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As departments attempt to find ways of stretching their budgets, purchasing a new computer that is advertised as “on sale” is very tempting. This is particularly true if the manufacturer is well known, such as Dell, HP, etc. Class Technology Support (CTS) is often asked to give its advice on these consumer machines.

They are called consumer machines and not business machines because they may be sufficient only if used primarily for checking email and cruising the Internet.

Characteristics of consumer machines

  • The hardware is not designed to run for 8 hours each business day. This is why most consumer machines come with a one-year warranty instead of a three-warranty. This concept is true for any machine, including your vehicle. A cheap car with high mileage will wear out quicker than a top-of-the-line one with low mileage. Hardware that is affected by use includes video cards, hard drives, and CD/DVD players.
  • A low-end warranty may mean that you may not be able to speak to a real person if you call their support line. However, there is usually an option to speak to someone for a fee.
  • A CD/DVD player will probably be included but it will most likely not be able to make copies.
  • They may have large hard drives but the memory is low. It may not be possible to run the latest version of the operating system and application software without feeling that the machine is sluggish.
  • Low processor speed may also make the machine seem sluggish.
  • It will probably not be possible to attach multiple monitors.
  • It may not be possible to attach the machine to the University’s network.

Basis for CTS Recommendations

  • How the computer will be used.
  • Some software requires larger hard drives and more memory. This is true for applications such as SPSS, AutoCAD, Mathmatica, graphic intensive applications, etc.
  • University network infrastructure requirements, depending on the machine, including Ethernet, wireless, AirPort, etc.
  • Expected life-cycle and warranty.
  • CTS recommends warranties that are a minimum of three years.


  • Intel Pentium 3 GHz processor or higher.
  • 4 GB or more of RAM.
  • Super VGA or higher resolution video adapter and monitor.
  • CD-ROM or DVD drive RW.
  • USB Mouse or compatible pointing device.
  • Network adapter.
  • Microsoft Windows 7 or for Macintosh, Snow Leopard.


Always purchase the extended warranty and security features!


Watch this video before purchasing a standalone printer, scanner or fax