Joining the College of Engineering? We have collected several resources onto this page to help you get off to a successful start!
- Computer Recommendations
- Available Software
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We don’t require it, but many students opt to buy their own laptop. Listed below are two tables of information.
This first table is a specifications comparison table. This table is useful as you try to pick a laptop from the myriad of options available. To read it, select a component from the laptop you are considering then locate the corresponding row for that component in the table. Work your way across the row until your component matches what we have listed in our table. Then go to the top and you can see if we consider that a good, better, or best component. For example, the laptop you’re looking at has an Intel Core i7 processor. Look in the Processor row and work your way across and you can see we consider an Intel Core i7 to be the best processor you can get.
|Processor||Intel Core i3||Intel Core i5||Intel Core i7
|Memory||4 GB||8 GB||16 GB|
|Storage||128 GB||256 GB||512+ GB
|Video Card||Integrated||1-2 GB nVidia GeForce or AMD Radeon||2+ GB nVidia GeForce/Quadro or AMD Radeon/FirePro|
|Warranty||90 Days||1 Year||3 Years + Accidental Damage
|Typical Use Case||Web browsing, Microsoft Office-type applications, connecting to a remote computer||Running engineering applications for software programming, scripting, and development IDEs||Running engineering applications for 2D and 3D modeling
This second table is a list of specific models if you want to pick something we have already verified as having full support and we know works well with our software portfolio. We have partnered with Dell and Apple to have the following models for sale at TechCyte at the ISU Bookstore at the Memorial Union.
|Dell XPS 13||Dell XPS 15||MacBook Pro 13"||MacBook Pro 15"|
|Processor||6th Gen Intel Core i5||6th Gen Intel Core i7||5th Gen Intel Core i5||5th Gen Intel Core i7|
|Memory||8 GB||8 GB||8 GB||16 GB|
|Storage||256 GB||256 GB||256 GB||512 GB|
|Video Card||Integrated||NVIDIA Discrete||Integrated||AMD Discrete|
|Warranty||4 Year + Accidental Damage||4 Year + Accidental Damage||3 Year (AppleCare)||3 Year (AppleCare)|
Please keep in mind these recommendations are just that, recommendations. If you purchase a laptop with other specifications, it will still work! If you find your laptop can’t handle a particular Engineering application, we have remote options available to shift that burden from you to us.
If you have any questions about specific items listed here, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us! We’d be happy to answer any of your questions.
We provide many software titles for you to install on your personal computer at no cost. It is important to stress you do not have to download and install all of these. We recommend you do not download and install the specialty applications until explicitly instructed to do so by your instructor. Some of these are quite complex and you may not actually need them.
Once semester starts, you can also find all of this content in your own CyBox space by logging in to CyBox. You will see a folder called College of Engineering Software Downloads (Students) which contains a duplicate of this page for ease of access. This content is only shared with your CyBox account so it is not consuming any of your own space.
Please note that this will not show up until the first day of class for a semester. We do not receive final class lists until the start of each semester so cannot grant access until we know who all is taking an Engineering class.
|Autodesk Products||Download||Register with AutoDesk to access AutoDesk titles.|
|Bentley Microstation||Log in|
|ChemBioDraw||Download||Enter your iastate.edu email address to authorize the site license.|
|EndNote||Use EndNote Web|
|JMP||Download||Contact email@example.com to get help|
|MATLAB||Download||Log in for a single file download|
|Microsoft Office||Download||Log in then click Manage installs|
|Other Microsoft Products||Download|
|OriginPro||Download||Purchase a 6 or 12-month license|
|PTC MathCAD||Download||Purchase MathCAD at a discounted rate|
What is the most important feature I should look for when buying a laptop?
Of all the components, an SSD (solid state drive) provides the biggest benefit compared to all other components. You should also consider a 3-year (minimum) warranty with accidental damage (if available). The extra expense of an extended warranty pays for itself after the first incident.
Is there any benefit to a 15″ screen over a 13″ screen?
While it does provide more physical space, the resolution of the two sizes is the same so pixel wise they are identical. Smaller physical screens at a higher resolution do make text look smaller, but you are fitting the exact same amount of information on the screen as the larger physical screen when resolution is the same. The benefit of the smaller screen is portability, but it ultimately is up to you.
