The nuts and bolts of computer
configurations is a fearsome area where one
hesitates to tread because there are so many options and multiple good
answers to any one problem. This document will detail some of the hardware
decisions you must make when purchasing a computer
If you just want the quick and dirty on all
this is MSB has an arrangement with Computerware
of Vienna Virginia to provide laptops to students. We have worked hard
on the configuration and price of this "Standard Computer"...go buy one.
If you want to talk to me regarding any of
these suggestions, or anything about computing at MSB, my phone number is
202-687-4721, or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Must you have a computer?
This is the requirement:
MBA students are required to have a
personal portable laptop computer that runs Windows Vista Business, Windows 7 Professional,
or Windows 7 Home Premium. Windows XP is no longer supported.
MSB does not have a formal undergraduate
computer hardware requirement. However, for practical purposes all students
should bring a new technology laptop that runs Windows Vista Business, Windows 7 Professional,
or Windows 7 Home Premium. Windows XP is no longer supported.
The computer you bring does not matter as much
as the requirement to run Windows. We can support many types of hardware.
Apple Mac computers can be configured to run Windows (there is a cost) and
thus meet the MSB requirement.
Here are the details
At MSB we support machines running
the English version of Windows Vista Business or Windows 7 Professional, or
Windows 7 Home Premium. We strongly recommend Windows 7 Professional. Windows XP is no longer
Windows Vista Business will still be
supported but MSBTC recommends all new student computer purchases run Windows
7 Professional 64-bit. The MSB Technology Center will support the
following editions of Windows 7:
The MSB Technology Center will not be able
to fully support the following editions of Windows 7:
§ Home Basic
"Home" versions of Windows 7are
the versions that most computer makers use to define whether a computer is
"Windows 7 Ready". By design Home versions other than
"Premium" have limited
networking functionality. This limited functionality may prevent full
connectivity to the MSB Network and access to certain applications.
You should not have a big problem using your Mac at MSB (Except Mac
Air, see the hardware discussion below), but you will have to make
some accommodations. You do not have to worry about anything
right off the bat, but eventually, as you run into the classes that
require it, you will have to be able to run Windows programs on either
your personal computer or one you borrow.
There are two primary ways to load Windows on a Mac,
comes free with your Mac and a virtual machine program like VMWare. So
the first choice is what software you are going to use to run Windows.
Bootcamp is simpler, and free. VM Ware and other virtual machines
are more complex but will allow you to run Windows and Mac OS
simultaneously. They cost money.
If you elect to install Windows on your Mac we can assist.
You need a copy of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office for
Windows. Both can be obtained through the University software
a student discount, but it is frequently cheaper to get them directly
from the Microsoft web site. Microsoft offers a student discount and
you need purchase only the Windows Upgrade, not the full version of
Drop by the Tech Center in Hariri and we can explain all this. If
you want us to assist in the installation be prepared to spend about 4
hours with us. That is how long it takes.
64-bit vs. 32 bit
There are significant internal differences
between 32 and 64 bit operating systems. They are significant enough that not
all hardware can even run a 64-bit version of Windows or Mac OS. MSB can
support either version.
32-bit Windows 7 is adequate and will be for a couple years. The 64-bit operating systems are the future
however. Most new programs are now written
to take advantage of 64-bit operating systems.
Lenovo Business Laptops
MSB has developed a series of Lenovo
business computers which can be purchased from a local vendor. The
"Standard Computer" can be found here.
It has a
few extra features beyond the minimum and will cost a bit more than the
absolute minimum required. MSBTC views these additional
features as worthwhile.
Lenovo labels their computers by
letter. The most popular are T, R, W,
and X. There are no significant
performance tradeoffs between the R and T/ W. The difference is size. X is
smallest. T are more compact. R is the largest for the specific power. W is a larger computer and does have more
The T Series computers do make
an attempt to reduce size and weight. They are quite a bit lighter than most
computers, but still have the 15 inch and 14.1 inch screen options. These are
the computers that most corporations purchase, including MSB for faculty and
The X Series. They have made a
concerted effort to enhance portability. Principle impacts are performance
and screen size. The X 200 is the only "Tablet" computer
offered by Lenovo. X Series computers are adequate for any standard MSB or
business application, like anything using MS Office, but they are not good
for large-scale database functions or sophisticated computer games.
