Almost all Willamette students bring their own computers to campus. While WU offers computer lab facilities, many of these spaces are limited to students enrolled in specific courses or majors. Some general access labs are open to students 24 hours a day, but space is limited. Owning your own computer is highly recommended. These guidelines can help you make sure that the computer you bring to Willamette will be able to meet your needs for at least 4 years.

  1. Things to keep in mind
  2. Desktop or Laptop?
  3. Windows or Mac...or Chromebook?
  4. Recommended specs and example systems
  5. Hard Drive Size and Type
  6. Recommended Accessories
  7. Accessories to avoid

1. Things to keep in mind

It can be difficult to predict your computing needs over the next several years, especially if you're not sure what your major will be. It's safe to say that computer software will continue to advance, and any computer that you purchase should have the fastest processor, most RAM, and best storage (SSD) that your budget allows. 

Sometimes refurbished computers can offer a great value, but it's easy to purchase a system that has out-of-date hardware that doesn't compare well to something newer. New laptops also offer much better battery life than machines that are even a few years old. Plus, it's always a good idea to buy something with a warranty.

Manufacturers like Dell or Apple offer student discounts that can make purchasing a new system more affordable, and both have great "Back to School" specials in August/September.

2. Desktop or Laptop?

WITS 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 campus. Modern laptop computers have more than enough power to handle a typical student's requirements. If you choose to bring a desktop computer, you may want to consider supplementing it with an inexpensive laptop that can be taken to class or used for studying in the library.

3. Windows or Mac...or Chromebook?

We strongly recommend against bringing a Chromebook as your primary computer. It may cover your basic computing needs but, in most cases, they are unable to run mainstream applications and open-source software and may not work with projectors or classroom hardware.
For a better experience, stick with computers that run Windows or MacOS. All of the essential services Willamette provides (including Microsoft Office) are available for both of these 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.
If you get a Windows computer running in "S mode" you may need to switch it out of S mode to install applications outside of the Microsoft App Store.  (Instructions here...)

4. Recommended specs and example systems

Here are some general baseline recommendations for a new computer. Most do not include a 3 year warranty which can add between $150 to $250 to the below approximations.

Example Make and Model OS Processor Memory Storage Approximate price
Minimum recommended PC Dell Vostro 14" Windows 11 Intel Core i5 8GB 256GB SSD $650 +$250
Mid-level PC Dell XPS 13
Windows 11 Intel Core i5 16GB 512GB SSD $1000 +$200
High performance PC Alienware 15" Windows 11 Intel Core i7 16GB 1TB SSD $1400 +$200
Minimum recommended Mac MacBook Air 13" MacOS Apple M1 8GB 256GB SSD $900 +$179
Mid-level Mac MacBook Air 13.6" MacOS Apple M2 8GB 256GB SSD $1099 +$209
High performance Mac MacBook Pro 14" MacOS Apple M2 16GB 512GB SSD $1849 +$249

Why so much Dell?
There are plenty of quality PC manufacturers out there. We're offering example systems from Dell and Apple because they sell direct and through almost all computer retailers, and they both offer student discounts. In our experience, brands like HP and Lenovo will also get the job done but are not as reliable and can be more difficult for us to support.  Avoid off-brand discount laptops whenever possible....not all laptops are created equal: a lesson you don't want to learn the hard way.

What about AMD and M1/M2 processors?
AMD's Ryzen Mobile processors are much improved over previous generations and in many cases outperform comparable Intel processors.  They are less common, however, but should get the job done.

Apple has abandoned Intel processors and shifted to their in-house M series "system on a chip" design. These new M1 and M2 powered Macs pack quite a performance punch at a lower cost than the previous Intel generation systems.

5. Hard Drive Size and Type

It's difficult to find a modern computer that does not come with at least 128GB of SSD storage. Solid State Drives have replaced the older, less reliable spinning hard drives in almost all but the cheapest of computers. Avoid old 'spinner' drives whenever possible as they are painfully tenth the speed or slower when compared to modern SSDs.

128GB is about as small as they come, and that will fill up quickly. Opt for a 512GB drive if you use your laptop to backup your smartphone and store lots of music, videos, or pictures. 1TB is not a bad choice if you plan to install games or large software packages which can easily reach 20GB each.

6. Recommended Accessories

If you are considering purchasing a new computer, you should also think about adding the following accessories.

  • External Hard Drive: We recommend that all students come to campus with an external hard drive. External drives can be used to back up your academic work (backups can also be stored on your Willamette network file storage and Google Drive) or simply to store data that won't fit on your computer's internal drive.
  • Extra power adapter: Laptop power adapters can easily be lost or damaged. If you purchase an extra power adapter with your laptop, you can keep it as a spare or leave it connected in your dorm room so you never have to look for an outlet at your desk. We do NOT recommend off-brand, universal, or generic power adapters as they usually do not offer the same maximum output or power conditioning as original parts. Some off-brand power adapters can even damage your laptop! Only buy the REAL DEAL from the manufacturer or a reputable reseller.
  • Ethernet adapter and/or cable: All of Willamette's residential buildings offer complete WiFi coverage, but even the best wireless connection can be subject to interference or additional latency when compared to a wired connection. Our dorms are equipped with gigabit Ethernet ports for each resident, which should offer the best connection that our Internet service can support.  Most laptops will need an adapter (USB-A or USB-C) to use wired ethernet.  They can be found for around $17 online.

7. Accessories to avoid

  • Wireless access point/wireless router. This includes the Apple AirPort products. Personally owned wireless access points are prohibited in residence halls as they can create security problems for the entire network and can interfere with our networks, resulting in unreliable performance.
  • Printers. Willamette offers black and white duplex printing across the campus at no additional cost. Printing is managed through a single system, and you can print from any computer on campus (including your own) and release the job to any eligible printer. Color printing is available from Print Services for a modest fee. Using a printer of your own might be convenient, but it's not necessary by any means and will take up valuable space in your room.

Willamette University

Willamette Integrated Technology Services

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6004 voice
503-375-5456 fax

Back to Top