Guide: Computer & Software Recommendations for Personal Computers


  • What kind of computer should I purchase?
  • Can IT recommend and purchase a computer for me?


  • Oregon State University
  • Employee or Student


This article provides general guidance about selecting a computer for personal use at OSU. This topic applies to personal devices for students and employees.

General Recommendations

College and Program Requirements

For students, please check with your college or program for computer recommendations or requirements before purchasing a computer. 

Hardware Recommendations for Work-From-Home

If you are purchasing a personal computer to work from home or while traveling, you may first want to ask your department if they will purchase a computer for this purpose. Many OSU employees now use a laptop as their primary computer.

The following are also recommended for remote work:

  • A USB headset with headphones and microphone to facilitate audio conferencing
    • The microphone and speakers included with some laptops may not be good enough for audio conferencing
  • A webcam for video conferencing
    • many laptops already include a usable webcam

Type of Device: Laptop, Desktop, Tablet, Chromebook

When choosing the type of device, consider how you plan to use it, how much money you want to spend, and whether you will want to upgrade it in the future.

  • Laptops. Laptops offer mobility, take up less space and can be used on the OSU wireless network in all residence halls and most buildings on campus. For this reason, most students decide to use a laptop at OSU. They are harder to upgrade, however, tend to wear out faster than a desktop computer, and are the most expensive option.
  • Desktops. Desktop computers take up more space and are not mobile. They are generally faster, cheaper to upgrade and repair, and last longer than laptops.
  • Tablets. Tablets - such as iPads - can be used to do many day-to-day tasks but some software will not run on them. They can be a nice complement to a desktop or laptop computer but probably not a replacement.
  • Chromebooks. Chromebooks can be used to do almost anything that is accessible via the web. Many software titles can be accessed via Office Online or Citrix Apps, and some students have been able to use them for most day-to-day work. However, they are not a good choice for fields of study that require specialized software.

Hardware Manufacturer

Computers are constantly changing, so when shopping around for a particular brand/style, it is a good idea to do your research beforehand. The following websites offer good computer reviews and comparisons:

Some manufacturers offer discounts to university students and employees but we do not have any OSU-specific discount programs set up.

Operating System

The Operating System you choose depends largely on personal preference. However, please note that some software requires a specific operating system.

For security and stability reasons, we always recommend that you run the latest version of your preferred operating system.

  • Windows: This is the most common operating system if you own a PC. Windows 10 is the latest version of Windows.
    • Windows is recommended if you need to use MS Project or MS Visio.
  • macOS: This is the operating system that runs on Macintosh computers.
  • Linux: Most flavors of Linux should also work on campus. Since there are so many Linux distros and Linux is highly customizable, support by the Service Desk is on a "best effort" basis only. Linux sometimes presents issues with connecting to the network, using hardware such as video and audio, and printing. If you decide to use Linux, you may have to research and resolve these issues on your own.

Site Licensed Software

OSU has site licenses to several software packages, and some are free for use by current students. See our Software page for more information.

In particular, please note that all current OSU students and employees are eligible for 5 free copies of Microsoft Office through Office 365.


For assistance, contact the Service Desk.



Article ID: 52019
Mon 4/16/18 9:43 AM
Sun 4/17/22 11:02 AM