What are suggested minimum specifications for new computers?{expander}

Updated on 6/30/2020 

Buying a computer with the following specifications will protect you from obsolescence for three to five years. If your needs do not dramatically increase, you may be able to keep using your computer for even longer.

Below are the suggested minimum specifications for new computer purchases. This does not apply to users who primarily work with creative media (video editing, photo, music).

  • Laptop or Desktop — Sarah Lawrence College recommends a laptop. Though a desktop will be cheaper and more powerful, a laptop’s portability will come in handy on campus.
  • Processor — Almost any recent processor will be sufficient, though we do not recommend AMD processors. It is generally best to purchase Intel's i5, i7 or i9 processor 8th Gen or greater.
  • Memory (RAM) — 16 GB for Mac's and 16 GB for Windows. 
  • Hard drive — At least 500 GB is recommended; 500 or greater if you intend to create digital art or film.
    **We strongly recommend the purchase of Solid State Drives (SSDs) for all computers. Not only do they last longer, but they save on battery power and perform many times faster than a conventional hard drive.**
  • Display size — 13 inches or greater on a laptop; 24 inches or greater for a desktop.
  • Wireless internet access — A wireless card is a necessity for both laptops and desktops. Ethernet is not supported in student dorms.
  • Disc burning — Many modern computers no longer include a disc drive for CD media. If you absolutely require this, you should either ensure the computer you purchase includes this feature, or examine your options for an external drive (usually inexpensive and portable).
  • Warranty — A three or four year warranty is recommended, especially if you have a laptop.
  • Removable Media — A 16GB or larger USB flash drive is recommended for quick file transfers, and you can use it for backing up important documents as well.

After you buy:

Further Reading
  • Laptop or Desktop?
    A laptop’s portability allows you to take it to class, the library, with you on plane flights, and home over breaks without having to ship it through the postal service. A desktop will give you more “bang for your buck.”
  • Mac or PC?
    Today Macs and PCs are both capable of performing the same tasks in roughly the same amount of time. No matter what platform and what computer you choose, it will be perfectly sufficient for word processing, reading email and browsing the Web. However, Macs and PCs are still very different in their “feel,” price, and software libraries. See below "Should I purchase a Mac or PC?" for a more in-depth discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Processor
    Modern processors–such as the iCore 5 or 7 6th Gen or greater –are all extremely fast and powerful. However, some manufacturers still sell computers with Celeron processors which are very slow in a misguided attempt to cut costs. Avoid these computers, no matter how cheap they are.
  • Memory (RAM)
    More RAM allows you to run more programs at once and still have your computer feel responsive. Less RAM will limit your ability to multitask and make your computer feel slower–in fact, not enough RAM is the most common bottleneck a computer can experience. RAM is so cheap these days that even 8 GB is fairly inexpensive. Consider more (16 GB+), especially for extreme multitaskers, video editors, or heavy Photoshop users.
  • Hard drive
    A larger hard drive will let you store more data (pictures, music, movies, conference papers, etc.) on your computer. Because of the relative difficulty and expense involved in removing and replacing a hard drive, we recommend that you buy a computer with a hard drive you can “grow into” to avoid space cramps later. Again, we strongly recommend the purchase of solid state drives (SSDs).
  • Display size
    On a laptop, a larger display will add considerably to the weight of your computer, limiting your ability to easily transport it. It will also probably raise the price, too. On the other hand, it will give you more room to work and make multitasking easier. On a desktop, bigger is always better, since the computer isn’t going anywhere. Though 24 inch displays are common, a 23 or 24 inch display is likely to be a better idea, and prices are always coming down. We recommend a widescreen monitor (16:9 rather than 4:3).
  • Wireless internet access
    Most of today's laptops come standard with a wireless card, but for most desktops you will need to purchase one. Sarah Lawrence College does not support wired Ethernet in student dorm rooms.
  • Word processing/productivity 
    Microsoft Office has become the de facto standard. If you need many of the advanced features of Office but would like to avoid the extra expense, you might consider OpenOffice for both Mac and PC, which is free, does most of what Office can do, and reads and writes Office file formats (.doc, .ppt, .xls) natively. For students, a great option is using the Google Docs feature of your Gryphon Mail account; this includes unlimited document storage and document backup every 10 seconds during composition. iWork is not installed in any Labs on Campus. 
  • Warranty 
    A good warranty is essential for any computer, especially laptops, which typically see more wear and tear than desktops. A warranty will protect you from having to pay expensive repair costs should anything go wrong with your computer during coverage, and will have paid for itself should even one repair be required.
  • Security 
    Anti-virus and anti-spyware software is very important for any Windows computer. Read our recommendations for antivirus software here.

Should I purchase a Mac or PC?{expander}

Besides the aesthetic “feel” of each platform, there are a number of important practical differences between Macs and PCs that should be taken into account when deciding which one is right for you. 

