Computer Purchase Recommendations

The University of Wisconsin Law School requires all law students to own a personal computer or laptop (see Law School Rules, section 11).

What configuration should I buy, a desktop or a laptop?

Although not required, a laptop is strongly recommended.  Exams can be taken on laptop using special exam software (both Mac and Windows are supported), and many students find using laptops to take notes helpful.  Neither notes, nor exams are required to be taken on laptop, however to have those options available, a laptop is a must.

A laptop is very convenient and will allow you to take your computer anywhere. You may work at home or at the Law School. If space in your home is limited, a laptop does not need a dedicated work area.  The Law School has a campus provided wireless 802.11b network which is compatible with almost all wireless built into laptops.  For full details and a list of other campus locations with wireless access please see http://www.doit.wisc.edu/network/wireless/

What hardware should I purchase?

The following are minimum specifications. Any new PCs will exceed these by a great deal.

  • 1.8 Ghz or better Intel, AMD processors are all Ok
  • 2GB RAM (4GB is highly recommended or more if you can afford it)
  • 17" Monitor (for a desktop only)
  • 80+ gigabyte hard drive
  • For laptops, weight may be a key issue. Laptops 5 lbs or less are the best choice for mobility between school and home, though heavier models can and have worked for students in the past.
  • Networking:  A cable modem or dsl is recommended for home use.  Wireless is necessary for network connection while at the Law School.

What operating system should I have?

The Law School supports and recommends PC's running Windows 7 (Not Starter/Netbook edition**) or MacOS X.8 or better.  Vista is also supported, exam software will not support Windows XP.

What software do I need?

  • Windows 7 (Not Starter/Netbook edition**) Edition or MacOS X.8 or better (appropriate one should come installed on new systems)
  • Microsoft Office 2010 or higher (Available at the DoIT Tech Store), OpenOffice may work though clinics often require MS Office.

What if I have or want to buy a Macintosh?

There are almost no compatibility issues.  Macs can do laptop exams (natively), print to printers, access network drives.  Purchase the Windows or Macintosh machine that you like best.

I have an older computer that does not meet the above requirements, should I purchase a new one?

If you feel that you computer is adequate for your needs, you probably don't need to purchase a new computer. The Law School does not have any "required" software that you must install (though you may have to share files with fellow students who might be using a higher version of software than you). Please note though that the exam software will only work on Windows Vista/7 and Mac OS 10.8 or greater.  Your legal education will be enriched through full access to the Internet, electronic legal research tools, and electronic communication, so make sure your older computer can connect to the Internet at a sufficiently high speed. If your present computer can accomplish those tasks, do not feel that you must upgrade to the above standards. The Law Library also provides students exclusive access to a computer lab.

Is there a specific manufacturer you recommend?

No. The Law School purchases all of its computers from one manufacturer to ease troubleshooting and installation of standard software, however, individuals should read through Consumer Reports and try to get the best deal.

Where should I purchase my computer?

The DoIT Tech Store sells Dells and Apple computers to students at a discounted price. But if you can find a better deal on a good model somewhere else, grab it!

Will the Law School support my laptop if I have a problem or need assistance installing software?

The Law School will provide all users with instructions and assistance in connecting their laptops to the network as well as try to answer some basic questions. However, due to staffing limitations, we are unable to provide extensive technical support for your individual computer. The University of Wisconsin's Division of Information Technology (DoIT) provides a free help desk for all students as well as a fee-based repair service.

Where Can I Get More Information?

The University's Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has a considerable number of resources available to help students decide which kind of computer to purchase. Check out DoIT's Help Desk page for campus provided services and recommendations.


**Please note that Windows 7 Starter (Netbook version) does not fully work with some law school technology services-- notably wireless printing.)

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