When is the best time to get a new computer? A few months before you start at MIIS—enough time to get to know your new computer. The worst time is early in (or during) the semester—this is a great way to needlessly stress yourself out.
In the past, it was simple to give a list of specifications, but today things are moving quickly and it’s not always obvious what to recommend. For example, multicore processors have taken off, processor speed is less relevant (with more cores computers are more efficient and clock speed can be lowered a little to save battery usage). How much memory and hard drive space should you get? Really as much as you can afford. For memory, most laptops are not user upgradable, so consider 8GB a minimum. Mac users who might run Windows would be much better off with 16GB. As for hard drive space, if you can afford a computer with an SSD, you won’t regret the decision. SSD hard drives have made computers much more efficient, but they add cost and you generally don’t get as much storage. The fastest SSDs are Windows computers are using SATA 3, but Mac laptops are using PCI Express, a relatively new bus that blows SATA 3 out of the water. As for your OS, at a minimum you need Windows 7 (64-bit preferred) or Mac OS X.
Windows or Mac?
This question is most relevant to T&I and TLM students. Windows-using faculty will tell you that you should just get a Windows computer. All major translation software runs on Windows, and why make life complicated by attempting to run two operating systems? Windows computers are reliable and are much more affordable than Macs.
Mac-using faculty will point out that Macs are beautiful computers, hold their resale value and are more reliable than Windows-based computers. In addition, you can easily run Windows on your Mac using VirtualBox, Parallels or vmware. To be honest though, you need to be pretty savvy to be able to comfortably run Windows on your Mac, and you’ll need a powerful machine.
Some specialized software for T&I and TLM courses require Windows to operate. Students who bring a Windows PC or laptop to campus should be able to install the necessary software. If you plan to bring a Mac with you to school for these programs you will be required to purchase and install a copy of Windows on your Mac. Students are solely responsible for the additional cost of purchasing a Windows license. Windows can be installed on a Mac using the built-in Bootcamp feature, or by first installing virtualization software such as VirtualBox. We recommend that you install Windows on your Mac prior to coming to campus if possible. Virtualization is a great way to run Windows and also have access to your Mac programs at the same time. Instructions for using the freely available VirtualBox can be found here: Installing Windows on your Mac using VirtualBox.
In addition to laptop computers, here are some related items we recommend bringing with you to campus:
- Laptop Lock if your computer supports it
- Plug adapter for laptops purchased outside the US (if your charger says “100-240V, 50/60 Hz” then it will work pretty much anywhere in the world)
- USB flash drive for quick file exchange
- USB external hard drive for backup
- Computer Warranty Information, user guide, manual, and other documents that came with your computer
- Power strip or surge protector with 6 ft. cable (not all classrooms have power outlets at each desk)
- An optional 10 ft. ethernet cable for when you need the fastest connection possible
Important note: make sure you have valid antivirus software installed on your computer. Updated antivirus software is required for any computer that connects to the school network!