Cabrini College Information Technology and Resources Home

About Personally Owned Computers

Hardware Support Policy

ITR offers limited support for computers personally owned by students, faculty or staff, including access to the Cabrini College network and Internet. For more details, please see our Hardware Support Policy. For repairs, ITR recommends The Computer Fixer. Their staff are authorized to diagnose and repair equipment under warranty from several manufacturers and can assist with machines of any manufacturer regardless of warranty status. They offer both mail-in and carry-in service at their Philadelphia location.

Buying a Personal Computer

Below are general recommended specifications for students making new computer purchases. The recommended specifications are designed for a computer to last through a standard undergraduate career at Cabrini College.

We also strongly encourage the purchase of 3-year warranty with the laptop, and also encourage including accidental damage coverage.

Windows/PC Computer Specifications

Part Recommendation
Processor Intel Core i5 or i7
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional, 64-bit
Memory (RAM) 4 - 8 GB
Hard Drive Size 500 GB or greater
Network Connections Ethernet & Dual-Band 2.4 - 5 GHz Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n. Single-Band (2.4 GHz) Wireless Cards such as b/g/n are not recommended; see next section for details. Computers without Ethernet adapters are also not recommended.
Display & Graphics Card If your work is graphicly intensive or involves engineering design or web rendering, you should consider additional graphics memory and a large-screen laptop or an additional larger monitor.

Recommended Wireless Card Details for Windows/PC Laptops

When purchasing a Windows laptop, check that your system configuration includes a Wi-Fi card that will operate in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz radio frequencies. Laptop computer manufacturers often obscure the Wi-Fi radio specifications or offer a less capable card limited to operating in the 2.4 GHz radio frequency only. Don't fall prey to manufacturers that boast high performance because their Wi-Fi radio supports the "n" standard. The "n" designator alone does not indicate that the Wi-Fi operates in both frequencies.

When configuring your laptop, confirm that the manufacturer explicitly states the Wi-Fi radio has dual-band support in both 2.4 and 5 GHz radio frequencies or the specifications specifically include Wi-Fi a/b/g/n or 802.11 a/b/g/n. The presence of the letter "a" indicates the radio operates in the 5 GHz frequency; this is the performance differentiator. The letters "b/g" inform you the radio operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency--when combined together you are assured of dual-band support.

If you are thinking that the discussion of dual-band radio frequencies is hurting your head, we understand. But here is the lowdown of why it's important to spend a little extra time and money to configure your Windows laptop for optimal Wi-Fi performance.

Unlike wired networks, which allow your computer to transmit and receive on a dedicated private copper cable, your Wi-Fi radio must transmit over-the-air using a shared radio frequency. In plain terms, your wireless transmissions share the same radio frequency with other wireless devices trying to transmit data at the same time. Effectively, only one transmission can take place at a time in a given radio channel. Wi-Fi radios limited to working in the 2.4 GHz frequency support only three non-overlapping radio channels. In comparison, radios operating in the 5 GHz radio frequency support over 22 non-overlapping radio channels.

If you want to avoid severe radio frequency competition, you need a dual-frequency Wi-Fi card for optimal wireless performance.

NOTE: Apple/Mac laptops are sold exclusively with dual-band Wi-Fi radios, so there are no Wi-Fi configurations to check at purchase time.

If you are not sure if the Windows laptop you are considering is single-band or dual-band, look under the laptop's wireless device/Wi-Fi card specifications on the box, label, or product Web page. You are looking for Wi-Fi a/b/g/n or 802.11 a/b/g/n in the WLAN or Wireless or Wifi field. If you are having trouble finding this information, contact the laptop manufacturer (Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc.)

Apple/Mac Computer Specifications

Part Desktop Recommendation Laptop Recommendation
Model iMac MacBook Pro
Processor 2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 2.7GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
Operating System Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Display 21.5" LED-Backlit 15" display, LED-Backlit
Memory (RAM) 8 GB, DDR3, 2 DIMMs 8 GB, DDR3, 2 DIMMs
Hard Drive Size 500 GB or greater 500 GB or greater
Network Connections Ethernet & Airport (Airport is Apple's built-in wireless standard). Computers without Ethernet adapters are not recommended. Ethernet & Airport (Airport is Apple's built-in wireless standard). Computers without Ethernet adapters are not recommended.
Video NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 512MB NVIDIA GeForce GT650M, 1GB

Please note: We do not support the Apple Mac Mini Desktop, the MacBook Air or the Macbook Pro with retina display. We recommend purchasing a USB or Thunderbolt to ethernet adapter if you do purchase a Macbook Air or Macbook Pro with retina display.


