Approaching Stanford and Computer Recommendations

Approaching Stanford 2012: Computing and Networking Resources

Residential Computing

Each student residence has one or more study spaces including a cluster of computers, scanners, and laser printers supported by Student Computing and available 24 hours a day. Cluster computers, running both Windows and Mac OS operating systems, are connected to the Stanford University Network (SUNet) and are equipped with a rich offering of software applications. You can also connect your personal computer to SUNet throughout the residences and adjacent common areas via high-speed Ethernet ports or wireless networking.


One or more Resident Computer Consultants (RCCs)—upperclass students who provide technical support and education—live in each dorm as part of your residence staff. In addition to helping you get hooked up to the network (see the FAQs below), RCCs offer two for-credit courses in the residences: “Introduction to Computing at Stanford,” and “Multimedia Production at Stanford.”

Personal Computing

Minimum Hardware and Operating System Requirements

Apple Computers

Supported Operating System:
Mac OS 10.7 - 10.8

G4 or G5 processor (older Macs)
Intel Core Duo
Intel Core 2 Duo
Intel Core i5 or i7

RAM: 2GB (or more)
Hard drive: 80GB (or more)

Recommended: DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive



Windows Computers

Supported Operating Systems:
Windows Vista
Window 7

1.5GHz Pentium M (or better)
Intel Core Duo
Intel Core 2 Duo
Intel Core i5 or i7

RAM: 2GB (or more)
Hard drive: 250GB (or more)

Ethernet/Wireless capability

Recommended: DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive

Frequently Asked Questions


Do I need my own computer and printer?
Although nearly all Stanford students own a computer, you are not required to have one on campus. In addition to the residential computer clusters, other public computing facilities on campus provide Macs, Windows PCs, and Unix workstations at several convenient locations. Some students find these resources adequate and get along fine without having their own computers. Likewise, owning a printer is not necessary as laser printing is available in computer clusters for a fee (currently 10¢/page), and your personal computer can be configured to print to these printers. Given printer and ink costs, this is a cheaper option, but may not be as convenient as having your own printer or sharing one with a roommate.


If I want to bring an older computer, will it be good enough?
You will probably be fine if the computer meets certain specifications. The configurations listed below are the minimum specifications that Student Computing recommends for reliable use in 2012. Computers meeting these specifications should remain serviceable for at least your first year, and possibly longer. If you have an older computer, or any other operating system, you should be proficient in its use. RCCs will do their best to assist you, but ultimately they are not responsible for your personal computer and should be considered a supplemental resource. Also, regardless of the age of your computer, please bring all software/operating system CDs, DVDs, and manuals, because you will need them if there are problems.


Should I buy a Mac or a PC?
Both Macs and Windows PCs are used and supported on campus. About 40 percent of undergraduates have PCs, about 56 percent have Macs (some have both), and public computer clusters include both operating systems. If you are on the fence, Student Computing recommends Macs over PCs, because they have found them easier to support and, more importantly, far less susceptible to viruses and network vulnerabilities. The overwhelming majority of security issues on campus resulting in network disconnection are on Windows based machines (see the security section on page 67 for more details). Furthermore, all new Macs have the capability to run the Windows operating system. If you choose an operating system other than these two, you should be proficient in its use, because trained assistance for alternative platforms may be unavailable.


Should I buy a laptop or a desktop?
Laptops are overwhelmingly more popular than desktops because of their mobility and the widespread availability of wireless networking on campus. If you will be studying in the libraries, like to work outside, or plan to take your computer home over breaks, consider a laptop. If you will work mainly or exclusively at your desk, however, consider that desktop computers offer more power and better ergonomics for less money than laptops. Netbooks and handheld devices are convenient, but hardly replacements for full-featured computers.


What features should I get on my computer?
Different users have different needs, and the features of your computer (like screen and hard drive size) will depend on what you want and how you work. In our experience, memory is more important than processor speed. These days, even slower processors are more than fast enough for most purposes. If you are buying a laptop, you may want to consider a larger external monitor and keyboard.

Many students have small external hard drives as an easy and high-capacity way to backup files, an important task. Additionally, Stanford offers all students 2 GB of storage on central servers, also useful for backing up or just moving files. For quick transfers, high-capacity USB flash drives are useful, and all cluster computers have USB ports and DVD±RW drives.

If you are using Windows 7 or Vista, choose the Home Premium or higher (not Home Basic). If you are planning on using Windows XP, XP Professional is more secure and has better networking capabilities than XP Home, which also makes it easier to do things like share files or printers. If you would like specific package recommendations, see the information for new students on the Academic Computing website. As for software, basic applications for Macs and PCs (anti-virus, anti-spyware, online storage, etc.) are freely available to the campus community.


Will there be someone to help me set up my computer once I get to campus?
You will be expected to get yourself up and running and to follow instructions for getting connected to the Stanford network. Make sure you bring all the discs and manuals that come with your computer, in case there are problems. Your RCC will be available for consulting and to help get you oriented to the Stanford computing environment.


If I have a disability, who can help me with my adaptive technology needs?
If you own or require adaptive computing equipment, contact the Student Disability Resource Center, (650) 723-1066, TTY calls: (650) 723-1067. The staff there can advise you on system configurations that work best in Stanford’s environment and describe the computing resources available to students with disabilities.


Where can I turn if I still have questions?
For many questions, you will want to wait until you arrive on campus. Once on campus, your RCC is best suited to answer your questions and help you assess your computing needs. Keep in mind the best way to understand the computing environment at Stanford is to experience it firsthand. If you want to get a jump on things and do some independent research, start by visiting

Purchasing on Campus at the Stanford Bookstore


The Stanford Bookstore (which is independent from the University) negotiates special pricing on computers, including the laptops highlighted below. If you're just looking to pick up a pre-configured laptop at a low price and not spend time on customization, you may want to consider one of these packages. We've highlighted a few below, based on what most students want these days. Several additional variations are available from Apple, Lenovo, Dell and Asus.

These are, of course, not the only computers the Bookstore sells, and they sometimes run promotions with deeper discounts, especially from Admit Weekend through New Student Orientation. Regardless, you can purchase from the Bookstore in person and get instant gratification, or have them send it to you before you come to campus.


Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro Lenovo Edge E530 Dell Inspiron 14R Asus 14.1 Ultrabook
$999 $699 $699 $699
Buy Here Buy Here Buy Here Buy Here

Note: Does not include AppleCare.
 Does not have Retina Display.

 Note: Includes 1-yr warranty.


Note: Includes 1-yr warranty.


 Note: Includes 1-yr warranty.