There are slower than comparably priced T/R/W series laptops. The
screen is only 12.1 inches in the X 200. In my view this is too small for
long-term use (like typing a paper). X Series owners may find the want to
augment their system with an external monitor (which will plug right in).
Another issue is the internal CD ROM has been eliminated in the X200 to save
weight. An external CD ROM must be purchased separately.
The W Series are larger laptop
computers. They are by far the most powerful and have the best graphics. (up
to 17 inch) One W model actually has 2 built-in screens. They are quite
heavy. If you are not planning on bringing your computer to class a lot
however, this is a powerful laptop computer.
The Consumer Series laptops
Lenovo has developed a number of consumer
series of laptops. Many of these have
compelling capabilities in speed and graphics. The model numbers (IdeaPad,
SL and others) change more frequently than the business versions (T, R, X, W)
but they are good computers. The only
real difference is durability.
Business grade computers are made to withstand more abuse, and they
generally contain more standardized internal components. The warranty may also not be as
comprehensive on consumer models.
While this is good for a business, it does not much matter to an
individual. Thus, if you take care of
your consumer grade laptop, it is a good choice.
many of the Consumer computers will come with the Home version of
Windows. Windows Home is not a good
choice for MSB. You will run into
connections issues on the network.
MSBTC has recently extended support to
Apple Mac computers. 2012 is the first
year this is being done and there are some growing pains. However, Mac users can expect robust
support for their Mac at MSBTC.
There are several models of MacBook Airs,
only the models with 256GB or greater solid
state drive (SSD) are acceptable. The 11 inch models with only 128GB
SSD will not work.
As for the MacBook Pro, any current model will meet the
needs of MSB students.
For older Macs, use the following machines are OK, noting
the 256 GB storage space requirement:
- MacBook Pro - 13-inch, Mid 2009 and later
- MacBook Pro - 15-inch Early 2008 and later
- MacBook Pro - 17-inch, early 2008 and later
- Macbook Pro - 13-inch, late 2009 and later
The vendor providing sales and
service is Computerware of Vienna, Virginia.
We believe Computerware will give you an excellent value. There are
advantages to purchasing the MSB Standard Computer Configuration. For
the most part, these involve support after the sale. Briefly, these
MSBTC will be able to assist in troubleshooting
problems. MSBTC has a lot of experience helping fix problems with the Standard
Vendor assistance is easy to get.
Computerware will have representatives in the MSB Tech Center several times
over the week to talk directly to individuals having problems with a Standard
Computer. No appointment required.
You will not be out of a computer if yours breaks.
Computerware will loan a replacement computer to an individual who has
purchased the Standard Computer and is experiencing problems that require the
computer to go back to Computerware for repair.
decide to check out Computerware's web site,
- There are
just a few computers on the web site. That does not mean these are the only
possibilities. Many things can be customized and still retain all your
- If you do
not see what you want CALL COMPUTERWARE. 703-821-8200
like the price?? CALL COMPUTERWARE 703-821-8200. The price may have
changed. Also, Lenovo has said that they will meet or beat any Dell price for
identical equipment. Most other brands will be a little cheaper. There is a
reason for that.
want a Lenovo? Computerware can sell you just about any brand other
than Dell or Mac. If you do not buy the Lenovo some support will go
Computerware is a good outfit, but the purchase
arrangements do not involve MSB. Other than a
recommendation the MSB Tech Center has no role in the business arrangement
between Computerware and individuals purchasing computers from Computerware.
We don't get any sort of a kickback for a computer you might purchase from
them, so, we do not get involved in arbitrating disputes. If you have a problem,
let us know and we will help you communicate it to Computerware. That is
about all we can do, however.
the minimum laptop
specs. We provide them to you so you may set a lower technology limit
on your laptop purchase. The MSB recommended computer is all this and
more. The recommended Lenovo laptops are significantly faster than
these minimum specs. In reality, most new laptop computers these days
are faster and better equipped than our minimum.
Specs include at least:
§ Intel i5 2.0 GHz
§ Windows 7
Professional or Home Premium 64 bit
§ 3 GB RAM 32 bit
OS, 4 GB RAM 64 bit OS
Video with 128 MB RAM.
Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver
GB of hard drive, 5600 RPM. 7200 RPM is better.
§ Color Display
(12.1" or better)
§ 128 MB of video RAM
§ Built in wired
(100 MB) and wireless (802.11G) networking
§ Built in modem and
§ 1 Year parts and
§ Est. cost, $500 to
This is a
discussion of the configurations by device. It tells you more about the
specs and why we recommend what we do.
