Bringing a Computer to Whitman

Do I need to bring a computer to campus?

It isn't necessary to have your own computer in your room, although over 94% of students choose to do so.

Other students find that the computers available for general use meet their needs. Lab computers are abundant, there is virtually no wait for lab computers, and lab hardware and software are kept up to date.

Bringing your own computer to campus is an optional convenience, not a necessity.

Should it be a laptop or a desktop?

It really depends on your personal work style and preferences, but the vast majority of the students who bring their own computers choose to purchase laptops.

Students say they find a laptop easier to bring home during term breaks and summers, and they also appreciate the ability to take their laptop to the library or other locations to work. If you do consider a laptop, make it a good one -- laptops tend to misbehave more and have shorter life-spans than desktop machines, so if you buy a cheapie, you'll probably have trouble. Laptop portability is a major factor in the selection process, make sure that the weight and dimensions will work for both you and any accessories you might have already purchased or are in the process of purchasing.

Many major manufacturers, such as Dell or Apple, offer educational discounts to students. Some students find they dislike using a laptop keyboard for extended periods, or they don't like the smaller screen. These students tend to equip their laptops with external monitors and keyboards/mice that they use in their rooms.

Also, make absolutely certain that you budget for an external hard drive. There are few things worse than losing years worth of data when your computer's main drive misbehaves. Before you even arrive on-campus, put together a backup plan .

Mac or PC?

Many incoming students wonder whether they should purchase a Mac or a Windows PC.  Both platforms are fully supported by Whitman and have full access to the college’s resources, including printers and networks.  We estimate that student computers are split about 50/50.  The decision comes down to personal preference, so research which will best suit your needs.  An additional option is to buy a Mac and install Windows, which will allow you to boot in either operating system.

How much of the campus is wired?

Almost everything is wired.

When in a residence hall or campus house, we strongly recommend plugging into the wired network. A wired connection will be faster, more secure, and more robust than a wireless connection. It will also help keep the load on our wireless network down, which helps balance the network's overall performance.

What about wireless?

Whitman's wireless network broadcasts a  Wireless-B (802.11b) signal which any  Wireless-G (802.11g) or higher card can receive as well. We still recommend you have a regular wired ethernet port for the fastest connection (see the info below about connecting to the network in your room), but all residence halls do have wireless as well.  You can connect to the Internet wirelessly when you are working in the library, the campus center, Ankeny field, or any academic buildings. You can access your email, surf the Web, or use other network-based resources while sitting in a study room or even a comfy overstuffed chair!

If I don't bring a computer, are there ones for me to use?

Students have access to computers in the general computing labs in Maxey Hall, the Hall of Science, and Penrose Library. These facilities house Windows 7 PCs, Macs, black & white Laserjet printers, color printers, scanners, and even large-format color plotter printing (available in the Maxey and Science Computer Labs by appointment). Laptops are also available for checkout and use within the Library, offered on a first come first served basis for a four-hour checkout period (PC, Mac, & Chromebook). The Multimedia Development lab in Hunter Conservatory offers high-end multimedia Intel Mac Pro's, multimedia software, slide scanning, slide recording, flatbed scanning, DVD-Rs and video editing equipment. Several academic departments, including art, music, math, geology, and physics provide specialized computer facilities for their students as well.

If I'm planning on buying a computer, what do I need so I can connect to the network?

An ethernet cable. That's it! If you don't already have one, they can be purchased quite cheaply at most office supply stores. They are also usually available in the Whitman bookstore.

Windows PCs — Generally speaking, any new computer available from a major, well-known PC manufacturer will meet your needs, and any requirements for connecting to the Whitman network.  Whereas it is not necessary to have to plug directly into the network via an ethernet cable, it can be useful and will generally give you a faster connection speed. If you are wanting the option of plugging into the network, check with your manufacturer to make sure that your specific model of PC laptop has an ethernet port built in.  Newer, thinner models, i.e. Ultrabooks, do not have an ethernet port built in and may require the purchase of a separate adaptor.

