Computer Purchase Recommendations

  1. Planning to buy a new computer to bring to campus?
  2. Desktop or Laptop?
  3. Windows or Mac?
  4. Windows Home or Pro?
  5. What about Windows 10?
  6. What about Chromebooks?
  7. Hard Drive Size and Type
  8. Recommended Accessories
  9. Accessories to avoid

1. Planning to buy a new computer to bring to campus?

It's difficult to predict exactly what you'll need over the next few years, although it is safe to say that advances in software will require more computing power, storage, and memory. If you are going to purchase a new computer, you should get the fastest processor (CPU), and the most memory (RAM, measured in GB) and the best hard drive (capacity measured in GB) that your budget allows.


2. Desktop or Laptop?

Willamette recommends that you consider a laptop. Laptop computers take up less space in your room, can be taken to class or the library, and are easier to transport to and from school. Current laptop computers have more than enough power to handle the typical student's requirements.


3. Windows or Mac?

Willamette happily supports Windows and Mac. All of the essential services Willamette provides are available for both platforms. Keep in mind that some programs are only available for one platform or the other. Make sure your OS choice matches the software you plan to use.


4. Windows Home or Pro?

Any recent version of Windows is fully compatible with Willamette University's network. We do not require any of the special features of Pro (we do not use a Windows Domain for student computers).


5. What about Windows 10?

Most new PCs will come with Windows 10, which is fully compatible with Willamette University’s network. Older operating systems (Vista/7/8) are also compatible.

Here are some general baseline recommendations for a new computer:

Operating System

Processor and Memory

Networking

Other Recommendations

PC

Windows 10 Home

Intel i5 or AMD A8 APU, 8GB RAM

802.11n or 802.11ac; Ethernet port

1920x1080 screen resolution; SSD; optical drive

Mac

Mac OS X 10.10 and up

Intel i5, 8GB RAM

802.11ac, Ethernet port or adapter

VGA adapter (laptops)


6. What about Chromebooks?

Small and inexpensive Chromebooks are very popular, but they are often underpowered and are not as fully-featured as a normal laptop. Chromebooks run the ChromeOS operating system, which is not compatible with Windows or Mac programs. If you will need to run any software for a class, you should have a Windows PC or a Mac. Chromebooks usually do not come with an optical drive, which you may need.

Chromebooks require an internet connection for most apps. They should work well on the Willamette campus, which offers near-complete WiFi coverage. These computers excel in portability and battery life (for note-taking, for example).


7. Hard Drive Size and Type

Almost all hard drives that come with new computers are adequate for the typical academic workload. If you will be storing a lot of audio or video files, consider a drive 500GB or larger. 

If you can afford an appropriately sized SSD, it is recommended. SSDs offer a huge boost in overall system performance compared with a traditional hard drive. They have no moving parts, so you will be less likely to damage the disk and lose data. This is especially important if you will be taking your laptop to class daily. You can always augment a smaller SSD with an external hard drive for cheap storage. If you will be using an SSD as the primary drive in your computer, it should be at least 128GB in size.


8. Recommended Accessories

If you are considering purchasing a new computer, you should also think about adding the following accessories. Typical configurations these days may already include some of these options:

  • External Hard Drive: We recommend that all students come to campus with an external hard drive or flash for backing up all your files. It's always a good idea to keep your important data backed up in several places.
  • Extra power adapter: Laptop power adapters can easily end up lost or broken. We recommend buying a second power adapter, which is usually cheapest if you order it with your new computer. We do not recommend off-brand or universal laptop power adapters.


9. Accessories to avoid

  • Wireless access point/wireless router. This includes the Apple AirPort Base Station and the Apple AirPort Express. Personally owned wireless access points are prohibited in residence halls as they can create security problems for the entire network and can interfere with one another resulting in unreliable performance.