Graduate Student Laptop Requirement

A guide to the iSchool's laptop requirements for Graduate Students

The iSchool requires that all graduate (Master's, PhD, and CAS) students own a laptop. The laptop must run Windows 10 or MacOS (13 or newer). Chromebooks, tablets, and smartphones are not adequate.

Several courses use Windows applications, which Mac users will need to be able to run through dual booting or a virtualization utility (such as Parallels or VirtualBox).

Parallels and VirtualBox run natively on Apple Silicon chips, but are both paid software. VirtualBox's Developer Preview version also runs natively in Apple Silicon, but is in the early stages if support and may be buggy. (updated: July 2023)

Minimum recommendations:
Processor: Core i5 1.7GHz dual-core or better
RAM: 8GB minimum, 16GB preferred
Hard Drive: 250GB HDD/SSD or greater
Display Resolution: 1920×1080
Administrator Access: You must have an administrator account on the laptop.
Warranty: A warranty of two years or more is highly recommended.

If you are taking online courses, you will also need a headset with a microphone. Suggestions and more details here: Headset Usage for Online Courses.


iSchool Laptop Requirement FAQ

Why does the School require a laptop?

Having your own laptop ensures convenient access to instructional media and tools you will need to complete your degree. For some of your classes, your instructors will require you to use particular software and you will need a laptop to run it on. Online and hybrid courses require access to Zoom (as well as a headset and microphone). The recommended specifications meet requirements to run this software. It is important to have access to online resources both inside and outside of the classroom. Having your own laptop will also give you the opportunity to learn basic computer troubleshooting and maintenance, essential skills for a future in the information profession. The iSchool Help Desk is here to provide support with all of this. 

Will the minimum recommendations be sufficient for all my classes?

It is important to note that these are our minimum recommendations, and some classes may be difficult to participate in with the specifications as listed. For example, for classes that utilize software only available on Windows it is recommended Mac users install Virtualbox and virtually run Windows. This requires at least 40GB of free hard drive space and runs significantly better with at least 12GB of RAM. Laptops above these minimum recommendations will be beneficial in certain classes that involve high levels of data processing. Please see the UIUC Course Information page to see specific class software requirements.

Improvements over minimum recommendations:

  1. More RAM.
  2. A faster processor.
  3. A larger hard drive (500GB or more)

Are there tax breaks for buying a laptop?

Possibly. The laptop may be a qualifying expenditure, however there are other requirements to take the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Contact your tax professional or visit the American Opportunity Tax Credit page.

How often will the recommendations change?

The minimum recommendations will be updated annually to keep pace with changes in technology. You may find that you need to update your laptop if it is more than three years old and does not meet the current minimum recommendations.

Can I use a tablet or smartphone instead?

No. A tablet or smartphone can be used as a supporting, secondary device, but for primary use you will need a laptop. Online and hybrid classes use Zoom, and the tablet and smartphone versions have limited features that don’t allow full class participation.

Should I get a Mac or Windows machine?

For most classes, this is a matter of preference. However, a few classes utilize Windows‐only software, requiring either a Windows laptop or a Mac laptop with a Windows OS installed via Boot Camp or virtualization software such as Virtualbox. For these classes in addition to the minimum requirements you will need at least 40GB of available hard drive space on your machine and having at least 12GB of RAM would be extremely beneficial. Note that as of July, 2022, the new Mac laptops, with the M1 and M2 chips, are unable to run Windows virtual machines. Please see the iSchool Course Information page for specific class software requirements.

Why do I need an administrator account on the laptop?

Classes may require you to do things that require administrator access, including installing applications and editing system files. It is also very difficult to troubleshoot computer issues without an administrator account. You will automatically have an administrator account for any machine you purchase for yourself. But if the machine is not yours, such as if you are using an employer’s machine, you will want to check ahead of time.

I’m a distance education student and have a desktop. Do I need to buy a laptop?

So long as your desktop meets or exceeds the recommendations listed above you are fine.

Where should I buy a laptop?

You can take the hardware specifications to any computing store, and we recommend you comparison shop to find the best value. You can check the UIUC Tech Zone in the Student Union for educational pricing on hardware and to discuss your needs with an expert.

Where can I get software?

The UIUC Webstore provides access to a number of software titles. Prior to buying software, check the Webstore to see if a licensed copy is available for free or at a reduced cost. While the Webstore might not have every piece of software you will want, it does provide a number of packages at educational discounts (notably Microsoft Office and Windows 10).

Can the iSchool help me if I need laptop support?

The Help Desk will provide assistance to connect you to the campus wireless network and to set up printing. We will provide basic assistance with software installs as well as first level troubleshooting for common problems. The UIUC Technology Services Help Desk can assist with connecting to campus‐level services.

Unfortunately, the iSchool Help Desk is not able to provide computer repair services and we cannot purchase software for personal laptops. We will gladly direct you to technical services in the Champaign‐Urbana area. Some vendors to consider include:

If you live outside the Champaign‐Urbana area, we suggest you research local options using online tools such as Yelp or Google Review.

What do I do if my laptop breaks or if I forget it at home?

The Help Desk has a limited amount of laptops available for short‐term loan, for up to four days. Please note that any data saved on the laptop will be wiped when it is returned. The Help Desk will not be able to restore any lost data.

I’m not an iSchool student, but I am taking an iSchool class. Do I need a laptop?

We strongly recommend you have a laptop, but cannot require it. If you are interested in taking an iSchool class but do not own a laptop we would recommend talking with the professor ahead of time to see if different arrangements can be made. 

What if I just want to check email or print something?

There are convenient print/email kiosks in 501 E Daniel outside Room 12A and on the second floor by the Help Desk. At 614 E Daniel, there is a kiosk located on the 4th floor by the Help Desk.

Are there computer labs on campus that I can use?

Yes. Please see the Computer Labs location page.

What do I do if I have concerns about meeting the laptop requirement?

Please contact the Help Desk at You can also call us at 217-244‐4903 or 800-377‐1892.

Keywords"what kind of" "how much" "how powerful" "Should I" do need Mac Apple Windows "Windows 11" "Windows 10"   Doc ID129233
OwneriSchool U.GroupSchool of Information Sciences
Created2023-06-21 13:48:44Updated2024-06-03 14:45:59
SitesUniversity of Illinois School of Information Sciences
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