When selecting your operating system version, we recommend the "Professional" version over the "Home" because of its networking features. "Home" is fine too, but will not provide quite as many advanced networking capabilities as will "Professional." You will also need at least a 10BaseT compatible ethernet network card installed. For connecting to our wireless network, make sure your machine's wireless card is at least compatible with "Wireless-B (802.11b)". Newer "Wireless-G (802.11g)" and "Wireless-N (802.11n)" is preferable.

Also, and this is important, make sure to bring along your Windows CD(s) or DVD(s). It is not uncommon for your computer to ask you to insert your Windows disk(s) when you are configuring your network settings for connection to the Whitman network.

Macs — Any new Macintosh should be fine. Most Macs desktops already come with built-in ethernet and wireless. Newer Mac laptops, especially the Air and Retina display models, are wireless only and will require you to purchase a USB to Ethernet adaptor to plug into the wired network .

Where can I get a good deal on a computer?

Does Whitman sell computers to students or are Whitman students able to get computers at a discount?

Whitman does not sell computers on campus, but you can receive educational discounts from many major manufacturers. For your convenience links to both the Apple and Dell educational sites have been provided below.

  • For Apple products, visit the  Apple Store for Education.
  • For Dell products, visit the  Dell Online Store.
    • Locate the  Higher Education heading.
    • Follow the link labeled  Faculty, Students, & Staff Personal Purchases. You do not need a special ID number, just follow the link provided for entering the Dell Store without an ID number.

What kind of "not-so-new" computer is okay to bring?

As long as the hardware is able to run at least Windows Vista SP 2 or Mac OS 10.6, it should be okay. Though we don't officially support it, most modern Linux distributions should be fairly compatible with our systems, and will run quite well on older hardware.

  • For an old PC, you'll want to have at least a Pentium IV processor with 2GB RAM (recommend 4GB), running Windows Vista SP2.
  • For an old Macintosh, you'll want at least an Intel processor with 2GB RAM (recommend 4GB), running OS X (at least version 10.6).
Keep in mind that older hardware may not last more than a year or two. And even if it is able to run the necessary software now, that may cease to be the case in a year or two.

What software will I need?

Beyond the basics, most specialized software that would be required by students depends heavily on specific classes. Anything that cannot be obtained for free will be available in one or more computer lab around campus. In general, the only software students need is an "office/productivity suite" and a modern web browser.

Office/Productivity Suites

We have standardized campus on  Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is installed on most Whitman-owned computers, including both Windows and Mac computers found in our computer labs.

For current faculty, staff, and students Whitman now offers Office 365 for their personal computers and mobile devices.  The Office 365 licensing allows for up to 5 downloads to install the current version of Office for personal computers (both Mac and Windows) and also up to 5 mobile devices (Office apps are available for iPhone/iPad, Android Phone/Android tablet, and Windows phone/Windows tablet.)  Also included is unlimited space on Microsoft's cloud storage OneDrive.

Note:  Cloud storage access to OneDrive is only available with a current Whitman account.  Access will end when accounts are closed. Individuals are responsible for transferring or saving documents to their personal devices prior to termination of their Whitman account. 

To access Microsoft Office 365:

  • Go to
  • Log in using your Whitman email address and Whitman network password

More students are also using  Apple's iWork Suite as well. We have iWork installed on the Mac workstations in most of our computer labs.

Some students also make use of the free and open-source suite and Google Drive, which comes free with your Whitman email (Whitmail).

Modern Web Browsers

Each version of Windows comes bundled with a version of  Internet Explorer. We strongly encourage the use of other browsers on Windows though. If you prefer using Internet Explorer, make sure you have to the most recent version installed.

OS X comes bundled with the  Safari web browser, which is more than sufficient for most students.

Alternative browsers such as  Mozilla Firefox and  Google Chrome are also supported on both platforms.

For more information, please contact WCTS.

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