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 (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).
Mac OS or Windows?
The College of Engineering requires that engineering students adopt the Windows platform. Windows 10 or 11, 64 bit is required (note that Windows Home, Go or S may not run some software properly, or at all). 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 have to install software that is only available on Windows (for example, AutoCAD, EES, or Solidworks) on your personal computer. This means that you will need to run Windows using Boot Camp or Virtual Box, which takes extra storage on your Mac. CAE will not support issues that arise while using BootCamp, Virtual Box, Citrix (XenApp) for Mac. You will be expected to complete your work regardless of the computer you own.
WARNING: The new Macs with the M.x, non-Intel chips will not work with virtual box or BootCamp. Parallels can be made to run Windows, but we do not provide Parallels, nor do we support it. To our knowledge, engineering software launched in Parallels will not work properly if at all.
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. Recommended specs for a computer for engineering are as follows:
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit*||Windows 11 64-bit*|
|Processor||Intel i5 or AMD Equivalent**||Intel i7 or AMD Equivalent**|
|Memory (RAM)||16 GB||32 GB|
|Storage||500 GB+ SSD||1 TB+ SSD|
|Graphics||Onboard Graphics||Discrete Graphics Card (Nvidia, AMD)|
|Wireless Connectivity||802.11n or better||802.11n or better|
|Warranty||See below||See below|
*Some applications aren't usable with Windows 10 Home. In this case, a free upgrade to Windows 10 Education is available. Download options can be found here and here
**Must not be ARM-based processors
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, especially if you connect a wireless mouse with a USB dongle instead of Bluetooth.
· You should consider an external monitor, keyboard mouse for home use. When working from home, it is nice to have the extra desktop space to work with. Be sure that you get the right cable to connect the laptop and monitor!
· 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.
· 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.
· 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: https://it.wisc.edu/services/software/
DoIT Helpdesk: https://it.wisc.edu/help
Office of Cybersecurity: http://www.cio.wisc.edu/security-secure.aspx