Buying a computer

A 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). 

Mac OS or Windows?

CAE strongly recommends that engineering students adopt the Windows platform. Windows 10, 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. You will be expected to complete your work regardless of the computer you own. If you already own a Mac, be sure that it has the storage capacity to run Windows and meets the Windows requirements.

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 for both. In addition, support for Macs will be referred to the campus help desk (DoIT).


Keep in mind that if you already have a 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:

   Minimum  Recommended
 Operating System  Windows 10 64-bit* Windows 10 64-bit*
 Processor  Intel i5 or AMD Equivalent**  Intel i7 or AMD Equivalent**
 Memory (RAM)  16 GB  16 GB
 Storage  500 GB+ SSD  500 GB+ 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:

·       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.


DoIT Software Library:

DoIT Helpdesk: 

Office of Cybersecurity:


See Also: