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MSB Computer Requirements

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

Must you have a computer?

This is the requirement:

MSB students are required to have a personal portable laptop computer that runs Windows 7 / 8 Professional.  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 7 / 8 Professional. 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

Operating System

At MSB we support machines running the English version of Windows 7 or 8  Professional.  Windows XP is no longer supported. 



Windows Vista Business will still be supported but MSBTC recommends all new student computer purchases run Windows 7 or 8 Professional 64-bit.  The MSB Technology Center will support the following editions of Windows 7/8:

§  Professional

§  Enterprise

§  Ultimate

The MSB Technology Center will not be able to fully support the following editions of Windows 7/8:

§  Starter

§  Home (all versions)

"Home" versions of Windows are the versions that most computer makers use to define whether a computer is "Windows 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.

Apple OS

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, Bootcamp, which comes free with your Mac and a virtual machine program like VMWare Fusion.  So the first choice is what software you are going to use to run Windows.  Bootcamp is simpler, and free.  VM Ware Fusion and other virtual machines are more complex but will allow you to run Windows and Mac OS simultaneously.  VMWare Fusion is available free from Georgetown.  Other VM software will cost money.  You will need 8 GB of RAM to run a Windows virtual machine on your Mac.

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 purchasing system with a student discount, but it is frequently cheaper to get them directly from the Microsoft web site or from Computerware.  Microsoft offers a student discount and you need purchase only the Windows Upgrade, not the full version of Windows.

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 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.

Recommended Computer

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 hereIt 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 power options.

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 staff.

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, X1 carbon 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.

Note, 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 advantages are:

MSBTC will be able to assist in troubleshooting problems. MSBTC has a lot of experience helping fix problems with the Standard Computer.

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.

If you decide to check out  Computerware's web site, remember this:

- 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 support options.

- If you do not see what you want CALL COMPUTERWARE. 703-821-8200

- Don't 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.

- Don't 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 away.

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.

Minimum Specs

Here are 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. 

Minimum Specs include at least:

§  Intel i5 2.0 GHz

§  Windows 7/8 Professional 64 bit

§  3 GB RAM 32 bit OS, 4 GB RAM 64 bit OS

§  PCI Video with 128 MB RAM. Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver

§  256 GB of hard drive, 5600 RPM. 7200 RPM is better, SSD (Solid State Drive) is best.

§  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 fax

§  Documentation

§  1 Year parts and labor

§  Est. cost, $500 to $1200

Detailed Specifications Discussion

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

Operating System:

Windows 7/8 Professional   See the Windows discussion.

Hard Drive:

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.

There are new solid state drives (SSD) coming out now.  These new versions offer significant speed upgrades and are massively improved from even just a year ago.  Size is the biggest limiting factor.  Some are only 256 GB max.  Nevertheless, these drives offer speed and durability advantages that are often more important than the additional storage space.  They are not good if you store a LOT off music or video on your computer, but if you can put the entertainment in the cloud the SSD will make day-to-day computing much faster.  We are getting them for most faculty and staff computers now.

Floppy Drive

A 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive is outdated.  Don't get one. The new standard for portable storage is the Flash Drive.


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 future.


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.


Macs:  Get 8 GB of RAM so you can run Windows in a virtual machine.


Make sure there are ports on the computer for the monitor (VGA DVI 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 external adaptors.


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 special considerations:

§  It cannot be upgraded

§  It is not normally included on the manufacturer's warranty.

§  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.

          Do you need a touch screen?  Windows 8 can be run to look just like Windows 7 or it can be run in a mode where it makes good use of a touch screen.  There is some discussion as to if this type of thing will ever take off.  I have used it with mixed results.  At this point it is personal preference.  There is no compelling reason at MSB to have a touch screen....but they are cool.


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 7/8, get 256 MB of video RAM

External Monitor: (Not Required)

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 22" or larger flat panel.

Fax Modem:

You do not need a modem built into your laptop unless you have to have FAX functionality.

Ethernet (LAN) adaptor Wired and Wireless:

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 "N" standards.

Power supply:

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 good deal.

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 Lenovo.


Applications Software

MSB uses MS Office 2010 Professional. We will be moving to MS Office 2013 by September 2013.  All new purchases and upgrades should be Office 2013 32 or 64 bit, whichever is appropriate for your version of Windows.  32-bit MS Office works fine on 64-bit Windows 7/8.  MS Office Professional includes Excel, Word, Power Point, Access, and Outlook Mail.  MSB uses all the MS Office programs except Outlook.

The Mac 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.

The right place for them to purchase it is here: .

Students can also find purchases for Microsoft Office through the following vendors:

Microsoft Web Site - Occasionally has good deals and when it does…they are really good.
Computerware --$79.
Main Campus through UIS Software Database (CDW-G) - $372.06
Bookstore -- $200+

Note: Prices are subject to change. Please check at the respective sources.


Georgetown University Lojack-for-Laptops University Campus Initiative


We take a proactive stance against laptop theft on our campus. We encourage students to register for LoJack for Laptops, data protection and safe laptop recovery ($13.95/one year) to protect their information and investments.

Extra Equipment

Flash Drive

Also called 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 device.

External Hard Drive/Backup

An external 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.

Another good option for backup is a cloud based system like Carbonite  A Carbonite subscription and a program of regularly backing up your hard drive could save your bacon one day.


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.

Docking Station

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.


An inexpensive scanner will prove useful on occasion.  We have them in the Tech Center but it is nice to have your own.

Laptop Insurance and Security Equipment

A security 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.

Miscellaneous Info


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".

Personal Preferences

Your 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.

My advice 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.

Desktop Computers

Whether you 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.

Last 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

© 2010 McDonough School of Business Technology Center Web Team