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Computer Requirement Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General Guideline: As an engineering student, it is your responsibility to have, on hand, a computer capable of supporting your academic success with minimal downtime. You are responsible for being able to complete your coursework using the required engineering software on a machine that is capable of running them reliably, both in and out of the classroom.

All Engineering students need a minimum level of hardware to be able to run required software programs successfully. Instructors count on students having a standard minimum level of technology available in the classroom. Students who cannot meet these requirements will be at a disadvantage. Much like course prerequisites ensure a common level of knowledge among students, a computing requirement ensures a common level of technology.

Computers that are pre-configured to meet our minimum requirements at the bookstore are all business class systems.  Business-class computers are more reliable, stable and rugged than consumer-class devices and are designed to take the hard handling that occurs when students carry their computers to class in their backpacks on a daily basis. Warranties also add significant cost to the computers. When comparing computers make sure to compare computers in the same class (business versus consumer) with similar warranties. 

You may buy your computer anywhere you find one that meets the requirement.

There are advantages to buying from the VT bookstore.

  • Systems hardware pre-configured to meet requrements. (You will still have to install your software)
  • Business Grade Systems and Warrantys.
  • On-site computer Repair.  Convenient for students who may have limited time, travel, or shipping options. 

No, but few students can afford to replace or repair a computer immediately if it breaks. Repairs are often very expensive.  One of the most common issues is a damaged screen. Repairs for damaged screens usually start at around $700.  

If you can afford to buy a new computer immediately, the warranty is not necessary. 

The bookstore service history shows that more computers are serviced for accidental damage repairs than for regular warranty repairs.  Student life is very hard on computers.  If you cannot afford to repair or replace your computer immediately if it breaks, you should purchase an accidental damage policy.  

April 2022: MAYBE - Apple MacBooks are acceptable if they meet all of the same requirements as a Windows system. As of right now a new Mac with an M1 Processor will not run all the required software. Apple BootCamp does not run on M1 Processors. Windows for ARM processors is difficult to purchase for installation on a Mac. Parallels virtualization software MAY run many but not all of the required software. The parameters of these issues are changing daily.
The bottom line is that you are responsible for being able to complete assigned work in your engineering courses using the software required.


More information about bringing an Apple MacBook.

AMD Processors are known to be reliable, fast, and compatible*. If you choose to go with an AMD Processor, research the speed of the processor and make sure it is at least as fast as the required intel processor by looking at cpu benchmarking websites and comparing software such as that in the engineering software bundle. Look for mobile AMD processors prioritize speed and performance over battery life.

*The majority of our testing is done on Intel processors, so it is possible that some incompatibilities may still exist. It is the student's responsibility to be able to complete their work with the required software, which is why the official requirement lists Intel.

The goal of the requirement is to assist with your academic success by insuring you arrive with a base level of technology needed to do your coursework on a system that can run required software at reasonable speeds. You are welcome to do your own research and look for other solutions but it is the your responsibility to be able to complete your work with the required software.

Research show students writing notes by hand may learn and retain content more effectively than students who simply type notes verbatim.  Additionally, drawing diagrams and writing equations are easier when using a stylus. 

Capacitive touch styluses are very simple and only simulate writing with your fingers.  They do not provide the accuracy and crisp lines required to take notes effectively, draw and annotate diagrams, and write and solve equations.  More information about active digital styluses.

A 2-in-1 tablet with active digital stylus replaces the need to bring paper notebooks to class.  Digital notes can be synced instantly to the cloud to prevent loss, can be accessed easily on all your devices, and can be resized or space can be added. Notes written with a stylus can be searched easily with software such as Microsoft OneNote. Diagrams and equations are much easier to write by hand than to type. Faculty can have students solve problems and digitally display their work on the board in class, or have them turn in their work digitally for grading. 

All incoming students are expected to meet our current hardware requirements, regardless of level.

Do you still have questions?

If you need more immediate assistance, please email our Instructional Technology Office or call 540-231-9076.