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Home > General > Computer Buying Guide
Computer Buying Guide
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For the purchase of personal computing devices, the ITS department does not make any direct recommendations. To help navigate the computer marketplace, we have created this guide which contains common language and tips to keep in mind when searching for and selecting your device.

Windows or Mac?
The majority of computers on campus are Windows machines, specifically Dell. We do support Macs and we have several labs on campus dedicated to them. Of course, Macs have some software available that does not work on Windows and vice versa. For example, Macs have their own exclusive apps on the App Store such as Garage Band and iMovie. However, Mac computers are unable to access all the apps in the Microsoft Office Suite and can only install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

Consider the functions you’ll be using your computer for, and do some research to see which best suits you and your area of study.

Computer Hardware
The W&J ITS Department will assist as much as possible with software and network issues that arise on your machine, but we are unable to assist with any hardware failures due to manufacturer and vendor warranties that restrict such work.

We’d strongly recommend thoroughly researching the longevity and dependability of any computer before you purchase. A quick Google search of the computer’s name or model number typically will lead you to both Tech Professional and Customer reviews which can give you a good idea of how others felt about this computer after purchasing it.

Pay specific attention to the specifications of each component of the PC's hardware. Understanding how each one impacts performance can be very useful when trying to balance computer needs with budget constraints.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brain of the computer. The CPU consists of one or multiple processors that perform all the functions of the computer. There are two major manufacturers of CPUs in the world. Intel and AMD. Both companies denote the performance of their processors differently, but the biggest statistic to know about a CPU is the number of Cores that a CPU contains.

In easy terms, a Core is a Processor. The more Cores a CPU has, the faster it can work and the more it can accomplish. For example, a Two-Core CPU will work twice as fast as a One-Core CPU, A Four-Core CPU will work twice as fast as a Two-Core CPU, and so on. Basically, more Cores equals more power, and usually a higher price tag on the computer.


Memory, often referred to as RAM, is the physical hardware inside a computer that temporarily stores data, serving as the computer's "working space". Anything that your computer is actively working on must be loaded into memory so that the data can be manipulated. If operating near or at your memory limit, your computer will run very poorly. Additional RAM allows a computer to work with more information at the same time, which can have a considerable effect on total system performance

Most computers do not use more than 8 Gigabytes (GB) of RAM. The only programs that usually require more than 8GB of memory are Video and Audio Editors, or graphically intensive video games. If you're uninterested in these functions, looking at lower memory systems is an efficient way to cut costs without sacrificing performance.

Although some may use the terms interchangeably, Storage and Memory are very different things. Storage refers to the amount of Hard Drive space on your computer. For the easiest file management, we’ve found that 500 GBs of Storage works well for most, although some individuals opt to get 1 or 2 Terabyte (TB) Storage Drives (1 Terabyte = 1000 Gigabytes).


Storage can easily be supplemented after your initial purchase with a large-capacity flash drive or an external hard drive. Additionally, it's also highly recommended to keep and maintain some form of data backup on your system in the event of unexpected critical failure. This can also be accomplished with an external storage device or with a subscription to a cloud-based data service.

Almost all laptops come with built-in wireless network capability through pre-installed Network Interface Cards (abbreviated as NICs). When shopping for computers, its important to know that not all NICs operate at the same speeds. 


Wireless cards are currently being produced to conform to one of two production standards. The first is Wi-Fi 5 (often represented by 802.11ac or just AC) which is presently the most common standard and offers typical performance.

However, It's in the process of being replaced by Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax or just AX) as it uses less power, offers better security, and is more reliable in congested environments. On the other hand, these features are only possible if all the wireless equipment involved in the communication is built to the Wi-Fi 6 standard. If anything is out of compliance, then it works exactly the same as a Wi-Fi 5 device.

W&J is currently in the process of upgrading all wireless equipment to be Wi-Fi 6 compatible in the future. 

All W&J Students are also provided with an Office 365 license which provides them full access to the Microsoft Suite of Office Products. This includes Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, and OneDrive. Once you have purchased a device, take a look at this article for detailed installation instructions

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