Computer Spec Information

Viterbo University Help Desk Manager, Chad Gilbeck, has compiled information he believes would be most useful before purchasing a computer for your student to bring to campus.  If you have any questions after reading this information, please reach out to Chad at

Typically most new computers are more than what we’d require for minimum specs here at Viterbo.  The most important aspect is that you have Microsoft Office which students get for free here (which I explain below).  

From my perspective (being an IT guy), I would rather spend a little bit more “up front” on a system that will last me 5-6 years, versus very cheap that will need replacement in 2-3 years…

So, that in mind…  Generally I like to see these type of specs:

Hard Drive:  Minimum of 256GB.  Solid State Drive is possible (SSD).  If a lot of photos and videos are planned, you might want to go with 500GB to 1TB (just depends on how much you plan to save, like photos/videos).   SSD drives do get pricey when you pass the 256GB mark…  I’ve seen many students just purchase an external drive for the photos/video files.

Processor:  i5 or an i7 (i5 usually will be in the realm of $500-$600, and i7 $600-$700). 

RAM:  4GB to 16GB (I like to see typically 8GB at least, you can always upgrade this later on most models).  If you have a SSD with 8GB that’s going to run MUCH BETTER than a regular “spinner drive” and 8GB, etc.  Another thing to keep in mind.  So if you get a spinner drive, you may want to up the RAM to 16GB, etc.  

Those are really the only (3) items I really look for.  Wireless is now standard in all laptops.. Windows 10 is now standard (and what we have here on most of our lab PCs).

Kind of a nice way of thinking of this:
i3 = 2-3 years use and $200-$300 (I’m not a fan of i3 – very slow typically.)
i5 = 4-5 years use and $400-$500
i7 = 6-7 years use and $600-$700

As long as you are enrolled at Viterbo University, you can take advantage of FREE Microsoft Office for your personal devices!  That includes the newest version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc and is called Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise, and is part of the school email account which is on Office 365.  This works for Mac and PC.   NOT Chrome Books.  We advise against a Chrome Book for college work.   

Viterbo does have a discount with Dell.  We are not advocating that you must get a Dell, but use the Dell site as a “starting point” on price… and compare.  The best advice is to first go to a technology-store that sells laptops… and physical interact with the devices… pick them up…  test if you like the feel and the weight, etc….  Then note the price… and compare with the Dell Site to be sure you aren’t getting hijacked for what you are getting (note the three items above on this comparison between brands/price).  Regardless of brand, they should be similar on those specs/prices.  

We get asked about Mac Computers a lot.  Most students that get a Mac do so because of two reasons…  It’s a personal preference and price.  Nothing wrong with Mac (we fully support them at Viterbo!)…  Mac just tends to get a bit pricey (nearly double that of a similarly specked PC).   If you go to (you really have to look), down at the very bottom you can find an Education link…  there is sometimes a discount… around 10%.   Sometimes….   

Dell Discount varies also, by week and time of year:
Shop at:
Or Call:  or 1-800-695-8133
Member ID: US126614630

If shipping isn’t free, often you can talk to the live-agent or call and demand that, they will cave. 

And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask me when you find something, BEFORE you purchase.  Email and we can double-check your choice!