Computer Requirements

Choosing a new computer can be a daunting task. We here at the MSB Tech Center want to help make the decision as painless as possible. This page details many things you'll need to know when picking out your new computer that will meet MSB requirements. If you have any questions, you can contact us at msbhelp@georgetown.edu.

Must you have a computer?

This is the requirement:

Graduate and Executive Education students are required to have a personal portable laptop computer that runs Windows 7/8/10 Professional.

MSB does not have a formal undergraduate computer hardware requirement. However, for practical purposes undergrad students should have a personal portable computer that will run Windows 7/8/10 Professional.

Simple Answer.  If you need to make a quick computer purchase, the 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.

Operating System


All new student computers must be capable of running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 or 8 Professional, or Windows 10.  We recommend Windows 10.

Supported Not Supported
  • Professional
  • Enterprise
  • Ultimate
  • Starter
  • Home (all versions)
Apple Computers

The Tech Center provides support for all Mac computers. However, some of the classes you will be taking require software that is only available for Windows OS.  If you chose to purchase a Mac computer MSBTC will assist you to install Windows 10 as a secondary operating system.  The Tech Center offers two ways to install Windows on your Mac:
  • Bootcamp: This program comes free with most Mac computers. Bootcamp allows you to select either your Apple OS or your Windows OS on boot up.  Bootcamp runs without slowing your computer.
  • VMWare Fusion: This is a software offered for free by Georgetown to all Georgetown students. It allows you to run both your Apple OS and Windows OS at the same time, but it may slow down your computer.
MSBTC will provide MSB Students with a free copy of MS Windows 10 and MS Office for Windows.  It is not necessary for Mac users to purchase this software.

Be prepared to spend upwards of 3 hours in the Tech Center with your computer if you chose to install Windows. You must be with your computer at all times. If you have any questions, drop by the Tech Center in Hariri and we can explain this further.

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Recommended Computers

Lenovo Business Laptops

MSBTC has developed a series of Lenovo business computers available for purchase from Computerware.  MSBTC is not involved in the purchase.  You should deal directly with Computerware.  They can be contacted at 703-821-8200 or on the web here.  Our Computerware recommended computer has some additional features beyond the minimum specifications below but we feel they are worthwhile and cost effective.

Lenovo offers two different series of computers, the business series and the consumer series.  MSB recommends the business series computers.  The consumer series are good computers but a little less durable.

Lenovo labels their business computers by letter. The most popular models are T, W, and X.  There are no significant performance tradeoffs between T, W and X. The only difference is size, particularly the screen and keyboard:
  • The X Series: These computers are the smallest, with screens as small as 12.1 inches in the X 200. It is adequate for any standard MSB or business application such as MS Office.  Because of the small screen and keyboard however it may not be ideal for extended use (like writing a paper).  X series computers used to be slower than the comparably priced T/W series laptops but that is no longer true. X computers may lack some typically standard equipment, such as a DVD/CD ROM drive.  These extras have been eliminated to save space.  X series are the most portable computers and you can make up for the lack of a large screen or keyboard by purchasing external units and simply connecting them while in your home or office.
  • The T Series: These computers are slightly larger than the X, with both 14.1 inch and 15 inch screen size options. They are by no means heavyweight options however, particularly the "slim" series.  They offer excellent performance and most peripherals like DVD drive are built in.  Because of the good size/performance characteristics these are the computers typically purchased by corporations and are a favorite of the MSB faculty and staff.

  • The W Series: These are larger computers, with up to 17 inch displays and full size keyboards. These computers are also the most powerful and have the best graphics. They tend to be on the heavier side, but if you are not planning to bring your computer to class frequently, this is a very powerful computer.

Mac Laptops

The MSBTC has recently extended support to Apple Mac computers. Most new MacBook models will be supported, with the exception of the 128GB SSD MacBook Airs. The 128 GB MacBook Air will not be able to run some of the software you will need as a student here.  MSBTC has had issues with the latest MacBook.  It works but the processor is surprisingly slow and the lack of a USB port is really annoying.

The older MacBook Pro models that we support are: 15-inch and 17-inch mid-2010 models and later, and 13-inch early-2011 models and later.

Other Brands

MSBTC does not recommend Sony or Toshiba computers. 

Microsoft Surface Pros are good computers assuming they meet minimum specifications.  The Microsoft Surface RT does not meet minimum specifications and should be avoided. 

iPads and other "tablet" computers whether Android or Apple do not meet minimum specifications.

Laptop Theft Protection
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, to protect their information and investments.  It is very cost effective at $13.95 per year.

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Minimum Specs

Here are the minimum laptop specifications. The MSBTC recommended computer is all this and more, but if you wish to configure your own computer, these outline the lowest technology limits we expect. In reality, most new laptop computers are faster and better equipped than these minimums.

