New Student FAQ – Computers and Software

As a new student, it can be challenging to navigate some of the hardware and software options available. We have provided answers to frequently asked questions, and added some comments along the way. It’s most important that you make the choices that are best for you, your budget, and your comfort level with technology.

Q1. Do I need to buy a new computer?
If you purchased your laptop in the last 2-3 years, it should be capable of handling all of the programs necessary for the MBA program. If your computer is three years old or older, or heavy/bulky/a pain to carry around, it is worth making the investment in a new computer.

Good rule of thumb:  You are making a significant investment earning your MBA, and you will need the tools to be successful. Some students choose to purchase new devices before school starts, and others do not. School can be stressful enough, and your computer should make your life easier. If your current computer isn’t making your life easier, then it is probably time to purchase a new computer that you are comfortable using.

Q2. Should I go with Windows or a Mac?
Windows PCs are recommended over Macs because all of the software and Excel add-ins that we use in the program are native to Windows. That said, many students and professors have Macs, and are able to workaround any compatibility issues by installing software like Parallels or Bootcamp. If you personally prefer to buy a Mac or already own a Mac that is less than three years old, you will be ok!

Q3. What computers do you recommend?
These are the most popular makes/models for the Class of 2019:

  • HP Spectre x360
  • Lenovo Yoga 720
  • Macbook Air or Pro (You do not need a Pro to run any of the programs for the MBA)
  • Microsoft Surface or Surface Laptop

Q4. What technical specifications would you recommend?
You should be able to run a recent version of Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. We also suggest a Solid State Drive, as they are more reliable than a traditional hard drive.

If you do decide to buy a new laptop, the reference chart below as a guideline for ideal requirements.

Recommended Minimum
Operating System Windows 10/ MAC OS X Windows 7/Mac OS X
Processor (CPU) Core i7 Core i3
Memory (RAM) 8 GB 4 GB
Hard Drive 256 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) 125 GB


Q5. Can I use a tablet?
iPad or Android tablets can be a handy complement but should not be your primary device because they do not have full compatibility with many Excel plugins. A tablet computer like a Microsoft Surface is a great option for the program.

Q6. What software do I have to install?
A nice perk about being in Microsoft’s backyard is that we have access to Office 365 for free. This link will take you to the university website that explains how to download Office 365. You can install Office on up to 5 devices with your free account, and it comes with the complete Office suite.

The Solver and Analysis Toolpak Add-Ins needed for Jump Start should come pre-installed with Excel, but there are instructions posted on how to activate both of these tools. If there are other class-specific software requirements beyond the basic Office tools, your instructor will provide you with instructions on what needs to be download. Your IT class representative will assist you, if you need help installing new software on your computer.

Q7. Is there a tutorial for installing software, and configuring my email and calendar?
A step-by-step tutorial about how to access, download, and install the programs is available on the MBAA website. Also, an IT representative will have office hours during PRIME to help you install and configure required software, and answer any lingering questions that you may have.

Q8. How about all this “cloud” stuff? What should I be using?
Every student receives a Microsoft OneDrive account when they set up their UW e-mail, and many students and teams also use Google Drive. You will most likely end up using both to some degree.

Q9. What other technology supplies are useful?
The Class of 2019 recommends the following: a Bluetooth mouse, pen/stylus for writing on screen (if applicable), a printer and a desktop monitor for working at home. None of these items are necessary, but all will make your life easier.

Q10. What about a calculator?
You will need an HP 12C Financial Calculator for your core Finance class. A number of used calculators will be available at half-price (compared to the price on Amazon) during Jump Start (more details to come).

Q11. Where should I buy my new device?
We are big fans of Amazon, and everything we purchase using the following link, C4C Amazon Affiliate Link returns a donation to our Challenge for Charity Account! You can buy everything on Amazon using this link – not just books, computers, and calculators, but household items, raincoats, umbrellas too. Every little bit helps in our quest to be the C4C Champions!

Q12. What apps should I download?
If you don’t already have them, you will want the following:

  • Slack – Will be used for class and team group chats
  • WhatsApp – Popular messaging app, especially during the summer pre-orientation
  • Venmo – We all use this to make and receive payments (no cash or check)
  • OneBusAway – Transit app that tells you how long you’ll wait for the next bus

Comments/Feedback

Look for more information to come in the email newsletters from the program office. Also, an IT representative will have office hours during PRIME to help you install and configure required software, and answer any lingering questions that you may have. Tami Geiger (MBAA VP of Technology) is available anytime via email (IT_MBAA@uw.edu), and she will be back on campus the first week of school to help with anything else. The IT Headquarters of the website is currently up-to-date, and includes the IT Orientation slides in the student tutorials section.