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Computer Information for Students


Guidelines for New Computers

While Architecture, SoVA, and Graphic Design require student computing purchases (see below for details), we do not recommend that other first year students start college with a new computer. For computer-intensive majors especially, you will not need the computing power until your sophomore or junior years, when your "new" computer is already 2 or 3 years old. Students waiting until their sophomore or junior years will not only be able to make a more informed decision about what will meet their needs, but will have the computing power when they need it the most.

Although the college recommends bringing a used computer for the first year, it cannot guarantee that these minimum configurations will last all four or five years. Newer versions of software will require more machine power. We cannot guarantee that an older and slower machine will be able to run tomorrow's software sufficiently.

Recommended minimum configurations:

ALL MAJORS: General system requirements (desktop or laptop)

2.3GHz i5 or higher
Nvidia or AMD Graphics with 2GB VRAM
256GB HD or larger
Optional external monitor for laptops; 21" or larger
802.11 Wireless Card

DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE  (required purchase for second semester students)

General Minimum Requirements:
2.3GHz i5 (6th generation) or higher
16GB RAM for laptops / 8GB RAM for 3in1 Tablets
Nvidia or AMD Graphics with 4GB VRAM / gGPU for 3in1 Tablets
256GB SSD for Windows / 512GB SSD for Dual-Boot MacBooks

Apple Recommendation:
MacBook Pro (dual-boot)
2.3GHz dual-core 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz)
16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
512GB SSD storage

DELL Recommendation:
DELL Precision 5520
2.90GHz Quad Core Intel Core i7-7820HQ (3.90GHz Turbo, 8MB 45W, w/Intel HD Graphics 630)
Nvidia Quadro M1200 w/4GB GDDR5
M.2 PCIe 256GB SSD Class 40

Microsoft Recommendation:
Microsoft Surface Book
6th Gen Intel Core i5

SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS (highly recommended purchase for second semester students)

THE GRAPHIC DESIGN PROGRAM  (required purchase for first year semester students)

  • An Apple laptop is preferable since this is recognized as the industry standard. However, if a student is already in possession of a PC laptop, that computer is acceptable for first and second year classes.
  • All students whose portfolios are accepted at the completion of sophomore year are required at that time to have an Apple laptop computer, Apple mini-DVI to DVI adapter, and a current Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Software Guidelines

Penn State recommends that you have software that will allow you to send and receive e-mail, browse the Web, publish to the Web, write reports and do spreadsheets. In addition, it strongly recommends anti-virus software. Most of these applications are available free ( or at a reduced cost to students (

Individual departments may also require additional software and have access to specialized software.

Additional Recommendations

We recommend that you have a strategy for backing up important files easily between your computer and University computers. These may include:

  • External hard drive (at least 1TB)
  • USB drives
  • Cloud storage such as (Penn State does not recommend using DropBox) 

Useful Links

  • Students with laptops should check out the wireless pages at
  • More information on campus ITS general purpose computer labs
  • For students living on campus, Residential Computing (ResCom) is a student organization that has information about computing in the residence halls. During arrival weeks, ResCom staff focuses on getting residential students connected to the network as soon as possible. More about ResCom can be found at
  • Penn State Information Technology Services
  • Peer-to-peer, face-to-face help by Tech Tutors