Buying a computer
Beginning in the Fall 2016 semester, a laptop computer will be required for new College of Engineering (CoE) students. Some courses in the CoE will require the use of a laptop for class use as well as for homework. If you are an incoming freshman and already own a laptop, you can certainly start with that one. Chances are that it will be adequate for your first semester or two of classes. You will then have a better idea if you will need a more powerful machine.
CAE and the UW Campus Software Library (http://it.wisc.edu/services/software/) 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 (https://kb.wisc.edu/cae/page.php?id=28565). 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). Many other Microsoft titles are available through the Microsoft Imagine website (www.cae.wisc.edu/dreamspark), using your CAE credentials.
If you plan on purchasing a computer, please consider waiting until you attend SOAR (https://soar.wisc.edu/). There should be more information on purchasing and leasing options at that time.
Keep in mind that if you already have a laptop, it will likely work; you may not need to buy a new one. Recommended specs for a computer are as follows:
ü Intel Core Processor, Core i5 or i7
ü Windows 7 or 8 or 10 (64-bit)
ü Display Resolution of 1366×768 or better
ü 8 GB RAM (minimum)
ü 256GB SSD (preferred) or 500GB HDD
ü Wireless LAN 802.11 N
ü A good warranty (two to four years) with coverage for accidental damage
Here are some things to consider before purchasing a computer:
· The DoIT Tech Store offers Dell laptops that meet or exceed these requirements at educational pricing. Some computers purchased at the tech store have the added benefit of a 3-year comprehensive warranty and the convenience of in-house service. You can find laptop options from DoIT at https://techstore.wisc.edu/engineering/.
· Be sure to shop around before you buy. Buying a faster processor, more RAM, 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.
· Repairing a laptop is expensive. Laptops are dragged around everywhere and can receive a fair amount of abuse. A good warranty that includes coverage for accidental damage may be a worthy investment. It is also a good idea to check your homeowners or renters insurance to see if it will cover claims against a laptop. Also, there are various security devices and carrying cases available to deter theft.
· Do not buy a laptop solely on the basis of price or appearance. There are a number of laptop vendors and the industry is highly competitive. Purchase a computer with high quality parts, service, and support. 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.
· To extend its usefulness and get more enjoyment out of your laptop you may wish to exceed the recommended specifications we have listed above. If you do wish to upgrade your own laptop, we suggest that you first purchase additional RAM, then upgrade your hard drive to a SSD drive.
Mac OS or Windows?
Because most of the engineering software is written for Windows computers, CAE strongly recommends that users adopt the Windows platform. While newer Macs are able to run Windows using Boot Camp, CAE is not able to offer support for Apple machines, even those running Windows. Some problems that might arise include driver issues, hardware compatibility, maintaining two operating systems, keeping security patches up-to-date for both, etc. Support for Macs will be referred to the DoIT help desk.