Skip to content

Student Laptop Purchase Recommendations

At UC Merced all students use technology for a variety of learning and research. Course work, research, and social networking all need technology. With a new computer, you should be able to get through four years of study (with appropriate upgrades along the way). We strongly recommend buying a 3-year warranty with any new computer purchase. The campus does not have on-site hardware repair services available.

Buying a New Computer

While each program may have specific computer requirements, OIT has compiled recommended laptop specifications to assist you in choosing a new computer. Be sure to check with your academic department to understand any required computer configurations before you purchase.

Chromebooks & Tablets: Chromebooks or android based tablets are NOT recommended to purchase as minimal memory and processing built into these devices limits their use and a growing number of required software applications will NOT run on them.

What about Linux?: Machines that are automatically set to obtain an address via DHCP should work on our network. We do not officially support the Linux operating system. Support may be available from local Linux Users Groups (LUG - organizations that provide online support for inexperienced Linux users).

To begin, we recommend a laptop with speakers, a microphone and a webcam. USB and USB-C are the most common ports to plug in additional peripherals.

Recommended Laptop Specs





Intel (i5 or i7), AMD (Ryzen 5) Quad-Core or greater

Intel (Corei5 or i7) Dual-Core or greater
Apple (M1 or M2)


≥ 8GB minimum, 16GB preferred

≥ 8GB minimum, 16GB preferred

Hard Drive

≥ 256 SSD

≥ 256 SSD


USB A/C Ethernet Adapter

Apple USB A/C Ethernet Adapter

Network (campus housing is equipped with wireless access).

802.11 b/g/n/ac/ax

802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax

Operating System

Windows 10 or 11 - Home

Mac OS 11 - Big Sur

Display Resolution

Minimum: 1366 x 768
Recommended: 1920 x 1080 or greater

Minimum: 1366 x 768
Recommended: 1920 x 1080 or greater

Adapters for connecting in classrooms and wired network

USB-C or USB to Ethernet

USB-C or Thunderbolt to HDMI
USB-C or Thunderbolt to Ethernet


Beyond the Laptop

To complete coursework, you will also need additional technologies like Wi-Fi access and software. We recommend you use one of the Office of Information Technology's officially supported operating systems: Apple’s Mac OS X or Windows10/11. For other operating systems, OIT will do its best to assist you, but cannot guarantee the same level of support. Faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants do not provide technical support.

Backups - Graphics Cards - Networking Needs

Backing up files

At a minimum, important files should be backed up at an external location, such as a USB device, external hard drive, server, or online cloud service. If large amounts of data such as multimedia and music files are part of the regular backup, consider a backup resource with up to one-third more storage than the drive (e.g., roughly 720 GB for a 500 GB drive). Once new students have a valid UC Merced email address, they can take advantage of free cloud storage through Box. At UC-Merced, the campus provides each student a ( account with unlimited storage space while an active student. Click here ( for more details.

Enhanced Graphics Cards

An Integrated Graphics Card doesn't use its own RAM, instead, it utilizes the system's memory. For example, in a computer with 4 GB of RAM, the video card can use from 1%-5% of the available memory for graphics processing. This percentage varies depending on the size of the task. Students in majors using designing software such as Comsol or Solidworks, etc., may experience slowdowns if the device does not have a dedicated/enhanced graphics card. These integrated graphics cards have an independent source of video memory, which leaves the system’s RAM untouched. For example, a G-Force video card with 2 GB of video memory is completely separate from the computer's 8 GB of system memory. Students should check with their programs to see if an integrated graphics card will be necessary.

Ethernet and WiFi

All computers should be ready to use the network in wired and wireless formats. For a wired connection, a computer requires either an Ethernet (RJ-45) port or a USB-to-Ethernet adapter (Apple’s version is Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet). Some buildings on campus are Wi-Fi access-only. It will be important to have robust internet services to make the best of your remote learning experiences. A minimum 25mbps speed for Wi-Fi is recommended. Dial-up or DSL connections do not meet this requirement.

Operating Systems - Software and Printer Needs

Operating Systems

  • PCs - Microsoft Windows 10/11
  • Mac - Macintosh OS – Catalina

Windows and Mac Compatibility - Windows-only versions of course software can be run on Macs using software such as Parallels, VMWare, or Boot Camp. Be aware that schools do not supply this software.

What about Linux? Machines that are automatically set to obtain an address via DHCP should work on our network. We do not officially support the Linux operating system. Support may be available from local Linux Users Groups (LUG). LUG is an organization that provides online support for inexperienced Linux users.


  • UC-Merced offers various software for download off the OIT Software List. Current students can download Office 365 and anti-virus software for no cost.
  • Check with your department for additional software required for coursework.
  • It is the student's responsibility to ensure that their software is functional to complete course work. Faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants do NOT provide technical support. The OIT Service Desk can help students in many areas, including campus software and campus Internet access. The software manufacturer websites are recommended for the latest information about versions and hardware requirements.
  • Please note that technology changes and newer versions of the software will continue to increase the demands on computer hardware.

Printers and Printing

Regardless of where students live, they can use the printers in campus laboratories, Library, and other campus locations. Printing incurs a small cost but saves the expense of buying a printer, ink, and paper. More information on printing in the Library is available at:

Support and Warranty Needs

Extended Warranty

We highly recommend purchasing an extended warranty. Additionally, an “Accidental Damage Coverage” (ADC) plan can prevent repair costs from exceeding the value of the computer in case of damage.

Technical Support

If students cannot run required software on personal computers for whatever reason, it is recommended they use the open-access computer lab. The OIT Service Desk can help students in many areas, including campus software, campus Internet access, and activating and accessing UC-Merced email and computing accounts. Additional information is available at Questions regarding these hardware recommendations can be submitted via a request ticket through OIT Service Desk or by calling 209-228-HELP (4357).