School of Engineering Computer Recommendation
Is a Computer Required?

The departments of Chemical Engineering and Geology and Geological Engineering require students to have a Windows-based laptop computer. For all other departments, a computer is not required but is recommended.

Extensive computer usage is integrated throughout all academic programs in the School of Engineering during all four years of the various undergraduate curricula. The School of Engineering IT office provides computer support to the Dean's Office, the School of Engineering CADLab located in Carrier Hall Room 105 (open to all engineering students), and also assists individual departments with department computer labs, faculty, staff, and university owned computers throughout the School of Engineering. The School and the University have site licenses that allow students to load some software packages onto their own personal machines. Students should be aware that some of these packages do not run on all operating systems.

The School of Engineering IT office does not actively support student owned computers, but they are always happy to provide limited support and guidance to students and parents. In general, students are responsible for supporting their own computers, and students should have plans to assure their machines are repaired on a timely basis when failures occur.

For further questions, please contact the School of Engineering IT office:

The computer facilities on campus provide the computer hardware and software needed to successfully complete the degree requirements for all engineering majors. However, the computer facilities on campus are often fully occupied and may sometimes be inconvenient during peak periods around midterms and finals. All engineering students are strongly encouraged to acquire either a desktop or a laptop computer of their own. Computers may be purchased through student discount agreements that the University of Mississippi has with a variety of computer vendors; see the web site http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/it/computers.html. If a student receives financial aid through the University's financial aid office, the cost of a personal computer may be considered as an additional cost of attending the University. Through the financial aid office, a student may request a professional judgement to provide a one-time cost of attendance increase for the purchase of a computer; see the web site http://finaid.olemiss.edu/professional-judgment/

The School of Engineering IT office recommends the following considerations when purchasing a computer.

Considerations
Desktop or Laptop?

When deciding whether to purchase a desktop computer or a laptop, one should evaluate the differences between them and base their decision on their own personal preferences. Desktop computers are generally cheaper to purchase and maintain, they are more expandable, and often have a longer life. However, the portability of a laptop can allow you to carry them to class, a study group, or home for the weekend. If portability is important to you, you should also consider the weight of the laptop. It is much easier to carry around a light ultrabook weighing 3-5 lbs than it is to carry a heavy 8-10 lb laptop. An ultrabook laptop will normally not contain an internal optical drive which may require an external drive. This reduces the weight of the ultrabook and reduces battery consumption.

Warranty

Another important consideration that is often overlooked is the warranty that is included with your computer purchase. A 1-year warranty is most commonly included. A longer warranty period can normally be purchased for an additional fee. Accidental warranties are also available. The warranty will help ensure that the computer hardware will be either repaired or replaced for the duration of the warranty period.

Operating System (e.g. Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, or Linux)?

The last important consideration is to decide on an operating system. Requirements vary from department to department:

  • The departments of Chemical Engineering and Geology and Geological Engineering require students to have a Windows-based laptop computer.
  • For students seeking a degree in the following engineering departments: Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Geology and Geological Engineering, and General Engineering, any student computer must run Microsoft Windows.
  • For any other departments, if a student takes courses such as GE 470 that use Windows based software, the student computer should run Microsoft Windows. Other operating systems are not supported.
  • The departments of Computer and Information Science, Electrical Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering do not have any preference between Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, or Linux.
Minimum computer specifications

Listed below are the minimum computer specifications that should be considered when choosing your desktop or laptop. Following the specifications is a more detailed explanation of each component to help you decide whether to spend extra for individual component upgrades.

Specifications - Desktop

Reviewed: April 12, 2017

ComponentSpecificationMore Info
ProcessorIntel Core i5 (AMD FX8350) or betterMore Info
Memory (RAM)8 GB minimumMore Info
Hard Drive512 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) and/or 1 TB, 7200 rpm, SATA or betterMore Info
Optical DriveNot requiredMore Info
Sound CardAnyMore Info
Graphics CardAMD or NVIDIA with 1 GB memory minimum. See More InfoMore Info
Monitor24" or larger LCD monitorMore Info
Keyboard & MouseUSB Keyboard and Optical MouseMore Info
Network AdapterGigabit Ethernet AdapterMore Info
Specifications - Laptop

Reviewed: April 12, 2017

ComponentSpecificationMore Info
ProcessorIntel Core i5 (AMD FX8350) or betterMore Info
Memory (RAM)8 GB minimumMore Info
Hard Drive512 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) and/or 1 TB, 7200 rpm, SATA or betterMore Info
Optical DriveNot requiredMore Info
Sound CardAnyMore Info
Graphics CardAMD or NVIDIA with 1 GB memory minimum. See More InfoMore Info
Screen13" or largerMore Info
Keyboard & MouseKeyboard and trackpadMore Info
Network AdapterGigabit Ethernet Adapter and 802.11n Wireless Adapter or better More Info
Explanation of Computer Components
Processor

