Personal Computers

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Buying a Computer FAQ


System Requirements

   Minimum  Recommended
 Operating System

Windows XP SP3 or higher,
Windows Vista SP2 or higher,
Windows 7 SP1 or higher,
Mac OS X 10.4.X or higher,
Linux (All types)

 System Memory 512 MB  2 GB 
Hard Disk Size  40 GB  160 GB 
Wireless Card 801.11 b/g
(WPA2 Enterprise) 
802.11 a/b/g/n
(WPA2 Enterprise) 

Do I have to bring a computer and a printer?

No, it is not required. Our student computer labs have both PC and Mac computers, printers, a variety of software, and Internet access.

Lab hours and locations

If I bring a computer, what should I get?

You cannot go wrong with a new Windows PC or Mac. If you try to get by with an older Windows-based PC or Mac, you may encounter problems. If you follow the guide at the top of this page, you should be fine. If you buy a new computer, we suggest buying a service contract that would be honored in the Wheaton area (at locations such as Best Buy). Alternatively, buying directly from a manufacturer would offer a national service plan (such as Dell, HP, or Apple). 

A network or wireless card is needed to connect to the campus network. All modern desktops come with a wired network card, and almost all laptops come with both a wired network card and a wireless card. 

NOTE: If you are living in an on-campus house, you must have a wireless card to connect to the network in your residence. 

An inexpensive ink-jet printer would be nice, since you will be doing a lot of writing. Laser printing is available in the dorm labs and in the library with per-page printing charges. 

Should I get a laptop or a desktop computer?

This is really a personal choice, with pros and cons to both options.

Laptop: Obviously, you can take a laptop with you to class, to the library, or to sit under a tree. And if you have to take it in for repairs, the laptop is going to be easier to transport. The campus is 80% covered with wireless capability, so laptops can stay connected almost anywhere. 

Desktop: In general, desktops are less expensive than similarly equipped laptop computers.

Could I get any special deals as a Wheaton student?

Many computer hardware and software vendors offer student discounts, which can be found on their web sites. The Wheaton College Bookstore offers great deals on software to students. For Wheaton-specific discounts on new computers, check out the following options:

PC's: Visit http://www.mhectech.org >>

MHEC is an interstate compact of ten Midwestern states dedicated to advancing Higher Education through interstate cooperation. The MHEC computing Hardware Purchasing Program provides discounts on a broad range of computing products tailored to the needs college and university faculty, staff and students in the MHEC Member States of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Macs: Educational pricing via the Wheaton College Bookstore

College students and their parents are eligible for Apple education pricing.

What software should I get for my computer?

You will definitely need word processing software for academic work. We recommend Microsoft Word both for PC and for Mac. Other commonly used software includes presentation and spreadsheet programs. Microsoft Office is the dominant office suite on campus. If you use a different product (Microsoft Works, Open Office, Corel WordPerfect Office, etc.), you may need to understand file conversion in order to share files with Microsoft Office users or to transfer files between your computer and the lab computers and print on a lab printer. The College Bookstore offers very good academic prices for many programs.

What should I do to prepare my computer before coming to campus?

 In order to connect to the Wheaton College network, your computer must pass certain requirements. If you have a PC running any version of Windows, you are required to have antivirus software as well as all security updates. In Windows XP, these updates can be done by visiting the Windows Update website >>. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, simply run the Windows Update program on your computer.  If you are running Mac OS X or Linux, you are required to have all security and software updates as well. After completing these steps, visit our wireless setup page to learn what else you can do to prepare your computer for arriving on campus.