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Computer and system recommendations

Computer Purchase Considerations

Columbia doesn't require students to own computers, and CUIT supports computer clusters and labs that are open to students around the clock. However, given the increased potential for distance learning, many students find owning a personal laptop or desktop computer convenient.

A tablet or smartphone can also be used with most remote learning apps (e.g. Canvas, Zoom, Panopto), but it can be more difficult to download some types of files or submit certain types of tasks.

  • Screen size, keyboard size and weight (for laptops)
  • Battery life (for laptops)
  • Operating System: Most software / applications work best with Windows 10 and newer; macOS 10.12.6 and newer (latest macOS recommended); Linux; or chromeOS
    • CUIT provides certain relevant software and the CUIT Service Desk provides limited operating system help for the versions of Windows and MacOS supported by CUIT.
  • Storage: LionMail Drive offers unlimited file storage, but consider whether your studies might need to install a lot of software or access files offline. A solid state drive of at least 256 GB is recommended.
  • RAM: The more RAM your computer has, the more programs it can run at the same time. We strongly recommend 16 GB for higher performance.
  • Application requirements for common software
  • Warranty: Consider an extended warranty for your computer to protect against future hardware or operating system problems. This is highly recommended if you are purchasing a laptop or if the standard warranty period is a year or less.
    • Note: CUIT does not provide hardware repair support to students and provides limited operating system support that focuses on troubleshooting problems with the specific programs used to access the university's online resources.
  • Energy Star guide


CUIT has negotiated discount agreements with Apple, Dell, and other vendors on behalf of the Columbia community. You are in no way required to shop from these vendors if you'd rather shop elsewhere.

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Dell Personal Device Discounts

Dell devices can be purchased on Dells Website from Columbia students, faculty, and staff at a discount. You can also call Dell at 1-800-695-8133 to purchase (provide Columbia Dell Member ID: US24184416).

Discounted prices are available on all products, but we get our biggest discount on frequently purchased institutional systems and product packages and come with a three-year minimum warranty.

Apple discounts for personal devices

Students, faculty, and staff wishing to use a personal credit card should consider the Apple University Store or call 1-800-800-2775 and select option 2, then option 1 to make purchases or inquire about the latest promotions.

New students without an active UNI should call the Apple University Store at 1-800-800-2775. Press option 2 followed by option 1. Notify the sales representative that you will be attending Columbia University.


In distance learning, a webcam and microphone are important for video teaching. Most laptops have built-in cameras and microphones. Computers without a built-in webcam need an external webcam to connect to a video conference / course. Alternatively, you can try using your smartphone or tablet's camera while using your computer for taking notes or classwork.

Two external cameras that have consistently received good reviews (as of February 2021) are the following:

  • General use: Logitech C615
  • Higher quality: Logitech C920S

Please note that CUIT does not support any specific product. These suggestions are intended to provide helpful tips.

Note: Both cameras have built-in microphones.


All headphones with a built-in microphone (including the earbuds that usually come with a smartphone purchase) work for distance learning.

If you are joining a video conference / class from a noisy or shared environment, a headset with a microphone will improve the audio quality for your audience. Two microphones that have received consistently good reviews (as of February 2021) are the following:

  • General use: Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000 USB headset
  • Higher quality: Jabra Evolve 40 USB headset

Please note that CUIT does not support any specific product. These suggestions are intended to provide helpful tips.

Internet connection

A reliable internet connection is required for distance learning. Video conferencing and some classroom software / applications require reliable, high-speed internet. If you don't have access to reliable internet or unlimited data, AT&T , Komcast ,, Sprint , T-Mobile , or Verizon can offer an option suitable for you.

Check your internet speed

To quickly test whether your current internet connection is suitable for Zoom, visit https://zoom.us/test .

You can also check your exact internet speed by searching for internet speed test on Google.com. Your first search result is the test. Choose Run speed test to check your download and upload speeds.

If your internet download speed is below 20 megabits per second, your video is likely to be difficult to see and you may experience audio issues. In this case, first try to eliminate other requirements for your Internet connection, such as: B. streaming movies on another device in the home at the same time.

If your speed is still not improving, a temporary solution may be to use the WiFi hotspot feature on your smartphone. However, this can consume a lot of data and be expensive. In the longer term, you should contact your Internet service provider to inquire about improving your bandwidth or your wireless service provider about the option of purchasing a hotspot for high-speed cellular Internet access.

Please note that it can be helpful. if you use many people or devices in your home Connect your computer to the router with an Ethernet cable during your video conference sessions.

Web browser

At least two web browsers should be installed on your computer. Any browser will work, but preferred browsers are Fire fox and chrome which can be downloaded online for free. Web browsers should always be updated to the latest version available for the device operating system.

Device security

Install anti-virus and anti-malware software to keep your data and computer safe. A free license to Malwarebytes is available to all current students at Columbia University, CUIMC, Barnard, Teachers College, and UTS.

To press

All students have a quota of pages that they can print using the campus printing system PawPrint. Network printers are available in many locations on campus. CUIT does not currently offer hardware repair support, including personal printers.

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