The processor, or Central Processing Unit (CPU) is like the brain of a computer. It processes data between inputs and outputs. Modern CPU's have multiple cores. This is like having multiple brains that is capable of processing multiple data streams simultaneously. An Intel i3 processor is a dual-core processor. Most of the Intel i5 and i7 are both quad-core processors, although some laptop versions may be only dual-core. You should verify that it is a quad core before purchase. The i7 processor supports hyperthreading, they have a larger cache, and will generally provide faster performance. Be careful when comparing AMD processors to Intel processors. For most applications, the Intel processors outperform AMD from our experience.

Memory

Random Access Memory (RAM) in a computer is temporary memory that the computer uses while it is processing and running software. It is sort of similar to short-term memory in the human brain. When the computer is rebooted or powered off, all data in RAM is permanently deleted and lost forever. Since the RAM is what stores the data while it is being processed, the more RAM you have in a system the faster the computer will run. More RAM equals more memory to store data while processing. When RAM fills completely with data, the Operating System (OS) generally swaps data from the fast RAM into a temporary file on the Hard Drive. The temporary file is called a swapfile. As the data is needed, it is swapped back into RAM. A Hard Drive is much slower than RAM and as data needs to be temporarily swapped in and out of RAM, it slows the computer down. Again, the more RAM you have, the faster the computer will run because there will be less need to swap data from RAM to the Hard Drive and vice versa. Good configurations of RAM are 8 GB, 12 GB, 16 GB, or more. More RAM will add to the cost of the computer. Often times it is possible to upgrade, or add, more RAM to your computer, depending on the computer configuration.

Hard Drive

A computer Hard Drive is where files and data are stored long-term. It is similar to long-term memory in the human brain. The larger the Hard Drive, the more space available to store files and data. Modern Hard Drives have become much cheaper. A 1 TB (Terabyte) Hard Drive or larger should provide an ample amount of space for a long time. In addition to the storage capacity (size) of a Hard Drive, one should also consider the speed of a Hard Drive. A 7200 rpm Hard Drive is faster than a 5400 rpm Hard Drive. A newer type of Hard Drive called an SSD Drive is now available. These new drives are much faster than traditional drives, but they are more expensive and typically smaller in storage capacity. A typical SSD Drive configuration sometimes available in new computers will use an SSD Drive for the speed and performance increase, and will also include a traditional Hard Drive for extra storage capacity. If an SSD Drive is purchased with your computer, we recommend a minimum of a 512 GB (Gigabyte) SSD Drive and also a minimum of a 1 TB (Terabyte) traditional drive. The traditional drive could also be an external USB Hard Drive to have the extra storage capacity. An external Hard Drive is also a good plan to backup files and data in case the internal Hard Drive ever fails and looses all of your data.

Optical Drive

An optical drive plays CD's, DVD's, and can also write to recordable CD's and DVD's. Blu-ray drives are available that can read and/or write to blu-ray discs. A DVD+/-RW drive is recommended if purchased. If an external DVD+/-RW is chosen, we recommend one that is USB 3.0 compatible. Optical drives in general are becoming less useful as CD's, DVD's, and blu-ray discs are used less frequently.

Soundcard

Normally the integrated soundcard on the motherboard of either your desktop or laptop will be adequate. Higher end soundcards are available for desktops that provide better recording capablities and the ability to connect subwoofer sound systems.

Graphics Card

For desktops, we prefer non-integrated graphics cards. However, for most people, integrated cards are probably okay unless you want to play newer games.

For laptops, you won't be able to get around integration. Even still, 256MB of memory should be a minimum.

Monitor

Desktops should consider at least a 17' display. An even larger display can have its advantages. Once you start your coursework, you may find you want to have many windows in the screen simultaneously, and a good size monitor will be helpful.

Laptop prices can increase dramatically with screen size, so you may want to consider a smaller screen. A 15' display is comfortable for most users.

Keyboard and Mouse

Laptops can benefit from external keyboards and mice. While they might not travel well, they just make operating the computer easier. As this is a major where you'll spend a lot of time at the computer, ease of use is a major consideration.

Useful Peripherals

The School of Engineering and several of its departments offer printing in computer labs, but most students find it convenient to have a printer in their dorm or apartment. Most students have color ink-jet printers, but small laser printers are more economical if you're printing all black and white. HP has been making good printers for a long time.

USB thumb drives are a good idea. Small enough to fit on a keychain, they can hold anywhere from 1 to 32 GB. They start out at around $10. They are extremely handy for transporting data from the dorm to the labs. All our labs have accessible USB ports, so the thumb drives are easy to hook up.