Computer and System Recommendations

Students should always begin by consulting with your school’s IT department for computer recommendations and possible requirements. If your school is not listed below, please check our list of IT Partner websites and contact your school for information:

If you have an accessibility concern, assistive technology and alternate format materials and sign language and speech-to-text accommodations are available. Please contact the Office of Disability Services to discuss accommodations.

In addition to any school guidelines, CUIT has some general recommendations for consideration.

Computer Purchase Considerations

Columbia does not require undergraduates to own computers, and CUIT supports computer clusters and labs that are open 24/7 for student use. However, with the increased potential for remote learning, many students find owning a personal laptop or desktop computer convenient.

A tablet or smartphone can also be used with most of the apps that facilitate remote learning (e.g. Canvas, Zoom, Panopto), but it may be more difficult to download some types of files or to submit certain types of assignments.

  • Screen size, keyboard size and weight (for laptops)
  • Battery life (for laptops)
  • Operating system: Most software/applications work best with Windows 10 and newer; macOS 10.12.6 and newer (latest macOS recommended); Linux; or chromeOS
  • Storage: LionMail Drive has unlimited file storage but consider whether your studies may require installing a lot of software or access of files offline. A solid state drive with 256GB minimum is recommended.
  • Memory: The more RAM your computer has, the more programs it can run at the same time. We highly recommend to 16 GB for higher performance. 
  • Application requirements for commonly-used software
  • Warranty: Consider getting an extended warranty with your computer as protection for future hardware or operating system issues. This is strongly suggested if you are buying a laptop or if the standard warranty period is one year or less.
    • Note: CUIT does not provide hardware repair support to students, and offers limited operating system support focused on resolving issues with the specific programs used to access University online resources. 
  • Energy Star guidance

Computer Discounts

CUIT has negotiated discount arrangements with Apple, Dell, and other vendors on behalf of the Columbia community. You are in no way obligated to purchase from these vendors if you prefer shopping elsewhere.

Dell equipment may be purchased on Dell’s website by Columbia students, faculty and staff at a discount. You can also call Dell at 1-800-695-8133 to purchase (provide Columbia's Dell Member ID: US24184416).

Discounted pricing is available on all products, but we receive our largest discount on commonly purchased institutional systems and product-bundled packages, and include a minimum three-year warranty.

Students, faculty, and staff who would like to use a personal credit card should visit the Apple University Store or call 1-800-800-2775 and choose option 2, then option 1 to make purchases or inquire about the latest promotions.

New students without an active UNI should call the Apple University Store at 1-800-800-2775. Press option 2, followed by option 1. Let the sales representative know you will be attending Columbia University.

Cameras

In the event of remote learning, a webcam and microphone are important for classes held over video. Most laptops have built-in cameras and microphones. Computers without a built-in webcam require an external webcam to connect to a video meeting/class. Alternatively you could try using the camera on your smartphone or tablet while using your computer for notes or classwork.

Two external cameras that have received consistently good reviews (as of June 2020) are the following:

  • General use: Logitech C270 
  • Higher quality: Logitech C920 

Please note that CUIT does not endorse any particular product. These suggestions are meant to provide helpful tips.

Note: Both of these cameras have built-in microphones.

 

Microphones

Any headphones with a built-in microphone (including the earbuds are commonly provided with smartphone purchases) will work for remote learning. 

If you are connecting to a video meeting/class from a noisy or shared environment, a headset with a microphone will improve the quality of your audio for those listening to you. Two microphones that have received consistently good reviews (as of June 2020) are the following:

  • General use: Mpow 071 USB Headset
  • Higher quality: Jabra 550

Please note that CUIT does not endorse any particular product. These suggestions are meant to provide helpful tips.

Internet Connectivity

A reliable Internet connection is needed for remote learning. Video conferencing and some classroom software/applications require reliable, high-speed internet. If you don’t have access to reliable internet or unlimited data, AT&T, Comcast,, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon may offer an option appropriate for you.

Check Your Internet Speed

To quickly test if your current internet connection is suitable for Zoom, visit https://zoom.us/test.

You can also check your exact internet speed by going to Google.com and searching “internet speed test.” Your first search result will be the test. Select Run Speed Test to check your download and upload speeds.

If your Internet download speed is below 20 megabits per second, your video will likely be difficult to view and you may have audio issues. In this case, first try to eliminate other demands on your Internet connection, such as streaming movies at the same time on a different device in the residence. 

If your speed still does not improve, a temporary solution may be to leverage the WiFi hotspot feature on your smartphone, but this could use a lot of data and be expensive. Longer-term, consider contacting your Internet provider to inquire about improving your bandwidth, or your mobile phone provider about the possibility of purchasing a “hot spot” for high speed cellular Internet access. 

Please note, if you many people or devices in your home are using WiFi, it may be helpful to connect your computer to the router with an Ethernet cable during your video conference sessions.

Web Browsers

You should have at least two web browsers installed on your computer. Any browser will work, though preferred browsers are Firefox and Chrome, which can be downloaded for free online.  Web browsers should always be updated to the latest version available for the operating system of the device.

Device Security

Install antivirus and anti-malware software to protect your data and your computer. One free license for Malwarebytes is available to all current students of Columbia University, CUIMC, Barnard, Teachers College, and UTS.

Printing

All students have a quota of pages they can print via the PawPrint campus printing system. Network printers are available in many locations on campus. CUIT does not currently offer hardware repair support, including for personal printers.