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The Office of Information Technology is happy to offer general recommendations for students, faculty, and staff that are purchasing a new personal computer.
Here are some general guidelines:
The campus is almost evenly split between computers using the Microsoft Windows operating systems and Apple Mac computers. The majority of faculty and staff use Microsoft Windows computers, while the majority of students use Apple Macs. If you are unsure whether a Windows or Mac computer will best meet your academic or administrative needs, consult your school, college, or department to find out its specific requirements.
Generally, any new computer bought during the last two years will probably have enough processing capacity and memory to provide a satisfactory computing experience, but the specifications outlined on the recommendations webpage should provide useful benchmarks for comparison to the computer you may already own, or one you may buy.
If funds permit, the two best enhancements that can be made for any system are to increase the amount of random access memory (RAM) installed and get a solid state drive (SSD).
We suggest that you obtain a three year on-site warranty repair plan covering parts and labor as part of your purchase. AU is not able to provide hardware repair assistance for students' computers.
We recommend laptop computers, because they take up less space and offer mobility for use with AU's wireless network.
For wireless access, a wireless radio conforming to either the 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or 802.11ac standard is required.
You will need to bring your own 15-foot RJ-45 network cable. You may purchase the cable from the Campus Store or a computer retailer.
Buy all you can afford but not less than the recommended configuration. Please note: the configurations suggested on the website are representative of typical systems available today from many vendors.
If you do not wish to bring your own computer to campus, you can access the Internet and most common software applications from over 800 Mac and Windows computers dispersed throughout various computing facilities around campus, some of which are open 24 hours a day.
What do I need to bring to campus from an IT standpoint?
A laptop computer with a wireless adapter
A laptop lock to prevent theft
A 15-foot network cable with RJ-45 connectors to easily reach any part of the room (a back-up to the wireless)
A small printer to be shared by the roommates, requires a USB connection rather than wireless
Should I buy a Mac or Windows laptop?
The decision is yours, as the Office of Information Technology is capable of supporting you with either decision. If you look at the entire campus, we have about 60% Windows and 40% Macs. If you look at just our students, those numbers are reversed, as more students are choosing Macs these days.
If you are unsure, consider the following:
What does the student want?
What are they using today?
What are you as a family comfortable with?
Are there specific requirements for the student's school or major? This is important to check with your school, as Kogod students are required to run Windows. Other programs have a bias to best support their academic experience and prepare them for long-term success in that field.
Can I get a discount by buying through AU?
American University has negotiated discounts for our students, faculty, and staff for personal purchases of computing hardware and software. Click on the links to Apple or Dell via the MyAU portal. In most cases, you will be offered a 10% discount on your purchase with the three-year warranty plan.
How should I configure my new computer to improve its performance?
The two best things that you can do to improve the performance of your computer are to add more memory and to buy an SSD (or Solid State Drive), if you can afford it.
Why do you recommend purchasing the three year extended warranty?
The three year extended warranty is critical, as laptops take a great deal of wear and tear. American University's Office of Information Technology can not perform hardware repairs ourselves for personally-owned computers. We can help you diagnose a problem, but then we have to refer you to the manufacturer.
I see that you have agreements with Dell and Apple. Is it acceptable to buy another brand of computer?
Yes, the Office of Information Technology is not partial to the brand of computer that you choose, as long as it meets the specifications.