Computer Requirements And Recommendations For Students

The Volgenau School of Engineering does not currently require its students to own a computer as all required software is installed on computers in the School computer labs. However, most of our students choose to own a computer since the School and University computer labs are not open around the clock and get very busy towards the end of the semester.


Apple has announced that some Mac models will have a new ARM M1 CPU. As of Spring 2022, you are not able to run Windows on the new chips, either through Boot Camp or in a virtual machine. Until this has been resolved it would be prudent to purchase only Intel-based Macs as some software used in coursework or research may run only on Windows.

CS Students

The Computer Science Department has posted its recommendations at http://cs.gmu.edu/resources/computer-accounts/

VSE Students

Almost any multi-core i5 or i7 computer manufactured in the last year and with a current operating system (Windows 10 or latest OS X release) should meet most studentsí needs. If you are buying a new computer, please buy one with the specifications listed in the table below.

CPUi5 (multi-core)i7 (multi-core)
Memory8 GB (see Mac notes below)16 GB
Hard disk256 GB (see Mac notes)512 GB
GraphicsStandard with most systems should workUpgraded cards will provide increased performance
Display1280 x 1024The higher the better

Mac users: Please refer to the Update above and be aware that the following information only applies to a Mac with an Intel CPU, NOT the new M1 CPU. A Mac should meet most of your needs in our programs. However, some required software will run only under Windows. Mac computers can run Windows either through Boot Camp or as a virtual machine.The Volgenau School currently sponsors programs through which students can download current versions of Microsoft Windows and VMWare Fusion. Many of our students and faculty use Macs exclusively with no problems. If you are planning to purchase a Mac computer, please consider the following:

  • Use of a virtual machine to run Windows will require additional disk storage and memory. We recommend increasing the RAM in the computer to 16 GB to avoid problems. A machine with 8 GB will run OK but may be slow if you are trying to run applications in both the native Mac OS X and in Windows. The hard disk should be at least 500 GB.
  • Using Boot Camp reduces the memory requirement but necessitates rebooting to move between the two operating systems.
  • The RAM and/or hard drives on some Mac computers cannot be upgraded after purchase so please calculate your needs when you buy it.
  • Some advanced Windows applications require more RAM than can be configured in a Mac

Warranty: We strongly recommend the purchase of a warranty that will cover your time at Mason. Years of experience with student computers shows that computers will fail and need repair.

IMPORTANT: The most common problem with student computers is a broken screen or liquid spills. Most manufacturer warranties do not cover either of those so ask your computer retailer about an alternate warranty that does cover that damage

Patriot Tech in Johnson Center (https://gmu.bncollege.com) stocks many computer models that meet our specifications, usually with substantial academic discounts and the desired warranty. Please check with them before buying any software as some software is available at no charge through Mason and other software is available at reduced academic pricing.