TB (or larger)

Video Card:
• 256MB RAM, 512MB recommended

• Built-in 10/100/1000 BaseT Ethernet (for dormitories or apartments)

Wireless Networking:
• 802.11g/n capable, Intel Centrino, Airport Extreme or equivalent

• DVD/CD Read/Write Drive

• Several USB Ports

• Sound Card & Speakers

• 15 inch or greater for laptops, 19 inch or greater for desktops

• Lock & Cable (e.g., for laptops in dormitories)

Operating System:
• Windows 7 (Pro recommended) with latest Microsoft Service Packs applied, Mac OS-X, or Red Hat Enterprise Linux (for advanced students)
**NOTE: Any new machine should be Windows 7 or 8 certified if Microsoft Windows is desired!  Vista is not recommended.

Productivity Software:
• Microsoft Office (Windows 7/8 or Mac OSX), ilife (Mac OSX) or Open Office (Linux)
• Adobe Acrobat (Windows 7/8 or Mac OSX)
• Email Client (Available free from Penn State)
• Virus Protection (Available free from Penn State)

Purchasing a Computer

While Penn State has no specific recommendations for computer brands or platforms, the university has worked out special deals and discounts available to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Listed below are other links to information and services that may help you in selecting and purchasing computer hardware and software:

Free and special licensed software:

Purchasing computers and computer software:


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