  • Warranty 
    A 3-year warranty from Dell or Apple will cost roughly the same. However, Apple does not offer as many types of support as Dell or many other manufacturers, e.g., accidental damage or on-site repair and replacement coverage.
  • Hardware Variety 
    There are hundreds of models of Windows PCs sold by dozens of manufacturers you can choose from to ensure that you buy exactly what you need. Apple is the only company that sells Macs, and there many types of computers that Apple simply does not make; if you absolutely need a laptop for under $900, a desktop under $500, a tablet PC, or an ultra-portable subnotebook, a Windows PC is your best option.
  • Software compatibility
    • Though there is vastly more Windows software than Mac OS X software, new Macs can run Windows software (though not vice versa). Any Mac manufactured since May 2006 has the ability to run Windows software through one of the following two methods: the first uses Apple’s free Boot Camp  software and involves installing Windows on a separate hard drive partition. Thus, you can choose to boot the computer up running either Mac OS X or Windows, but not both at the same time. Alternatively, you can purchase Parallels Desktop , which allows you to run Windows and OS X simultaneously, giving you access to the combined software libraries of both platforms at the same time. For maximum flexibility, you can have it both ways and use both Boot camp and Parallels if you wish. For either approach, you must possess a licensed copy of Windows to install.
    • If you are a film student (or intend to become one), a Mac will useful because Final Cut Pro–the video editing software supported by and taught at Sarah Lawrence College–is a Mac-only product. For most other purposes, software compatibility is no longer likely to be the deciding factor between PC and Mac.
  • Price 
    Macs are generally more expensive. Because Apple offers fewer models, you are more likely to pay for features that you don’t need when you buy a Mac. Apple’s cheaper models tend to be more expensive than cheap PCs. In addition, Sarah Lawrence College’s Apple store gives you an academic discount that will lower the price of a new Mac, in most cases. Sarah Lawrence College’s partnership with Dell typically only results in a small percentage off of the final price. However, substantial discounts for Dell computers can often be found in local and/or national newspapers.

How can I get my computer repaired?{expander}

For non-SLC-owned computers, Help Desk provides first-tier troubleshooting and diagnosis, with escalation to second-tier repair on a case-by-case basis. For those cases that we determine to be beyond the scope of our capabilities, we offer you the following list of companies that provide computer repair services. This list is provided as a courtesy only; we do not recommend any company, nor do we have any agreements or discounts.

