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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 it reliably, both in and out of the classroom.

Unfortunately, no. The College of Engineering is Vendor-neutral. There are dozens of computer manufacturers and thousands of computers that meet the requirements. If you need a preselected model that meets the requirement, contacting Virginia Tech Hokie-Centric sales at 540-231-6114 is a good option.

Visit our Options for Purchase page for more information. 

Some students find the required vs. recommended specifications tricky to sort through and base their purchasing decision on. 

  • Required - These are minimum specs for your computer.
  • Recommended - These are additional, optional increases in the computer's specs or features that may help the student.

You may find it difficult to find an affordable computer from a brand you like that has every feature that is recommended. This is okay. As these are optional features, we recommend you prioritize which recommended upgrades you choose based on how you will use the computer, personal preference, and guidance from the department you plan to major in. We generally recommend prioritizing warranty, graphics card, and RAM first for optional upgrades.

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 meet the minimum requirements are available at many price points. Some sellers may offer more expensive business-class computers, designed to be more reliable, stable and rugged than consumer-class devices, a good option for a machine carried in a backpack for four years. Warranties also add significant cost to computers. When comparing computers make sure to compare computers in the same class (business versus consumer) with similar warranties. 

You do not. You may buy your computer anywhere you find a computer that meets the requirement.

There are advantages to buying from the VT bookstore.

  • Systems hardware pre-configured to meet requirements. (You will still have to install your software)
  • 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.  

May 2023:  We strongly recommend against it. Newer Macs with M1/M2 Processor will not run all the required software. (Parallels virtualization software MAY run many but not all of the necessary software.)
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.

Yes! AMD Processors are known to be reliable, fast, and compatible and are included as part of the acceptable requirement. 

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.

Some students like to take notes on their computer rather than on paper. If this is your preference you may prefer a laptop with a stylus. Additionally, drawing diagrams and writing equations are easier when using a stylus. 

If you get a stylus, choose an Active 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 can replace 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 spaced 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.  

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.