Engineering Computer Recommendations

Computer recommendations for engineering students

Are you thinking about bringing a personal computer to K-State? We encourage all engineering students to bring a computer to campus for personal use - but we do not require students to purchase or own a computer. K-State, and the college, has hundreds of computers available for students to use.

For engineering students who wish to have a computer at college, please use Kansas State University's computer recommendations page. Consider this required reading. We help to create these recommendations every year and are satisfied that they are good ones for engineering students. This page also contains important guidance on antivirus software, provisions for backups, etc.

If you will be attending K-State for the first time, as a freshman or transfer student, please consider waiting to buy a computer for college and simply bring the computer you currently use. You probably won't need a special computer during your first months here, and you will have access to college and university computers. With time, you will be able to better decide what you need in our environment.

Below, we discuss a few additional considerations for engineering students.

Do I need an especially good computer to handle engineering coursework?

Probably not. A standard, middle-of-the-road personal computer is usually sufficient for most students and for the majority of academic work - preparing written assignments, accessing online class materials, sending and receiving messages, collaborating on class projects, etc.

K-State uses Microsoft Office 365 for all faculty, staff and students, so just about any web browser on any computer will be all that is needed to use the "cloud" version of Microsoft's office suite. You can have your own copy of an office productivity suite on your computer if you wish, but it won't be necessary. The online "cloud" version will offer opportunities to share and collaborate with other students or instructors.

Keep in mind that a lot of specialized engineering software is not available in student versions and/or not licensed for personal computers. For that reason, the college and its departments provide hundreds of computers for student use. But when engineering software is available for use on personal computers, you may want the convenience of having a personal copy.

Students who will be running graphics-intensive engineering software on their personal computer should consider a video card with 1 GB (or more) of dedicated video memory. This consideration would apply to MNE students who want to run SolidWorks; BAE students (Machinery Systems option) who want to run Creo (formerly known as Pro/ENGINEER); ArE/CnS students who want to run AutoCAD, Revit, or other Autodesk software; and CIS students specializing in computer game design. Some video cards will require larger computer power supplies.

Can I use a Macintosh for engineering coursework?

This is the most common question we are asked. This is a matter of personal preference; the answer is a qualified "yes, but not recommended". A Macintosh is fine for general-purpose use, but is not a good choice if you want a computer that can run engineering-specific software, which is mostly Windows-based.

You will need to run Microsoft Windows on your Macintosh if you want to run Windows-based engineering software. This requires purchasing a separate license for Windows, and installing it on a separate partition on your Macintosh hard drive. You can then run Windows on your Macintosh computer by selecting Windows when you boot your computer, or you can install third-party software to run Windows in a virtual machine as a "guest" operating system, hosted by the standard Mac OS X operating system. However, you may still run into performance limitations if you run graphics-intensive Windows software, such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks.

What about iPads, Android tablets, netbooks etc?

These are too limited to serve as your only computer, but they can be very useful as a portable "second computer" to carry on-campus for communications, note-taking, internet browsing, reading online class materials, etc.

What computer resources are available to engineering students?

Both K-State and the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering provide many computing resources as part of the information technology environment. For this reason, new students may wish to defer making a decision about purchasing a computer until after they have been on campus for some time and are more familiar with the resources available to them.

In the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering:

  • Over 100 computers are available to all engineering students in computer laboratories, Fiedler Learning Commons and study rooms. These computers have dual monitors and full, 100 mbits/sec wired Internet access. The college also provides laser printing services and network file storage space to students. See these web pages for more information about our computers (hardware) and the list of available software (including specialized engineering software).
  • 15 laptops are available for four hour checkout to engineering students, with the same software as found on our lab computers.
  • The college tends to use mostly Microsoft Windows computers, with a small community of Linux/UNIX users and a smaller community of Apple Macintosh users.
  • The college provides wireless access covering nearly all areas in the engineering buildings, and also offers wired network connections in several public areas in engineering buildings.
  • Engineering departments provide additional computer laboratories for their students, often with very specialized, discipline-specific software.

For general information about the Kansas State University computing environment, please see this "new to K-State" web page. These resources are available to all students.