Buy/Bring a Laptop
Disclaimer about Chromebooks, Tablets, and Smart Phones
While some coursework may be completed using a Chromebook, Tablet, or may even call for the use of a Smart Phone such as an iPhone or Android device for certain apps for classroom engagement, these devices are not sufficient for completion of most coursework you will need to complete during your time as a student at VCU and therefore we cannot recommend these devices.
Below you will find our annually-updated baseline requirements and additional recommendations for personally-owned laptops. All currently-enrolled VCU students are required to own a personal computer that meets the baseline requirements and is in good working order before beginning classes.
It is essential that each VCU student personally own a functioning computer for the duration of their time as a currently-enrolled student. We strongly recommend a laptop to ensure portability, and require that laptops be capable of running either the Apple macOS or Microsoft Windows operating system (not necessarily both).
You'll also find several sections for schools/colleges/departments that have their own unique requirements/recommendations based on the software used within their courses and programs. If you are a student of one these schools/colleges/departments, please be sure to review the information provided.
How much should you budget/plan to spend?
If you're considering purchasing a new laptop before you begin classes at VCU, you'll want to think about not just the cost of the computer but also some additional things as well such as an extended warranty (we recommend accidental damage coverage as well), and any accessories you may need.
While your budget and/or personal preference for either Apple macOS or Microsoft Windows may be your first hunches for what laptop to buy/bring, please don't assume these are the only criteria you need to think about and please don't rush into buying a laptop or assume that your current laptop will be the right fit. You need to evaluate several different criteria (not just budget and personal preference) to determine what laptop to purchase or if your current laptop will meet the baseline requirements (or exceed them).
Generally, you should budget/plan to spend between $1,000 and $1,500 for a laptop that meets our baseline requirements and includes an extended warranty with accidental damage coverage as well as any accessories you may need.
If you are planning to purchase a laptop that exceeds our baseline requirements (more storage space/memory, bigger screen, or additional features), you should budget/plan to spend between $1,600 to $2,000 or more in total.
Apple Computer Baseline Requirements
Below are the baseline requirements for Apple computers.
Important! We strongly recommend that if you purchase a new Apple computer, you purchase one with at least a 500GB SSD since there are well-documented1 performance issues with newer Apple computers that use the M2 processor with a 256GB SSD. These performance issues have not been observed with Apple computers with an M2 processor that use at least a 512GB SSD.
Extended Warranty / Accidental Damage Coverage! Apple offers AppleCare+ as an optional extended warranty for ALL MacBook products on their Education Store website. Once you add a MacBook to your cart, You can select an option for a fixed-term of 3 years, or you can select an annually-renewing option until cancelled. All AppleCare+ plans provide unlimited accidental damage coverage. We strongly recommend adding this coverage when purchasing an Apple computer.
|Minimum Price Range
|$1,400 to $1,600
|M1 or M2 Processor (8-cores)
|512GB (do not buy 256GB)
|13-inch to 16-inch
|USB Type A
1 See this link for more information: https://www.theverge.com/23220299/apple-macbook-air-m2-slow-ssd-read-write-speeds-testing-benchmark
Windows Computer Baseline Requirements
Below are the baseline requirements for Windows computers.
Important! While some VCU colleges/schools/departments have opted to recommend only 8GB of memory as a minimum for Windows computers, with the increase in online courses and new modalities being used across all VCU programs, we strongly recommend purchasing/bring laptop with at least 16GB of memory. When using video conferencing applications such as Zoom (VCU's standard video conferencing platform) along with other standard application, you may notice a much higher amount of memory being used for high-definition audio and video delivery.
Extended Warranty / Accidental Damage Coverage! Dell and HP, Inc. computers purchased through their respective websites offer several warranty options you should consider ranging from 1 year to 5 years. You can select these options after adding a computer to your cart, however not all plans cover accidental damage, so you will need to carefully select the correct option before adding to your cart.
|Minimum Price Range
|$1,000 to $1,500
|Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 (6-cores)
|13-inch to 16-inch
|USB Type A
In addition to the baseline requirements listed above, you'll need to evaluate if you belong to a college/school or department (your major determines this), to see if there are additional requirements and/or guidance provided for incoming students to specific programs. The list below provides links to the webpages hosted by many VCU college/schools but we are currently unable to link do the varied number of departmental webpages with requirements.
We recommend that all students who intend to declare a major OR minor within any of the schools listed below, review these pages for additional requirements and guidance that may pertain to specific academic programs, courses, and activities.
If you need help understanding these requirements and recommendations, please reach out to us! We're here to help!
There are two consultation options listed below for that any VCU student may use at any time. Click on each one below for more information.
If you prefer in-person assistance, we recommend that you visit the RamTech technology store located within the VCU Barnes and Noble bookstore. The RamTech store carries Apple computers, a variety of accessories, and offers personalized sales assistance with selecting a computer that meets VCU's baseline requirements and additional recommendations. Located adjacent to RamTech, in-person computer hardware support is available at the VCU FixIt walk-up counter.
For more information about RamTech and FixIt, please visit our Get Help page.
If you prefer to meet with a technical expert via Zoom, we recommend this option. To schedule a virtual consultation, please visit https://go.vcu.edu/students/tech/consultation, then select a date and time that works for your schedule.
All virtual consultations are limited to 30 minutes only and will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to limited staffing resources, this option may not be available during certain times of the year such as the start of the Fall semester in mid to late August, and the start of the Spring semester in early to mid January. We recommend that you plan accordingly and try to select a consultation date at least several business day in advance.
In addition to the baseline requirements for buying/bring a laptop, we also strongly urge students review and implement the following recommendations. These recommendations highlight several important factors outlined in our new student technology checklist. Click on each item dropdown to review.
We strongly recommend that all VCU students purchase an extended warranty or service plan for your computer and consider one that includes coverage for accidental damage for laptop purchases. Most retailers and computer manufacturers offer an extended warranty program that provides coverage for hardware repairs by several years from the purchase date and in many cases may also include accidental damage coverage for when life happens to cover drops, spills, cracked screens, and other accidents.
Apple offers AppleCare+ as an optional extended warranty for ALL MacBook products on their Education Store website. Once you add a MacBook to your cart, You can select an option for a fixed-term of 3 years, or you can select an annually-renewing option until cancelled. All AppleCare+ plans provide unlimited accidental damage coverage.
Dell & HP, Inc.
Dell and HP, Inc. computers purchased through their respective websites offer several warranty options you should consider ranging from 1 year to 5 years. You can select these options after adding a computer to your cart, however not all plans cover accidental damage, so you will need to carefully select the correct option before adding to your cart.
Software Provided vs. Individual Purchases
Every student that enrolls at VCU and pays the Student Technology Fee is provided with access to the VCU Student Software bundle which includes access to common application software such as those listed below (not an exhaustive list):
...as well as other software that is available via VCU's software agreements or via the software producer's website at no cost
- AutoDesk Software: AutoCAD, Fusion360, Inventory, Revit, etc
- ChemOffice Professional
- ESRI Software: ArcGIS Pro and CityEngine
- IBM SPSS
- JMP Pro
In addition to these software titles that are downloadable and installable on your computer, VCU also provides access to a variety of cloud-based software as well, and not just the Google Workspace suite of tools.
To learn more about the VCU Student Software bundle, please visit our Software section.