Computer ownership is not required at St. Olaf. Survey results show that 97% of St. Olaf students own a computer. However, the college provides all computing needs somewhere on campus and students can function without a computer of their own.
New computers purchased within the last 2 years or so should have all of the necessary hardware and software needed to connect to the St. Olaf network. An anti-virus program and update subscription is an absolute necessity. IIT recommends Microsoft Security Essentials which can be downloaded for free at http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials.
If your computer is already sufficient for what you are doing at home, it will be sufficient for most of your school work.
St. Olaf has had success with the Macintosh computers it buys from Apple. In fact the college is using Apple Macintosh hardware for both Windows and MacOS operating systems.
If you are interested in other brands of PC's, IIT recommends checking such guides as Consumer Reports or computer reviews in PC computer magazines.
Choosing between a laptop computer or a desktop computer is a matter of personal preference. Laptops have a shorter lifespan, are more prone to damage and theft, but provide greater mobility and desk space. Desktop computers have longer lifespans, allow for easier hardware upgrades, but can't be moved easily from building to building.
Regardless of whether you choose to buy a laptop or desktop computer, we recommend the following:
- An Intel i5/i7 processor or 2.0 GHz Dual/2 core processor or better.
- 4 GB of system memory (RAM) or more.
- 160 GB hard drive or larger if you will be storing a lot of digital music or videos.
- MacOS X 10.7+ or Windows 7 Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate Edition. Do NOT purchase Vista Home Basic.
- Integrated video card or video card with at least 128 MB of graphics memory.
- DVD drive. It will be very helpful if you have a writable DVD drive (DVD+R, DVD+RW).
- A monitor that you can be comfortable with. Of all things, many users think the monitor size and clarity is most important for their comfort with their computers. $100 extra is worth a larger monitor although some can get to be overwhelming in size. Try some out before you buy. Most stores will have a wide variety of monitors you can compare.
- A software package that includes a word processor and spreadsheet program. St. Olaf currently uses and installs Microsoft Office on the public lab computers and offices so it's in your best interest to make sure that whatever you purchase is compatible with Microsoft Office.
- An anti-virus program and update subscription is an absolute necessity. IIT recommends Microsoft Security Essentials which can be downloaded for free at http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials.
- An external hard drive for backups and document storage with software to perform automated backups.
While it is true that you don't need to buy an extravagant computer, it is helpful to have some tools. Here are a list of some things that might be useful for your career at St. Olaf:
- A software package relevant to your major.
- A color or black & white printer, although black & white printers are available in public labs (see printing policy).
- Multimedia tools such as a scanner, digital camera, and image or movie editing software.
- Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) with surge-protection.
- Laptop owners should purchase a security cable system to lock your laptop to your desk. It greatly reduces that chance of theft.