Buying a computer

If you are new to the College of Engineering, congratulations, and welcome! Below you will find a student guide with information about owning a laptop in the CoE.

A Windows laptop computer is required for all existing and incoming College of Engineering (CoE) students. Some courses in the CoE will require a laptop for in-class use as well as for homework.

CAE and the UW Campus Software Library ( have a number of software titles available that can be installed on personal computers. CAE also has some software that can be accessed and run remotely through a platform called XenApp ( These include engineering titles, productivity software and security suites. Office 365 can be downloaded for free using your NetID and the Outlook Web App (OWA). 

Windows or Mac OS?

The College of Engineering requires that engineering students adopt the Windows platform. Windows 10 or 11, 64 bit is required. Please note that Windows Home, Go or S may not run some software properly, or at all. Windows 10 will no longer be supported by Microsoft on October 14, 2025, so if you have a Windows 10 computer, make sure that the chipset supports Windows 11. Upgrades are available (see links below). Using a Mac for Engineering classes will be done at the user's own risk as some commonly used engineering programs require Windows to operate. If the need arises, such as the COVID-19 safer-at-home order, you may be required to install software that is only available on Windows (for example, AutoCAD, EES, or Solidworks) on your personal computer. You will be expected to complete your work regardless of the computer you own. 

CAE does not offer support for Apple products, even those running Windows. Some problems that might arise include driver issues, hardware incompatibility, maintaining two operating systems, and keeping security patches up-to-date. In addition, support for Macs will be referred to the campus help desk (DoIT). Please keep in mind that while DoIT can provide general troubleshooting for the hardware and OS, they seldom have the knowledge or access to engineering software related issues. WARNING: The new Macs with the M.x, non-Intel chips will not work with virtual box or BootCamp. While the M1 Macs can be made to run a special version of Windows, it will not run engineering software. In addition, CAE does not provide Parallels, nor do we support it.


Keep in mind that if you already have a newer laptop that meets or exceeds these specs, it will likely work; you may not need to buy a new one. Minimum and recommended specs for a computer for engineering are as follows:

 Operating System Windows 10 64-bit, must be upgradable to Win 11 (Windows 11 recommended)
 Processor Gen 8 or newer Intel i5 or AMD Equivalent (Gen 10+ Intel i7 or AMD Equivalent recommended)*
 Memory (RAM) 16 GB (higher recommended)
 Storage 512+ GB SSD (NVMe recommended) 
 Graphics Discrete Graphics Card (Nvidia, AMD)
 Wireless Connectivity 802.11n or better
 Warranty See below

*Must not be ARM-based processors

Can't decide?

While CAE does not recommend any particular brand of computer over another, the UW has a link for Dell at where you can search for options. Choose "laptops and 2-in-1s" then choose the specs on the left side to see options. There is a link below that has a sample search.

It is worth checking other laptop suppliers such as HP and Lenovo, etc. and even places like Best Buy and Newegg. Be sure to double check the specs and models before you buy. Third party sellers like Newegg and Best Buy often have deals on older computers that might be several years old. Generation 8 intel processors are the oldest that will support Windows 11, but keep in mind that you will need this laptop for at least 4 years and technology that is older now may not hold up that long.

Here is an example of a Dell computer search:,37649,37651,37658,37659,37700,37698,37715,37716,37796,37795,37797,37701,37653&sortBy=price-ascending

Here are some things to consider when purchasing a computer:

·       Many newer laptops have only one USB port. Some courses will require you to connect external USB hardware. Consider a laptop with additional USB ports, or purchasing a USB hub.

·       You should consider an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse for home use. When working from home, it is nice to have the extra desktop space to work with. 

·       Be sure to shop around before you buy. Buying a faster processor, more RAM, larger SSD, etc. will certainly improve the performance of any computer. These upgrades will also extend the useful life of the laptop. Larger displays are nice, but add weight.

·       A good 3-4 year warranty that covers replacement and damage is strongly recommended. A warranty that offers same day shipping or walk in repairs will help minimize downtime.

·       Consideration should be given to business class laptops. As an engineering student, your laptop is an essential tool and purchasing one that will last and give you little trouble is well worth the additional expense.

·       You should have a backup solution for your work. Cloud services offered through the University include Google Drive, OneDrive and UW Box. In addition, CAE students have access to 25GB of filespace that is hosted by CAE.

·       For distance learning, a webcam and headset with a microphone may be necessary.



DoIT Software Library:

DoIT Helpdesk: 

Office of Cybersecurity:

Windows Upgrades:


Software Library:

Keywordslaptop computer buy buying freshman incoming apple windows soar mac requirement   Doc ID32851
OwnerNoel K.GroupCAE
Created2013-08-16 13:37:21Updated2024-05-06 12:50:56
SitesComputer-Aided Engineering
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