Selecting a computer is an important decision. To help you in the process, Information Technology offers you a few tips to take into consideration before making your computer purchase.
What will I use my computer for?
As a student you will use a computer for a multitude of tasks. Communication is one main use, checking email, instant messaging, and online chats for classes. You will use online resources to register for classes, pay tuition, to register your vehicle; Professors will communicate with you via email. You will use online course applications like “Desire2Learn” to get assignments, submit work, access resources, take quizzes and get your grades. Many of Radford University’s classes involve a combination of face to face meetings with online participation. You will use applications like Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint to complete assignments. Many departments have specific software packages that students may need to complete their assignments.
All students should consult with their academic advisor before choosing a computer.
Do I need to purchase a warranty?
We recommend you weigh the cost of the additional warranty against the replacement cost of the computer. Accidental damage insurance is also highly recommended as student use tends to be especially hard on laptops. Having warranty protection will insure that you will have minimal time without your computer should there be a problem, and that there will not be unplanned costs.
My department does not have a specific recommendation, what type computer should I have?
Any of the basic computer configurations that Radford University recommends should fit your needs as a general student. Radford University makes every effort to ensure that commonly used student applications run on both the windows platform and the Mac platform. Despite our efforts, we cannot guarantee that every software application used on campus by instructors will run on both. There are rare occasions where applications may only run on a PC, generally in departments that do not have a specific computer requirement. On-campus computer labs are available for you to use some software that you may not have on your personal computer.
Why should I consider purchasing an Apple computer from the Radford University bookstore (Operated by Follett Corporation)?
Benefits of purchasing a recommended Apple computer is the on-campus warranty support with the use of a loaner laptop if needed (limited numbers available) and special discount pricing.
Should I purchase a Windows or Apple Computer?
For most students a Windows or Apple computer will meet their needs. Some disciplines may use software that only runs on a windows computer, but this can be accomplished on a Mac by running a virtual Windows machine or using one of the campus computer labs. The first year of college is always a learning and adjustment process. Therefore, we recommend you continue using the type of computer Windows/Mac that you are most familiar with.
Should I shop around?
We encourage parents and students to shop around using our recommendations to ensure that the models you are comparing contain all of the key components we recommend.
Should I purchase a laptop instead of a desktop?
Radford University recommends laptops due to their portability and the university’s wireless network allowing you to access the internet in many locations on campus. You can take your computers to class, to the library, and to study sessions. Laptops make it easy to take your computer home while on break or home for the weekend.
Is there a difference in Windows 7 and Windows 8?
Each version of Microsoft’s operating systems (OS) are designed to take full advantage of the current hardware offered in computer during the time of the operating system’s release. Each OS also comes with its own set of hardware requirements and recommendations. Windows 8 is the most current OS and requires more memory and the latest processors to obtain a desired performance. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s introduction to a new user interface that targets the future of mobile computing. This new interface is very different from previous versions of windows taking advantage of touch screen technologies.
Can I run Windows on a Mac?
Today Macintosh computers have the capability of running the Windows operating system on a Macintosh computer. Be aware that an application like “Boot Camp” or “Parallels” is required to do this. Boot Camp is free with some versions of Mac OS (it partitions the hard drive to run Windows and Mac OS, but not at the same time) and Parallels (allows you to run Windows and OSX at same time) is available for a fee. To use one of these applications, you will also have to purchase a copy of Microsoft Windows to install on your Mac. While these applications do work, be aware that neither Microsoft nor Apple officially supports the running of Windows on a Mac computer and the Radford University Help Desk does not support this as well. Check with your department before making this decision!
What’s in the computer?
Components in the computer have a dramatic effect on the performance and price of the computer. Here are a few tips for what to look for in your computer’s hardware specifications:
- Processor Type is one key to the speed of the computer. Intel Core processors efficiently run multiple applications at the same time, work great with Windows 7 and are best for laptops because they are fast and energy efficient, so your battery to lasts longer. Pentium type processors are good for desktops, but lack desired energy efficiency needed for laptops. Celeron processors are slower and less efficient.
- RAM is the memory the computer uses to run applications and open files. The amount of RAM in a computer has a dramatic effect on the speed of the computer, particularly with Windows 7.
- Video Card Memory – Applications that utilize video graphics can slow a computer down. Integrated video means the computer uses existing RAM to process graphics. Dedicated or Discrete graphics means the computer has additional memory and cache specifically for video processing. A video card with dedicated memory will improve the performance of the computer, particularly those computers running Windows 7 or using multimedia applications for pictures and video.
- Wireless Cards – Most of our campus has wireless available and we recommend students have a wireless card. G is the standard (which allows you to also access B networks) but N type cards are now available. N wireless is faster and will allow you to have faster download speeds WHEN you are on an N wireless network.
- CDRW/DVD drives – There are several types of optical drives. Multi-Burners are able to play & burn DVD’s and CD’s, Combo Drives can play DVD’s and CD’s, but only burn CD’s. Hard Drive size and speed is also a key consideration. 4200 RPM is standard for laptops, but 5400 and 7200 rpm drives can access data faster making the computer perform faster.
- Hard drive speed is not always advertised, but one should find out what the drive speed is before purchasing. Large hard drives are great for storing lots of data, but users are recommended to invest in portable external hard drives to store/backup valuable data like music, video and photos.
- Battery Life – The battery life of the computer is an important component. Energy efficient components (like processor and wireless card) can extend the life of the battery. Over time the battery will not hold the same charge that it does when it is new, so having a long life battery to start with will pay big dividends down the road.
What software will I need?
Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus is a suite of programs that you will use to complete many of your academic related tasks like papers, spreadsheets, charts and presentations. Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus for PC Mac, iPad and Android devices is available to all RU students at no charge. Access to download this software is available 24 hours after you register for classes. After logging into the MyRU portal and clicking on the email icon, this is available via the Settings icon -> Office 365 Settings -> and then clicking on software.
Anti-Virus - In order to connect to the Radford University network, current anti-virus software is required for Windows computers. RU offers Symantec’s Endpoint Protection free to students. Access to download this software will be available starting August 1, 2014.
Other software requirements – Within each academic discipline, there may be software requirements or recommendations. It is highly recommended to consult with the academic advisor of the department you will enter to ensure expectations are met.
How do I connect to the internet on campus?
Radford University residence halls have secure wireless network access in every room. A computer must be running a currently supported operating system (Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 or Macintosh OS X 10.6 or higher) to connect to RU’s secure wireless network.
There are two additional requirements for Microsoft Windows computers.
- They must have all the most recent patches and fixes published by Microsoft applied to the system.
- They must have virus protection software installed and virus definitions must be up to date.
Radford University offers Symantec Anti-Virus for free via download to all currently enrolled students.
Where can I get assistance?
The Technology Assistance Center provides centralized support for the technology needs of the campus community. We strive to provide courteous support to students, faculty and staff and to assist you with resolution of your technical problems as quickly as possible.
You may contact the Technology Assistance Center using any of the following methods:
- Walk-in Support in Heth 157
Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
- Phone Support 540-831-7500
Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
- 24-hour support request form
A checklist of computer related items a new student should consider:
- Laptop Computer (check recommendations for major)
- Ethernet cable (to connect to the network)
- Padded book bag (to carry laptop and books)
- Printer/Scanner/Copier (for dorm room printing)
- USB flash drive (also known as thumb drive)
- Cable Lock
- Portable external hard drive (for storing data)
- Symantec Antivirus