Selecting a Personal Computer for Engineering Students

  • The College of Engineering does not require students to own a personal computer, nor does it recommend any particular model or operating system.
  • The College encourages students who are interested in purchasing a computer to consider the many available options, and make a selection based on their budgets and their own personal productivity needs.
  • Students should be familiar and comfortable enough with the computer and operating system to be able to update, patch, and perform backups in order to protect their files and other important data.



Although the College of Engineering does not recommend any particular model or operating system, there are a few things for students to consider when choosing a personal computer:

  • College of Engineering students will mostly use their personal computers for document preparation, web browsing, accessing email, and other personal productivity work. Engineering students do not have to use their personal computers to run the engineering software applications required for their courses or research. Individual copies of these specialized software packages are often quite expensive, and not licensed for use on personal computers. These types of Engineering-specific software applications are available to students in CAEN computer labs on campus, and via remote access connections to CAEN-managed servers.
  • Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Mac OS X operating systems are both commonly used by students (and faculty) in the College of Engineering. Linux is also used, but is less common. Common file formats and productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office, allow students to collaborate and share files across operating systems. In addition, an increasing amount of work is done in M+Google apps via web browsers, which are operating system independent. If needed, Engineering students with Apple computers can use virtual machine software (VMware) to install Microsoft Windows.
  • Students can purchase computers from a wide range of vendors. The College of Engineering recommends "Tier 1" vendors such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Toshiba, because of the overall quality of their products as well as the support and repair options they offer.
  • Unfortunately, things can go wrong with any computer: it may be stolen, broken, or lost. Security locks and cables can help deter theft. Students tend to damage or break their laptops often enough that the College recommends evaluating additional warranty or repair contracts from vendors. Insurance options should also be examined. Anticipating these types of service issues is an important part of selecting a computer vendor.
  • The U-M's Computer Showcase is a valuable resource for all University of Michigan students. It is an online and walk-in store that offers hardware and software (including Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat) that is specially priced for U-M students. The configurations available at the Showcase are examples of systems that are appropriate for student use. They also include important additional items such as security locks and cables, and removable media.
    Note: Academic/Student editions of certain software applications are available at no cost to students. A list of the applications available at no cost to College of Engineering students can be found in our knowledge base.