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Information Technology Office
School of Engineering and Applied Science

Information on Computers for Incoming 

1st Year Students arriving August 2019

These recommendations are for residential students.

If you are enrolled in an Engineering School
distance learning initiative, please contact the respective program office directly.

  22 APR 2019  [Version-1]   PLEASE CHECK BACK FOR UPDATES

The School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) requires that students have their own laptop.

Students are dependent on their computers. The laptop is needed to complete homework assignments and other course work, capstone design, the thesis, and special projects.

A model that is a combination of readable screen size, light weight & good battery life with decent CPU power and quality graphics is advised.

Students carry their computers around more and more.  Some instructors have starting asking students to bring them to class, students run course software, and students regularly form work groups in and outside of class that use their computers.  Access to UVA-licensed engineering, math and science software is also via a student's laptop.  These are examples where dependence on a personally-owned laptop has continued to increase.

We therefore advise that you acquire a unit with a first-class hardware repair plan with rapid turnaround.  Also, regularly backing up your data is critical.  Keeping your system secure is an on-going and essential task.

With units transported on a regular basis, coverage for accidental damage and loss is recommended, or at a minimum develop a plan of what you will do if you quickly have to replace your computer should it be damaged beyond repair or is stolen.


Most of the software used throughout the Engineering School curriculum is available in editions that run on Microsoft Windows. This general compatibility is not the case for the Mac OS or Linux.

The operating system versions recommended as most compatible with our student computing environment is Windows 10.  A 64-bit edition is required.  (32-bit editions are not supported, and will see no more than 4GB of  your laptop's RAM.)

Windows 10 will be the majority OS used by our incoming students. Should you purchase a new system, it is recommended that you look for one with a touch screen, which can assist with navigation and use features built in to the operating system.

Can I use a MAC?   (FAQ#1, 3 pg. PDF:  updated:  22APR2019)


A copy of Microsoft Office Suite (that contains Word/Excel/Powerpoint/Outlook/...), and an upgrade copy of Microsoft Windows are made available to our students. The licensing costs for one copy of each are already covered under this special U.Va. program.

We often use the Windows edition of Excel in the first year engineering curriculum.  Office 2016 or 2019 is recommended.  A copy for your laptop is provided through the Microsoft Office and Windows for U.Va. Students Program.  U.Va. also provides a 1 TB allocation of space on U.Va. Box, a cloud-based storage and collaboration service, and provides endpoint protection software (Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware) for our students.


Our curriculum includes an increasing use of modeling and simulation software, interactive applications, and animations. 

We therefore suggest that your computer have good graphics capabilities.  Screens should have a 1280 by 800 or greater video resolution for the newer widescreen models and some laptop manufacturers refer to this as HD+ resolution.

It is recommended that your screen be bright and at least 13".  A 14" works well.    Depending on the manufacturer, laptops reaching 15" or larger, may start to get bulky to carry around and use up more battery to light the screen  -- so please weigh that in your purchase decision.

The built-in, on-board graphics of the Intel Core i5 and i7 -equipped laptops with the latest generation of processors (6th, 7th, 8th) perform well.  Each generation shows improved graphics and system battery life.  Laptops outfitted with the lower clock speed, ultra low-voltage processors Intel Core M series are not recommended.


If you already own a relatively new laptop that is powerful enough to meet the recommended hardware specs, operating system and recommended support plan, then it is not necessary to buy a new one for your first year of studies. 

You should look toward replacing it in the next year or two, depending on what shape it is in and its warranty coverage expiration date.

With regard to other devices such as tablets (those running Android or iOS) or other systems like the Chromebook:
They are not required for the curriculum.

                            FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR 2019-2020

FAQ#1 (3 pg. PDF):  Can I use a MAC?   (updated:  22APR2019)

FAQ#2 (3 pg. PDF):  What's your assessment of Cavalier Computers offerings?   (updated:  22APR2019)

                   GENERAL ADVICE

"How to Choose the Perfect Back-to-School Laptop,"  Lifehacker

If you've read this page and still have questions--

For Specific Questions related to the School of Engineering and Applied Science requirement, please contact:

Prof. M. C. Rosen
Telephone:     (434) 924-1414

For General Questions including Dormitory Computing Issues, please contact the:

U.Va. ITS Help Desk
Telephone:    (866) 469-4866, or (434) 924-4357
Live Help Desk Chat & Online Reporting Form also available at this link.

For the CAV Program (Back-to-School bundles) at the U.Va. Bookstore, please contact:

U.Va. Bookstore Cavalier Computers
Telephone:   (800) 759-4667 option 2, or (434) 924-3475
Cav Program Web Page:
Web Page for Engineering and Applied Science:
Cav Program Frequently Asked Questions:

Please check back for updates to this page!
       22 APR 2019  [Version-1]

U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science