How important is it to have a dedicated (discrete) graphics card as opposed to an integrated one?
By and large either one will work just fine. Integrated graphics have come a long way in the past few years and are starting to approach the performance of previously dedicated graphics cards. If you are doing very heavy 3D work you would want the extra performance of a dedicated graphics card. Majors that have the highest potential to necessitate a dedicated graphics card would be Aerospace Engineering (AERE), Mechanical Engineering (ME), Civil Construction Environmental Engineering (CCEE), Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), and Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE). Most of that would not happen until Junior or Senior year classes though and we have multiple computer labs with high-end graphics cards if your laptop cannot handle the advanced work.
Does the brand of computer matter? Why are you recommending Dell over other brands?
We recommend Dell because we have good experiences with them and have Dell and Apple-certified support on campus and available to you. If you prefer another vendor that is fine! The components are all the same among all the vendors, the differentiation is around physical form factor and available support. If you choose something other than Dell or Apple you will have to work directly with that vendor for hardware support or locate off-campus services for any warranty issues.
How important is it to have a laptop my first year in the College of Engineering?
Owning a laptop for the College of Engineering is NOT a requirement, but it would definitely be beneficial to have a laptop of your own. A laptop of your own would allow you to be mobile for homework, group work, and note taking in class if you wanted to do that. If you don’t want to that’s also fine. We have many computer labs available to you if you want to get further in your program before you decide to purchase a laptop of your own.
If my current laptop is 3-4 years old, should I get a new one?
In general, laptops have an optimal life span of 3-4 years. If you currently have a laptop that is in that range you can still use it, but it probably won’t last you for your entire academic career in the College of Engineering. Engineering software generally keeps up with the most recent technological capabilities so laptops from 3-4 years ago often don’t have what the latest version of software wants.
What operating system (OS) should I use?
For Windows computers we recommend Windows 10. For Mac computers we recommend OS X El Capitan (10.11).
Do you offer any antivirus software?
We do not offer any antivirus software. Microsoft includes built-in antivirus software in Windows 10 and Apple includes file quarantine and malware checking in OS X. If you want to purchase additional antivirus software for extra precaution you can, but we do not recommend one title or another.
Where can I get my laptop serviced?
Computer Service, located in 74 Durham, is able to help with a variety of hardware problems. There is no charge for in-warranty support on Apple computers, but other computers may require a fee depending upon the level of warranty and problem being fixed. Computer Service can help you determine whether or not there would be a fee for service.
Can I borrow a laptop instead of purchasing one?
Laptops and other media equipment are available for currently enrolled students to check-out for no charge. See the equipment check-out page for further details and list of available equipment.
Iowa State University has a large wireless network and many students bring their smartphones or tablets. All devices are supported and work without major problems. This includes, but is definitely not limited to, iOS devices, Android devices, Microsoft Windows Phone devices, Microsoft Surface, and all the other variations out there.
We don’t recommend one particular tablet/smartphone over another. They all have their place and it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Are there education discounts?
ISU faculty, staff, and students have access to education discounts on Dell and Apple computers purchased via Tech Cyte.
Can I use a Mac in the College of Engineering?
Yes. We have many students who use Apple Macs for their entire college career without issue.
Are all software titles compatible with Mac OS X?
While many of our titles do work on both Mac and Windows, some only work on Windows. For those situations we offer multiple options to access the software.
- Multiple computer labs across the college you have access to, some 24/7.
- Install VMware Fusion and create a virtual machine running Windows 10.
- Access our remote Windows sessions through VMware View.
- Install Apple Boot Camp and install Windows 10 on a portion of your Mac hard drive.
Are there any significant titles that are not compatible with Mac OS X?
SOLIDWORKS is our biggest title that is not compatible with Mac OS X. You will have to explore one of the options above if you wish to utilize SOLIDWORKS on your Mac.
I have a Mac today, but am not attached to it. Should I get a PC?
It really is a personal preference. Both platforms are very good and you would be happy with either one. Macs require more work to utilize Windows-only software titles, but once setup they function just as well as their Windows counterparts.