College of Engineering Computer Recommendation for Incoming New Students

PSU studentsWhile the College of Engineering does not mandate that students bring their own personal computer to PSU, students will be required to use computers frequently for communications and academic activities. Computer ownership will enable students to benefit from the in-class and out-of-class activities and opportunities to the fullest extent.

For incoming students who do not already own a computer or plan to purchase a new system, the following information is provided for a Laptop system configuration; this is a minimum system configuration recommendation.  It should provide acceptable performance for the majority of undergraduate students:

  • Processor: Intel i5 Processor or higher
  • Memory: 4GB RAM or higher
  • Hard Drive: 500 GB or Larger
  • Video Card: Dedicated video card with a minimum of 1 GB video memory
  • Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • Wireless Networking: 802.11g/n
  • DVD/CD Read/Write Drive
  • USB Ports
  • Audio
  • Operating System: Windows 7 or 8 with latest Microsoft Service Packs applied, Apple Mac OS X (running, as a minimum, Version 10.9.x) - Note: The Windows XP operating system is no longer supported by Microsoft and is not permitted on the Penn State network.
  • Display: 13 inch or greater
  • Lock & Cable (Recommended)

Computing requirements may vary by department and becomes major–specific in one's junior and senior years. In the case of Architectural Engineering, the requirements will become major–specific in the sophomore year. If a student is committed to a major upon entering the University, the student should contact the major's Department for specific computer configuration recommendations.

Software Availablity

Microsoft DreamSpark program:

The College of Engineering participates in the Microsoft DreamSpark program. This program provides currently enrolled College of Engineering Students at the University Park campus no-charge access to a variety of Microsoft operating systems includingWindows 7 and Windows 8 as well as development products like Visual Studio. Incoming students will automatically receive an email with login information for the DreamSpark program. Questions can be sent to

Software at Penn State:

Penn State offers a number of software packages including Microsoft Office at a significant discount to students. Information is available at

Other software applications may be required during a student's undergraduate degree program and will be specific to a major or course. Such software requirements will be conveyed to students by faculty as needed. In addition, each department in the College of Engineering has computer facilities and software packages for high-end engineering applications that are needed by its students for academic assignments.

Special note for Mac users:

Most Apple Mac computers made after 2006 run multi core Intel processors, and can run Microsoft Windows in addition to OS X. This expanded functionality is achieved through the use of a number of software applications, the most notable of which are Boot Camp (free from Apple), Parallels Desktop for Mac, and VMware Fusion. Boot Camp requires the user choose the desired environment at boot time. Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion run on top of OS X and allow both Mac and Windows operating system to run simultaneously. You will also need a licensed copy of the desired version of Windows - available through the DreamSpark program (see above). So if you have a Mac and need to run software that is only available for Windows, you may want to explore one of these options.

last updated: June 18, 2014


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