Computer Nerds, Inc
  • Address – 441 Bronxville Rd, Bronxville, NY
  • Phone – 914-779-7952
  • Hours – 8:30 am to 7pm (answering phone)
  • Email – info@thecomputernerdsinc.com
  • Website – http://www.thecomputernerdsinc.com
  • Service Type – On-site
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – ‘will not guarantee anything’7.4
  • Rate – $130/hour + parts
  • Discount – Talk to Jim Minovich (owner)
  • Pick up – Yes (Free)
  • Drop off – Yes (Free)
  • Notes – Will make house calls.
Computer Tutor @ PCI and TeamLogic IT
  • Address – Westchester
  • Phone – 914-337-1700, 914-337-8400
  • Hours – Vary.
  • Email – ctpci94@aol.com
  • Website – http://www.computertutorpci.com and http://www.teamlogicit.com
  • Service Type – on-site
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – Yes
  • Rate – $95/hour + parts
  • Discount – Will probably discount 10-20%, could set up a meeting with owner.
  • Pick up – Yes (Free)
  • Drop off – Yes (Free)
  • Notes – Does house calls all over the area.
Corporate Computer Solutions
  • Address – 55 Halstead Avenue Harrison, NY 10528
  • Phone – 914-835-1105
  • Hours – 9-5
  • Email – Winston Henry http://www.corporatecomputersol.com
  • Service Type – On-site
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – No
  • Rate – $80/hour, 1 hr minimum
  • Discount – None.
  • Pick up – Yes
  • Drop off – Yes
  • Notes – n/a
Custom Computers and Repair
  • Address – Yonkers
  • Phone – 914-374-0917
  • Hours -
  • Email – tom@customcomprepair.com, mobile@yonkerspcrepair.com
  • Website – http://www.customcomprepair.com
  • Service Type – On-site
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X -
  • Rate – $75-$125/hour + parts
  • Discount – $50-$100/hour + parts (for SLC)
  • Pick up – Yes (Free)
  • Drop off – Yes (Free)
  • Notes -Does house calls. IrishMidak on AIM. Low price: software installation (non-OS), simple hardware installation. High price: data recovery, serious virus trouble.
DoctorMac
  • Address – 20 North Ave, Larchmont, NY 10538
  • Phone – 914-834-8810
  • Hours -
  • Email – lou@doctormacny.com
  • Website – www.doctormacny.com
  • Service Type – On-site
  • Windows – No
  • OS X – Yes
  • Rate -
  • Discount -
  • Pick up -
  • Drop off -
  • Notes -
Geeks On Call
  • Address – World Headquarters
    814 Kempsville Road, Suite 106
    Norfolk, VA, USA 23502
  • Phone – 800-905-GEEK
  • Hours -Monday to Friday 8 to 12am. Sunday 10-7
  • Email – shana.keith@porternovelli.com
  • Website – http://www.geeksoncall.com/
  • Service Type – On-site
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – Yes
  • Rate – $165 for first hour for networked computer, + $120/additional hour, or $30 per quarter hour. Diagnostic calls: $79/first 15 minutes, after that, shifts to hourly or flat rate depending on computer. Hardware installation flat rate: $165 for 1st part, $65 for each additional.
  • Discount – No
  • Pick up – No
  • Drop off – No
  • Notes – All work will take place on-site. Technicians A+ certified. Generally enterprise-level services.
GeekSquad
LaptopRescue.com
  • Address – 912 W Isabella St, Salisbury, MD 21801
  • Phone – 800-574-7642
  • Hours – M-F 9am-6pm Eastern
  • Email – http://www.laptoprescue.com/contactus.php
  • Website – http://www.laptoprescue.com
  • Service Type – Mail-in laptop only. East Coast and West Coast centers.
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – No
  • Rate – No more than $149 plus parts. Diagnostic free with repair; without, may cost $29.95. Quotes free, up front, before work begun. See below.
  • Discount – None
  • Pick up – n/a
  • Drop off – n/a
  • Notes – Service HP, Dell, ThinkPad, Toshiba, Sony, Fujitsu, Alienware, Acer, Asus, Panasonic, Gateway, and Compaq. No fix = no charge. Better Business Bureau certified.
R & R Computer Service
  • Address – PO BOX 728 Yonkers NY 107084
  • Phone – 914-422-1804 or 888-randr99
  • Hours – 24/7
  • Email – raimonj@randrservice.com
  • Website – http://www.randrservice.com
  • Service Type – On-site
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – Yes
  • Rate – $110 for a call including 1 hour, plus $90/hour after.
  • Discount – $85/$75 for students/schools.
  • Pick up – Yes
  • Drop off – Yes
  • Notes – No fix = no charge.
MacService / ThinkpadService
  • Address – 3034 Scott Blvd., Santa Clara, CA 95054
  • Phone – 877-622-3473 or 408-855-0010
  • Hours – 9-5 (west coast)
  • Email – http://www.macservice.com or 
  • Service Type – Mail-in laptop only.
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – Yes
  • Rate – Fixed prices, which include parts, shipping, box, and labor.
  • Discount – Education Program allows for discounts, free estimates, free shipping. Can sign up online.
  • Pick up – No
  • Drop off – No
  • Notes – Services Apple, HP, Dell, ThinkPad, Toshiba, Sony, Fujitsu, Alieneare, Acer, Asus, Panasonic, Gateway, and Compaq. Better Business Bureau certified.
Firedog
  • Address – Circuit City, 750 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10704 next to the Cross County Shopping Center
  • Phone – 800-fire-dog or 914-969-1629
  • Hours – 1am Eastern Time Closes.
  • Email – customercare@firedog.com
  • Website – http://www.firedog.com/
  • Service Type – In-store, on-site, remote/online, phone
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – No
  • Rate -http://www.firedog.com/pcs_all.html
  • Discount – None. Can sign up online for special offers.
  • Pick up – No
  • Drop off – No
  • Notes – n/a
Mount Vernon Computers
  • Address – 1455 Route 22, Wingdale, New York, 12594, Mount Vernon, NY 10550
  • Phone – 914-439-7118
  • Hours – 9 – 5.
  • Email – info@mountvernoncomputers.com
  • Website -http://www.mountvernoncomputers.com/
  • Service Type – On-site.
  • Windows – Yes
  • OS X – Yes
  • Rate – $65 an hour.
  • Discount – On enquiry discount can be set up.
  • Pick up – Yes
  • Drop off – Yes
  • Notes – n/a

Does SLC offer assistance to faculty/staff in purchasing a computer?{expander}

From Employee > Benefits > Financial > Computer Loan Program:

Sarah Lawrence extends loans to employees for the purchase of computer equipment and peripherals. Employees may borrow up to $2000 per computer loan request. Repayment is through payroll deduction and may be over a period of no more than 24 consecutive months or two academic years (for staff employees paid over 10 months), interest free. Guest faculty with one year or one semester contracts must repay the loan over the period of their contract. Borrowers must show proof of purchase and must repay the loan in full immediately if employment is terminated. Outstanding computer loans must be repaid in full before any future computer loans will be considered. Detailed information, payroll deduction forms and repayment notes are available in the Controller’s office.