Laptop Policy and Information

Computer Requirements

Students planning to study Computer Science or interested in taking computer programming courses are required to bring a laptop computer to computer labs, and are encouraged to use their laptop for general homework and note taking in both CS and non-CS courses.

While some desktop computers are available in labs for students to do work on, most students now do their work on laptops. Most of our lab spaces now provide internet access and power. Future Computer Science labs will continue to downplay the desktop and encourage laptop usage.

A reasonable laptop can be purchased for $600 which should last for 2-4 years. More information about specifications and software can be seen below.

Suggested Specifications

Most modern laptops built in the last two years should suffice for the minimum requirements. That being said, a higher-end laptop (with care) may be able to last for most/all of the student’s career. Students may purchase either Macintosh or Windows compatible computers. Prices listed below are for generic Windows laptops.

Low End Specifications (2017 price → approximately $600):

1. Processor: Two Cores, 2+ GHZ processor
2. Memory: 8 GB
3. Graphics: Optional Graphics Card or built in Graphics
4. Disk: 255 MB SSD3 or 1 TB Hard Drive
5. Resolution: 1080p
6. Camera: suggested
7. Keyboard

High End Specifications (2017 prices → approximately $2,000):

1. Processor: Four+ Cores, 3+ GHZ processor
2. Memory: 32 GB
3. Graphics: Graphics Card 4GB Memory
4. Disk: 512+ MB SSD3 or 1+ TB Hard Drive
5. Resolution: 4k
6. Camera: highly recommended
7. Keyboard

Tablets are not recommended.

Screen size is up to the student. Be aware that a heavy laptop will require a good backpack.

Required Software

The laptop computer may run either Windows, OS X, or Linux, as long as it is able to run the required software listed below. It is highly recommended that the computer be relatively recent and meet the following minimum specifications (all modern, moderately priced laptops, should be able to meet these requirements):


Courses Specific Software
CS 1410                                           Eclipse and Java
CS 2420                                           Eclipse and Java
CS 3500                                           Visual Studio
CS 3505                   Linux or a Virtual Machine running Linux

Access to College of Engineering Software via Virtual Machines

The College of Engineering maintains a “repository” of virtual machines that students can access via a web browser or standalone application. This will allow there laptop to server as a terminal to College machines, which will have different types of software.

It should be noted that in some cases this will alleviate the need for students to have specialized software running natively on their laptops (especially for expensive/licensed software that is specific to specialized courses). That being said, students will find that installing and running native applications will usually be more effective. Likewise, the CoE virtual machines are (of course) only available when you have internet access.

Please click here for more information on using the CoE Virtual Machines.

Installing Software

In general, it is the responsibility of the student to install and maintain the software on their computer. Should a problem occur with your machine, you should contact your service provider.

Specific courses (e.g., CS 1410) will have detailed instructions on how to install course specific software on standard Windows/Macintosh machines. If you have a problem installing the base software required for your course, there will be limited help from the course instruction staff, based on their availability.

Earn Karma: For those students who are “experts” on their own machine, we highly recommend that you share your wisdom by helping others who are in need.

The following links give basic instruction on software installation:

Do Not Share Laptops

Students should not share laptops. This is necessary for several reasons, including: 1) student assignments and other work are private to a particular student, 2) students may need admin access to their laptop, 3) students may need to install/uninstall various software packages.

Backing up Your Data/Software

It is important to note that students are responsible for the data on their laptops and should regularly back this data up to a remote location. “Remote locations” can be a separate computer the student owns, Git Hub, Drop Box, Google Drive, etc.

Versioning programs such as GIT can be invaluable in tracking software changes and making saves to a reliable “off-site” location.


1. Students with financial hardships may contact the School of Computing about loaner laptops which can be made available for use during specific lab times. These laptops are not available for general use outside of labs.

2. Students should plan to replace their laptop every 2-4 years depending on initial computer specifications (e.g., CPU speed and memory). The responsibility for maintaining and/or replacing a student’s laptop is entirely on the student.

3. Some professors encourage use of laptops during class for note taking and class related activities. Other professors may not allow laptop usage in the classroom. Please consult the course syllabus and talk with the course instructor to make sure you understand the role of the laptop in a particular course.

4. The SoC strongly suggests that students purchase solid state drives (SSDs) for their computer rather than traditional hard drives.

5. The listed software is the minimum and other programs may be suggested or required by the course. Computers capable of running the listed software should easily run any other required software.

6. Students are responsible for purchasing, maintaining, and securing their own computers. Students should not allow other students access to their computers, most notably when taking the same class(es). Students should consider purchasing maintenance plans when originally purchasing their laptops.

7. At some point students may be asked to dual boot their machine into a “Unix” like operating system or to run a virtual machine in this capacity.

8. Students purchasing Macintosh computers should be familiar enough to run a virtual Windows environment (Windows 10) when necessary for software that can only run on Windows. One VM system that is known to work well is VM Ware.

9. The College of Engineering CADE support staff have information on various computing resources available in the department as well as links/faqs about how to find/purchase free or reduced cost software via University of Utah licenses. This includes Visual Studio and various Microsoft packages. Please see the FAQ on the linked page.

10. The University of Utah Office of Software Licensing web page allows students to log in and browse for free and reduced price software.

11. Students are responsible for turning in their work on time. When an exceptional circumstance arises (e.g., the computer was damaged or stolen the day before an assignment was due) students should contact their professor to see what accommodations can be made. It should be again noted that students are responsible for backing up their data remotely so that loss of the computer will not prevent the student from a timely completion of their work.

12. If you have recently purchased a laptop that does not meet the required specs, it may be possible to upgrade certain components, rather than having to buy a new laptop.