Minimum of a 2.0 GHz
"i5". New processors are much faster than this.
They will be the Intel Core Duo T Series or equivalent. It is the same
for Mac and PC
Windows 7 Professional or Home
Premium See the Windows discussion.
Not less than 256 Gig
at 5600 RPM. Less expensive HDDs operate at 5600 RPM or even 4800
RPM. MSBTC recommends a 256 GB or larger HDD operating at 7200 RPM.
A 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy
drive is outdated. The new standard for portable storage is the
We recommend you get a drive
that can both read and write DVD's and read and write CD ROMs.
Don't confuse DVD Read/Write drives with CD ROM Read/Write drives.
DVD read and write capabilities are the
At least 4 GB of RAM (with
64 bit Operating System). One memory slot in your computer should be
open to allow you to easily add RAM in the future. Don't get more than 3
GB of RAM with standard 32 bit Windows unless they offer it for free
(they might for technical reasons). 32 bit operating systems cannot use
more than 3 GB of RAM. Only the 64-bit versions can use more than 3 GB.
If you get a 64-bit OS get 4 GB of RAM
Make sure there are ports on the
computer for the monitor (VGA port), keyboard/mouse (USB Port), printer
(USB), and at least one more USB version 2.0 ports. If these ports are
not already there, something is wrong.
Be careful of Macs. They do
not come with a huge selection of output ports and frequently require
12.1 inch. If you plan to look
at your screen for more than an hour or so at a time, get a 14.1"
screen or an external monitor. The screen on your laptop will have some
§ It cannot be upgraded
§ It is not normally included on the manufacturer's
§ Make sure there is a monitor port (also called a
VGA or DVI Port) on the back of the laptop. You can plug in a real
monitor when you get home and use that instead of the laptop screen.
The video card inside your
computer is what runs the monitor. Minimum 128 MB RAM.
Windows 7 REQUIRES 128 MB
RAM but if you want to run the advanced functions of Windows 7, get 256
MB of video RAM
External Monitor: (Not
External flat panel monitor,
wide screen. An external flat panel 17" monitor will help make
the long hours editing a paper go smoother. Personally, I cannot
live without a 19" or larger flat panel.
You still need a 56K modem
built into your laptop. It should have FAX functionality.
Ethernet (LAN) adaptor Wired
You will need Ethernet 100baseT
or 1000baseT (1 GB) wired LAN adaptor. Normally this is referred to
as an Ethernet or network card. Most laptops now have built-in 10/100 or
Gigabit (1000MB) Ethernet.
Wireless is built into almost all new laptop computers. Any wireless
should be 802.11G compatible. Most will also be compatible with the
You may go overseas. Make sure
your power supply will accept 120 to 240 volts and 50 - 60 Hz. Almost all do. If you have a docking
station you may want an extra power supply so it can stay plugged in
permanently at home.
Minimum at least one-year parts
and labor. It is a pretty good idea to upgrade to 2-3 years if you
can. If something is going to break on a computer, it usually does
so in the first three months. However, if you do not know a lot about fixing
computers, or if you just don't have the time, 2-3 year warranties are a
IMPORTANT. Most warranties do not cover the screen.
IMPORTANT. Most warranties do
not cover the most common problem...accidental damage. If you are going
to be carrying your computer around get the accidental damage coverage.
It may be included with your family household insurance.
Documentation and Support:
The second "Most
Overlooked item". Many companies cut corners here. I am willing to spend
the extra $50 to $100 to get a machine with complete, well written
documentation and product support. There is nothing quite as frustrating
as trying to troubleshoot a problem or get hold of phone support when the
manual is 10 pages thick and there is no 1-800 support number.
Many times documentation is on the computer C: Drive. This is OK,
but if you cannot start your computer, you cannot see the instructions.
You need documentation of all major systems we have discussed above.
