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Student Laptop Recommendations

Do you need a laptop for college?

Last updated: 11/9/2023 

students working on computers



In this document, SJCC CIS Faculty provide recommendations for students and parents seeking to purchase a laptop for use in CIS courses. #laptop #college #bestlaptop #newlaptop


Are there computers on campus that I can try to use?

  • Yes. There are computers in the library and various labs at SJCC.
  • One caveat to consider is that these computer may or may not have the software you need to complete homework, tests, or assignments. Also, you will not have administrative privileges on these machines (which is often necessary for CIS work).

What type of laptop should students avoid buying? 

Do not buy a Chromebook, Windows-Surface, iPad Tablet, Android Tablet, or Linux computer to do CIS coursework. 

  • Non-Windows and Non-Mac computers (operating systems) are not supported by CIS courses. 

What type of laptop should students buy? 

Buy either a Windows or a Mac laptop. 

  • CIS Faculty do not care if our students buy a mac or a windows laptop.  But we do expect all students to be technically proficient with using their laptop. 
  • Students who are not proficient using their own laptop should take CIS-041 or CIT-010 before taking other CIS courses. 

Should students buy a Mac? 

If you choose to buy a mac, there are a few caveats to consider. 

  • Most curriculum is designed for Windows. 
  • Often, mac users must translate and adapt to windows curriculum “on their own.” 

Is my current/old laptop good enough? 


  • In general, most windows or mac laptops that are less than 3-4 years old are fine for CIS courses. 

How much memory (RAM) should a student’s laptop have? 

32Gb or more. 

  • Memory is more important for fast performance than a laptop’s CPU. 
  • Memory is important to smoothly run multiple applications. 

Should a student buy a laptop with a SSD (solid state drive) or a HDD (hard disk)? 

512Gb or more. SSD disk drives are preferred. 

  • SSD drives are currently 6-7 times faster than HDD drives. 
  • SSD drives will make your laptop run much faster. 
  • SSD drives make software installations much faster. 
  • Students should buy a laptop that has an SSD. 

Do students need a webcam? 


Should students buy a laptop with Intel or an AMD processor? 

Either is fine. 

  • The type of processor that your laptop has does not matter. 
  • Software runs on top of the operating systems (windows or mac OS). Software does not run on specific processors (Intel, AMD, et cetera). 

Should students buy a specific brand of laptop? 

Brand does not matter. 

  • Choose whatever brand you like with the technical specifications that satisfy the requirements in this document. 

How fast should a laptop’s CPU be? 

Usually, it does not matter. 

  • Nowadays, a laptop's performance is dependent on how much RAM memory you have, and if you have an SSD drive or not. CPU speed is less important. 
  • If getting the fastest possible processor is important for you, look at benchmarks on Tom’s Hardware. 

Can students get a discount when buying a laptop? 


  • Most vendors offer students a discount for both hardware and software purchases. Below are a few places to consider: 

Can SJCC loan students a laptop to use? 

Yes. But there are caveats to consider. 

  • ITSS no longer has a loaner laptop program. The CIS department has a small number of machines that you may be able to borrow. Contact Mark Branom ( for details.
  • EVC may have a number of machines that you can borrow. Contact EVC for details by filling out this form.
  • Financial Aid may provide students with money to choose to purchase a laptop. Please contact Financial Aid for all financial matters as each student’s financial situation is a case-by-case basis. 

Can students use a desktop computer? 

Possibly. But there are caveats to consider. 

  • Desktop Windows or Mac computers should have both a Webcam and a Microphone to meet with other students online and/or attending office hours. 
  • Desktop computers may not work for courses with on-campus labs since they cannot be easily transported into class. 

Should students borrow a laptop from a friend or parent? 


  • Students must have administrative level access on their computer to properly install software, configure, and fix issues on their laptop. 
  • If students decide to borrow a laptop from a friend or parent, students must create their own separate account on the laptop. 
  • Students should not use another person’s account and login information. Doing this creates security and software configuration issues for both parties. 

Can students use a laptop from their job? 


  • Computers issued by companies are administrated by the company's IT department. This prevents proper installation and/or configuration of software that is needed for CIS courses. 

Do students need to know how to use their laptop? 


  • Students who do not know how to use their computers should take CIS-041 or CIT-010 which teaches students basic computing skills. 
  • Students are expected to know how to do the following before taking CIS courses: 
  • Know how to install software 
  • Know how to navigate and find folders and files 
  • Know where files are stored and located on their computer 
  • Know how to search the internet and find solutions to basic computer problems 

Do students need reliable internet? 


  • SJCC has free, fast, and reliable internet on-campus. 
  • Free Wi-Fi is also available in many public spaces and local libraries. 
  • In general, nowadays, computers do not work without the internet.  

Do students need a lightweight laptop? 

Laptop weight is an individual personal choice. 

  • Students should look at the weight of their laptop. 
  • Weight is listed in the technical specifications of the laptop. 

Does the size of the laptop screen matter? 

Size of the screen is individual personal choice. 

  • Screen size is listed in the technical specifications of the laptop. 

What software should students install on their laptop? 

We do not know. 

  • Software requirements are specific to each CIS course. 
  • Read your course syllabus for a list of software to install. 
  • Students should install anti-virus software. 

Do students need a powerful graphics card? 

It is not required. 

  • Powerful graphics cards are nice to have, but not required for most CIS courses. 
  • Search the internet and decide based on what you are looking to use your computer for in the future.