Should I buy a Mac or a Windows PC?

Students are free to purchase either a Windows- or a Macintosh-based computer, laptop or Desktop. In most cases the choice is yours, but in some academic disciplines the standard usage of an industry (e.g., graphic design) may indicate a particular choice, so you may want to check with your major department.

What software will I need; Does Cabrini provide any software to students?

ITR provides complimentary antivirus software to all students. Additionally, ITR is able to offer students discounted software through JourneyEd. For details, please see our Discounted Software section.

Must I have my own personal computer?

While Cabrini College provides a number of computers in public access areas, their availability can be limited; they are intended to supplement your computer rather than replace it. The ability to access a computer to complete work at any time of day or night is essential to keeping pace with many of the individual courses and academic programs here at Cabrini College.

If I already own a computer, do I need to purchase a second or new one?

Maybe. Should you already own a computer that meets or exceeds the specifications listed above, you may choose to delay a new purchase at this time. It is likely, however, that you will need a more powerful new machine, comparable to those Cabrini recommends, at some time during your course of study.

How will I use my computer while I am at Cabrini?

You will use your computer as both a labor-saving device and a tool for exploring ideas. You will use it to write reports and presentations, to record and analyze data, simulate lecture demonstrations and laboratory experiments, retrieve bibliographic and Internet information, and much, much more.

Will I be required to bring my computer to class?

Cabrini College doesn't require students to bring a computer to class. If you need to use a computer during class time, your instructor will schedule your class in a room equipped with computers. However, if you own or decide to purchase a laptop computer you may want to bring it to class to take notes and work on assignments. All classrooms and lecture halls are currently wireless.

Would a laptop be a better purchase?

Laptop or Notebook computers make it easy to work anywhere, and offer benefits not present with a desktop. They save space in your dorm room and are easy to put away. You will also be able to access Cabrini's wireless network while on campus if you have a laptop. Keep in mind that because laptops are portable, there are risks associated with owning a laptop that do not exist with desktops.

How will I use the Internet?

Many Cabrini College courses make extensive use of the Internet to facilitate communication between students and faculty, to register for classes and obtain grades, for research, education and personal use. To aid this, Cabrini College expects that all students will be able to access the Internet. How you do so depends on whether you live on campus in a college-maintained space, or off campus.

What computer brands does Cabrini recommend?

Dell, Lenovo and Apple are among the many vendors that sell computers meeting Cabrini College's requirements. Cabrini prefers that you purchase these brands because you can depend on the quality of the goods and after-sale service that they offer. The higher-education contacts below offer special discounts for back-to-school purchases.

I've seen ads for low-priced and nearly free computers, such as netbooks. Why should I buy the systems Cabrini recommends?

The suggested systems have been configured to meet the standard of quality necessary for use throughout the Cabrini campus. Among other things, this means they are fast, have sufficient memory and storage space, and are capable of running the high-quality software used on campus. The same basic systems chassis could be configured with less memory and storage space, a slower processor, and poor quality monitor at a lower price but the trade-off may be inadequate performance and frequent repairs. Very often the low prices you see advertised are for machines with fewer features and limited support and warranty coverage. The offer of a free computer with the purchase of internet services may be very attractive but many times these computers are substandard and not supported by the manufacturer or the Internet provider. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

Do I have to buy my computer from one of these vendors?

No, you do not. You may purchase your computer from any vendor. Those brands listed above are only recommendations.

Should I get an extended repair warranty for my new computer?

Yes, most computers sold today have the option to extend the manufacturer's hardware warranty. It is best to purchase this extended warranty when you are buying the computer system. Some computer vendors will not allow you to purchase an extended repair warranty after you have purchased the equipment. Some extended warranties offered are "on site" coverage and some are "carry in" hardware repair warranties. Before you buy the extended repair service contract check to make sure that there are computer repair companies near your residence that will honor the service contract once purchased. Cabrini College recommends The Computer Fixer computer repair or service. The Computer Fixer's phone number is 215-387-5900.

Shall I buy a computer now so I can get used to it before classes begin?

We encourage all students to familiarize themselves with their computers prior to the start of classes. Buying the computer system early will give you a head start on your academic studies.

Do I need a printer?

The college provides a limited number of printers, which you may use on campus. However, Cabrini College recommends that students purchase their own printers to ensure access at any time. Please note that we do not support wireless printers for security reasons. A good-quality printer can be purchased for about $100. Cabrini College's best experience has been printers from Lexmark, Hewlett-Packard, Canon, and Epson. Dell, Gateway and Apple can sell you a printer when you buy your computer. Please see Cabrini College's Printing Policy for more information.