Processor Operating System Power Supply
Minimum 2.0 GHz "i5". The new Intel Core Duo T series, i7 or equivalents are much faster than th minimum i5. Windows 7/8/10 64-bit Professional.  Windows 10 is recommended.  Do not purchase the 32-bit version of Windows. If you are planning to study abroad, make sure your power supply will accept 120 to 240 volts and 50 - 60 Hz. Most do.
Hard Drive DVD/CD ROM Ethernet (LAN) Adapter
Minimum 256 GB at 7200 RPM. New solid state drives (SSD) offer significant speed upgrades, but size is a limiting factor as they tend to be only 512 GB max. 512 GB is OK for MSB but too small if you are planning to store large amounts of music or video. We recommend having a drive that can both read and write DVD's and CD ROMs.  However, DVD technology is on the way out.  Having a DVD drive is not required. You will need an Ethernet 100baseT or 1000baseT (1 GB) wired LAN adapter (also called a network card). Virtually all laptops have these standard.
Any wireless should be 802.11G compatible. Most will also be compatible with the "N" standards.
Screen Ports Memory
We recommend a minimum 12.1 inch screen with a video card of, minimum, 128 MB RAM.  If you want to run advanced functions, get 256 MB of video RAM. Keep in mind that you will not be able to upgrade your screen, and that screens are often not included on the manufacturer's warranty.  Touch screens are not required but are gaining in popularity. We recommend having a VGA/DVI port monitor connection, and at least 2 version 2.0 USB ports.
*Note: Macs and MS Surface Pros do not come with a huge selection of ports, and frequently require external adapters.
We recommend at least 4 GB of RAM (8 GB is better) with 64 bit Operating System. 32 bit operating systems cannot use more than 3 GB of RAM.  Your computer should have at least one empty  memory slot allowing you to easily add RAM in the future.

You will need documentation for all the major systems we have discussed above. Documentation and support is the second most overlooked item when buying a computer and companies often cut corners here. 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. It is important to find a computer with well written documentation and product support.  Sometimes the documentation is on-line.  That is an acceptable substitute for printed documentation.

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The MSB standard laptop computer is a Lenovo because we here at the Tech Center believe Lenovo makes the best laptops. We also consider Dell laptops and the MS Surface Pro to be a good, durable choices.  Hewlett Packard (HP), Apple, and a lot of others share the next position. These computers can be purchased from a number of locations, but our main vendors are:

Computerware: We have a special relationship with our local vendor Computerware. They can sell you any of several different brands but offer a deal on normally more expensive Lenovo computers, both desktop and laptop. Buying the standard computer offered by Computerware has a number of advantages:
  • The MSBTC has considerable expertise troubleshooting problems with the Standard Computer
  • Vendor assistance is easy to get. A Computerware representative will come to the Tech Center on request.
  • In the event that your Standard Computer breaks and must be sent out for repair Computerware will loan you a replacement for the duration of the repair
Computerware has just a few computers on its website. That does not mean these are the only possibilities. Many things can be customized and still retain all your support options. If you have any questions or don't see what you want, you can contact Computerware at 703-821-8200. Computerware can sell you just about any brand other than Dell or Mac; however, 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.  We cannot get involved in arbitrating disputes. That said, MSB buys a lot of stuff from Computerware so we talk to them virtually every day. If you have a problem, let us know and we will help you communicate it to Computerware.

University Bookstore: Computers are also available for purchase at the University Bookstore. The vast majority of these are Apple.  The Tech Center does not have any sort of special relationship with the store and it does not offer the MSB Standard Lenovo Computer. The bookstore does offer some models that Computerware does not, however, including MacBooks. We support all computers purchased at the bookstore that run either Windows or Apple OS.

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Microsoft Office

MSB uses MS Office 2013, but we will still provide support for earlier versions of Office. The MS Office Professional includes Excel, Word, Power Point, Access, and Outlook.

The Mac version of MS Office is not 100% compatible with the Windows version, and formatting errors sometimes occur across platforms. It is not a huge problems but is another reason you should have Windows and run the Windows versions of Office.

Microsoft Office is free for four years.  Students can use their Georgetown email address at www.office.com/getOffice365 to download it.  We can also provide it to you at the Tech Center.

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Additional Hardware

Flash Drive: Also called a memory stick or memory key. This is a small, portable data storage device that connects directly to your computer via a USB port. It is used primarily for temporary file storage and should not be used for long-term data backup. The MSBTC recommends that each student have at least one flash drive with at least 4 GB capacity.

External Hard Drive and Backup: An external USB hard drive with 500 GB or more will allow you to regularly back up your computer. Cloud-based systems, like Carbonite, are another good option for backups. Backups are important, maybe even critical.  Having them may just save your bacon one day.

Printer: All business school students will have access to the printers in Hariri and will be given 1500 free prints per semester. If you feel you would still like your own printer we recommend getting a cheap one with color printing capabilities. We have found that most printers in dorm rooms go unused.

Scanner: All of the printers in the MSB have scanning functions, so having your own isn't necessary.

Docking Station: An ease-of-use item that adds additional ports to your computer. These can be convenient for people regularly connecting their computers to multiple external items but they are typically unnecessary for students.

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Miscellaneous Info

Personal Preferences

There is a disclaimer that goes along with this computer advice. 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".

Your computer should be designed to cater to your preferences. 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 that, from a logical perspective, 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 that, in the end, you feel good about your decision. Also, after you have purchased your computer, don't spend time second guessing yourself or doing additional price searches. The price you paid for your recent purchase WILL go down over time. 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 for everyday stuff.  It is just a question of price and portability.  You will pay more for a laptop with the same power as a desktop. Desktop computers are generally more powerful for the dollar, and they generally have better video displays. That makes them the best choice for users who do a lot of computer gaming.  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 want advice on 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 the MSBTC at msbhelp@georgetown.edu.

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