What Kind of Personal Computer Should I Buy?


If you're a student or parent of a student who's joining the CSE department, you might wonder what type of personal computer (PC) you should buy to prepare for your coursework. This page will give you some general guidelines.

Which Brand of Computer should I Buy?

In CSE, we're brand name-neutral. Choose whichever brand of computer you prefer. We don't ask you to buy a PC with any particular brand name, hardware configuration, or operating system. The technologies that you'll work with are protocol-based, so implementations of them will be available on all contemporary operating systems. This list is an incomplete roster of suitable computer vendors (alpha by vendor name):

Or you may assemble your own computer by ordering parts from vendors such as:

That said, you ultimately have to buy your PC from some vendor. CSE faculty and Staff have found these recommended PCs to be useful.

Which Type of Computer should I Buy?

Choose a Desktop, Laptop, or Tablet computer. Avoid Netbooks and Smart Phones as your programming platform.

You'll have more mobility with a laptop or tablet computer than with a desktop computer.

Netbooks are probably not powerful and feature-filled enough to meet your computing needs as you progress through your degree program (hard disk space, USB ports, DVD-ROM, etc.).

Smart Phones are rapidly gaining market share and adding useful features that may one day make them suitable as your only personal computing device. But smart phones do not currently run all the applications that your instructors will require you to use. They are also probably too small and cramped for you to comfortably program on for long periods of time.

Minimal Entry-Level PC Specifications

Buy a PC with at least this minimal set of hardware specifications, or you might not be able to run some required software applications. For instance, Eclipse, the integrated development environment (IDE) that you might run in CSE 115: Intro to Programming, is a memory hog.

Most existing PCs have bigger and faster hardware resources than we've listed below. If your machine is bigger and faster, that's great. We won't specify maximum resources configurations, because more and faster is better. But you probably need *at least* what we've listed below to run contemporary software applications:

Component Description Minimal Spec Recommended Spec
Operating System The interface between your PC hardware and you. These operating systems are all suitable choices. In fact, CSE departmental machines run many of these operating systems. Any
Central Processing Unit (CPU) The CPU is the workhorse of a computer system. The clock speed, measured in Gigahertz (GHz), is the measure of the speed at which the CPU performs calculations. 2.0 Gigahertz (GHz), single core >= 2.0 -3 .0 Gigahertz (GHz), duo core or higher
Random-Access Memory (RAM) Random-access memory (RAM) is a form of computer data storage. It determines the number of software applications that you can run on your system at the same time.

Prefer not less than 2.0 GB RAM. Minimum specs by operating system are below.

4.0 GB RAM
Hard Disk Drive A hard disk drive is a non-volatile storage device for digital data. It determines the amount of software and files you may store on your system.

Prefer not less than 80 GB. Minimum specs by by operating system are below.

500GB hard disk space
Wireless Access If you buy a laptop, make sure it has integrated wireless support or a removable wireless card that supports 802.11g, so you may roam around campus while enjoying UB Wireless. IEEE 802.11b or IEEE 802.11g-compliant IEEE 802.11b or IEEE 802.11g-compliant
Network Interface Card (NIC) The Ethernet card that connects your PC to the Internet via a patch cable. 10/100 Megabits per second (Mbps), also known as a 'Megabit' card. 10/100/1000 Megabits per second (Mbps), also known as a 'Gigabit' card.
Chipset The set of integrated circuits on your PC's motherboard. 32-bit or 64-bit AMD or Intel chipset Computer hardware development (and consequently development of software written to run on them) is moving from 32-bit chipsets to 64-bit chipsets.
Video Card A video card, video adapter, graphics-accelerator card, display adapter or graphics card is an expansion card whose function is to generate and output images to a display.

Prefer not less than 512 MB of video RAM.

Operating system-specific minimal specs:


  1. Personal Computer Requirement. UB recommends that you have access to your own computer and printer that lie outside of the computer resources that UB makes available to the public. Our general compute labs host numerous software applications that will fulfill all of your academic--and many of your non-academic--computing needs. If your professor requires specific software, that software will be available in the general compute labs.
  2. General PC Standards. UBIT maintains a page describing general minimum PC computing standards.
  3. Vendor-Neutrality. You are free to purchase your computer hardware from any vendor/reseller that you prefer. You are not obligated to buy from any of the vendors/resellers described on this page. Shop around and take advantage of the best deal that you can find. Just make sure that the computer you buy meets our minimal hardware specifications.
  4. Free Microsoft Software. Microsoft Windows users: When you enroll in at least one CSE course, we automatically enroll you in the Microsoft DreamSpark for the duration of that semester. This program gives you free licenses to many Microsoft software products. Before buying Microsoft software, check to see if you can get it for free here first.
  5. Patch and Upgrade. It's a good idea to stay current with operating systems upgrades, patches, and security releases. Although you can make it through your degree program running an old version of your operating system, newer releases fix bugs, flaws, and security holes. Old versions of operating systems tend to be more vulnerable than new ones because they're still susceptible to a host of vulnerabilities, some discovered long ago (but fixed in newer releases). For more guidance, see the UB Information Security Office's "Keeping Your Computer Up to Date" page.
  6. Suggestions?. Please share your content suggestions with us by sending a message to cse-consult@buffalo.edu.


  1. http://www.buffalo.edu/ubit/service-guides/hardware/getting-started-with...
  2. http://www.buffalo.edu/ubit/service-guides/hardware/getting-started-with...
  3. http://www.buffalo.edu/ubit/service-guides/software.html
  4. http://www.buffalo.edu/ubit/service-guides/safe-computing/managing.html
  5. http://www.buffalo.edu/ubit/service-guides/hardware/managing-your-comput...
  6. http://www.cnet.com
  7. http://www.consumerreports.org