The MSB standard laptop
computer is a Lenovo. There is a reason for this. Lenovo makes the best
laptops. No question that they are the technology leaders. Computerware offers a deal on the
normally more expensive Lenovo computers, both desktop and laptop. Dell
laptops are also good and durable. Hewlett Packard (HP), Toshiba. Apple
and a lot of others share the next position. These computers are also
good laptops. They offer high "knob-to-dollar ratio". We have
seen them all however and our recommendation is go with the MSB standard
MSB uses MS
Office 2010 Professional. All new purchases and upgrades should be Office
2010 32 or 64 bit, whichever is appropriate for your version of
Windows. 32-bit MS Office 2010 works fine on 64-bit WIndows
7. MS Office Professional includes Excel, Word, Power Point, Access,
and Outlook Mail. MSB uses all the MS Office programs except Outlook.
version of MS Office is not 100% compatible with the Windows version. Thus, while Mac MS Office will work in most
circumstances, do not be surprised if you find it will not run some
specialized programs. This is one
reason we recommend you have a Windows partition on your Mac.
place for them to purchase it is here:
can also find purchases for Microsoft Office through the following vendors:
Web Site - Occasionally has good deals and when it does…they are really good.
Main Campus through UIS Software Database (CDW-G) - $372.06
Bookstore -- $200+
Prices are subject to change. Please check at the respective sources.
a memory stick, memory key... This is a USB memory device that connects
directly to your computer. It has replaced portable storage devices
like floppy drives. MSBTC recommends each student have at least one
with at least 4 GB capacity. The flash drive is just for moving files around.
It is a very poor long-term data backup
USB hard drive of 500 GB or more will allow you to regularly back up your
computer. If you get no other
extra equipment this is what you should consider. Backups
are really important.
If you get
a printer get a cheap one, with color. A good HP inkjet should cost
about $150 or less. Because students can do high resolution color and
black and white laser printing on MSB printers many personal printers in dorm
rooms are unused.
It is just
an ease-of-use item and should be dropped quickly if you are saving
money. All laptop computers manufactured in the last few years already
have easy-to-use connections for monitors, keyboards, mice and all sorts of
USB peripherals built in. The USB port on your laptop computer can
accommodate a multi-port repeater that you can use to connect 5-10 devices,
more than enough. Connecting all these external items each time you get
home is more difficult than just dropping your laptop into a docking station,
but not by much.
inexpensive scanner will prove useful on occasion. We have them in the
Tech Center but it is nice to have your own.
Insurance and Security Equipment
lock is cheap insurance and will deter 99% of possible thefts, particularly
in the student dorms...if it is used. Most
laptop theft is already covered in homeowners insurance as far as
replacement. Laptops "disappear" occasionally around here,
but it is much more common to have them misplaced or forgotten, or put out of
commission by damage that is not covered in the warranty. Prior to
getting insurance, I would extend the warranty. It is probably a better
use of the same dollars. Then get a lock-down cable and be careful
where you leave your laptop. Then get accidental damage insurance.
There is a
disclaimer that goes along with this computer advice below. The author is me,
John Carpenter, Chief Technology Officer at the
McDonough School of Business. There are probably a few of
my personal prejudices built into this advice. After all, the "P"
in "PC" stands for "Personal".
computer is designed to cater to desires which differ from one person to the
next. It is likely that some of your preferences are different from mine.
Because of that, remember the golden rule of purchasing a computer...GET SOMETHING YOU LIKE!!!.
Don't let the tech specs get control of you. A large part of computer
purchasing should be based on hormones. If you get an "IBM
compatible" computer, the differences between brands are pretty minimal.
It is a tragedy to spend $$$ on a computer because you think from a logical
point of view that it "is what you should buy", when what you
really wanted to do was get the "cute" laptop or the machine that
is really good at computer games.
is to make sure in the end that you feel good about the decision. Also, after
you have purchased a computer, don't spend time second guessing yourself or
doing additional price searches. The price you paid for your recent purchase
WILL go down. That does not mean you got a bad deal or that you got taken. It
is just the way things are. Buy your computer and enjoy it. Don't beat
yourself up about the deal.
purchase a laptop or a desktop computer is dependent on your personal
requirements. There are no real processing penalties (other than games), just
price and portability. You will pay more for a laptop with the same
power. Desktop computers are generally more powerful for the
dollar, and they generally have better video displays. However, laptops
have the huge advantage of being portable. At MSB laptop computers are
recommended because MSB is moving to a more computer-oriented classroom
environment. This means lots of things but the bottom line is that all students
will need a laptop.
Advice: If you get a deal, bring it in to the MSB Tech Center,
we will let you know what we think about it.
If you would like more information, have a question or
would like us to examine the configuration of a computer you are
contemplating purchase, e-mail me at email@example.com.