College of Education & Human Services

Considerations for choosing a computer to bring to campus

What will the computer be used for?

The main factor to consider when choosing your computer is what the computer will be used for. Students, faculty, and staff using their computers primarily for online communication (email, text messaging, etc.), using the Internet for research, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation creation should be able to get along fine with a low-end to medium-end Windows or Macintosh computer. A NetBook computer may also be a consideration for these individuals.

Those who will be using their computers for high-end applications such as image editing, video editing, animation, gaming, or video-conferencing associated with an online course in addition to the day to day tasks mentioned above, should plan to bring a high-end Windows or Macintosh computer. If you are unsure about the types of work that you/your student will be completing at Western please contact the department that he or she has been accepted to for further explanation.

Should I choose a desktop or a laptop computer?

Why might someone choose a laptop over a desktop model? Laptops are versatile. They allow for learning, and connected communication anytime and anyplace. Western Illinois University provides a multitude of wireless hotspots across campus. (View the Wireless Network website to see the wireless access that will be available to you or your prospective student in his or her classrooms, dorms, and public areas.) This type of wireless network enables students to bring their laptop to class, to the library, to group meetings in various residence halls, dining halls, events at the university union, and etc. Laptops take up less room in residence halls where space is limited. They are easier to carry home over long weekends allowing students to carry coursework and contact information over breaks without having to pack up a desktop machine and monitor. Additionally, looking into the future, students with laptops could easily bring their computer with them to their field site, internship location, or job interview to show a portfolio of their work.

What type of network connection is needed from the location(s) where the computer will be used?

When looking at network connections you will need to consider the types of connection your student will commonly be using. At Western they will have the ability to use RJ-45 10/100 m-bit ethernet connectivity and b/g wireless connectivity. Will your student need to have a phone line modem access for Internet Connectivity for home or travel? Consider all of these network decisions when choosing whether or not to include ethernet, wireless, and/or modem Internet capabilities on the laptop you purchase.

What warranty and support services are included?


When looking at the computer’s warranty and service information be sure to take into account the amount of time that your student will be actively using the machine. Companies such as Dell offer a 4-year protection plan, and Apple offers a 3-year protection plan.  If you are considering a laptop computer  you should also consider getting a complete coverage warranty that will cover any accidental damage such as drops, spills, and etc. 
Additionally, you will want to review the service policies discussed in the nature of the warranty. Will service be delivered on-site? Will your student need to ship the computer to the company where it was purchased? Is there a local repair service for your chosen brand, and finally what is covered in the service (labor, parts, shipping)? 
Finally, as you are looking into support issues you may want to consider calling customer support to ask a few of the questions just to determine the demeanor and ability to serve your needs of the person on the other end of the line. You will want to know the type of support you or your student can expect should a need for support arise.

Suggested Vendors

Western Illinois University students are eligible for discounted prices through both Apple and Dell. At the current time the university as a whole does not make a recommendation on which platform students should bring to campus. 
Western Illinois University uTech Computer Store: