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College of Engineering and Computing

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IT Support

The College of Engineering and Computing's Information Technology Services (ITS) is responsible for managing and maintaining the college's academic labs, active directory, services for faculty and staff, network security, LAN network and infrastructure, VPN servers and services, and the Computer Science and Engineering literacy labs.

The College of Engineering and Computing ITS department administers more than 300 Windows machines capable of running all of the required applications needed to graduate. Students have free, 24/7 access to these labs. Therefore, a personal computer is NOT required to complete the programs in the College of Engineering and Computing.

Computer Recommendations 

The following are example configurations for students who plan to attend the College of Engineering and Computing and are purchasing a personal computer. These configurations should last four or five years and are capable of running some of the student versions of various Engineering and Computing applications. Please keep in mind that these specifications are a baseline and can be increased to extend overall life and functionality of the system. For example increasing the RAM and having an SSD as the HD storage device can extend the life of the system an additional 1 to 2 years and improve overall performance and multitasking capabilities.

Minimum Desktop System Example

CPU Intel i5 or AMD equivalent.
Hard Drive 500+ GB Hard Drive
Video Card Integrated Graphics
Sound Optional
Operating System Windows 7 or 8
Monitor 19" LCD Monitor
Additional Storage RW DVD-ROM Combo Drive
16 GB USB Memory/Flash Key
Communications 1000 Mbit network adaptor

Recommended Desktop System Example

CPU Intel i7 or AMD equivalent
RAM 8GB of DDR3 Ram or higher
Hard Drive 1000+ GB Hard Drive or higher
Video Card 1024 MB Video Card or higher
Sound Optional
Operating System Windows 7 or 8 Professional
Monitor 22" LCD Monitor or higher
Additional Storage 24X RW DVD-ROM Combo Drive
32 GB USB Memory/Flash Key
Communications 1000 Mbit network adaptor
Wireless Adapter (optional)

Laptop or Tablet PC Example (Recommended by the University)

CEC Minimum Laptop System Example
CPU Intel i5/i7 or AMD equivalent
RAM 4GB of RAM or higher
Display 15" or larger
Hard Drive 500+ GB Hard Drive or higher
Video Card 512 MB Video Card or higher
Sound Optional
Operating System Windows 7 or 8
Additional Storage Rewriteable DVD Rom (DVD±RW/CD-RW)
32 GB USB Memory/Flash Key
Communications 802.11n/ac Wi-Fi high-speed wireless LAN (built-in or PC Card)
1000 Mbit network adaptor
Further Comments and Recommendations

Operating System

Operating systems other than Windows 7 are not recommended for students planning to major in Chemical, Civil and Environmental, Electrical, Mechanical, or Biomedical Engineering who wish to purchase student versions of some of the Engineering applications such as Mathcad or Pro-E. These applications are provided in the college labs and purchasing a computer that supports them is certainly NOT required to finish the programs of study.

If you cannot find a computer with Windows 7, the college provides virtualization software and Windows 7 to currently enrolled CEC students that will run on top of Windows 8 or Macintosh computers.

Although Apple computers have become popular, many engineering applications such as MathCad and Pro-E do not support Macintosh. Therefore, if you plan on buying a Mac, it is recommended that you also purchase a copy of Windows and use Apple's Bootcamp to dual-boot Mac and Windows.

Students planning to major in Computer Science or Computer Engineering may eventually wish to install a variation of Linux, as well as Windows. A larger hard drive may be required to install two operating systems concurrently.

Hard Drive

Students in Computer Science and Computer Engineering are advised to opt for more than the minimum hard drive. While some of the instruction in CSE uses Windows, many of the upper-level courses are taught using some variant of Linux. Many students will find it desirable, before the end of their career at USC, to partition their disk so as to permit dual-booting both Windows and Linux.

Memory versus Processor Speed

If cost is a consideration in making a decision between more memory or a faster processor, the general recommendation is that more memory should be purchased. Many canned software packages and tools are memory hogs rather than CPU-intensive, and a user is more likely to experience improved performance from increased memory size rather than from processor speed.

Recommended Software

All required software is provided in the college labs. If a student wishes to do some of their coursework outside of the public labs, the following are free or inexpensive student versions of some of the most commonly used packages:

All Computer Science and Engineering students should have a basic office suite, such as Microsoft Office, iWork, or LibreOffice.

Chemical Engineering: Students in Chemical Engineering will use an office suite as well as MathCad.

Computer Science and Computer Engineering: The first-year courses in the Computer Science and Computer Engineering majors currently use Eclipse and the Java Development Kit, free tools for programming in Java. These tools can be downloaded from the web. Students are also encouraged to acquire a machine that could eventually handle dual-booting both Linux and Windows.

Mechanical Engineering: MathCAD (the latest release) is recommended because it is used in several classes in the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum.


Students should not expect that a computer bought freshman year will still be state-of-the-art by the time they graduate. If a purchase is done carefully, upgrades to disk, processor, and memory can be made over time without extraordinary expense, but it must be expected that the lifetime of a personal computer, for a professional who makes extensive use of computing resources, is less than four years.