Computer Hardware Planning

3 year cycle

Those areas on the 3 year hardware renewal cycle should consult MIT IS&T's recommended computer hardware for the list of acceptable desktop and laptop machines. For most users, the recommended spec across the board is a minimum memory configuration of 16GB with an M1 or Intel i5 or higher processor. For users who need to use Adobe apps for graphics or video production, an Apple M1 Pro/Max or Intel i7 processor should be considered.

4-5 year cycle

For those areas on a 4-5 year hardware renewal schedule and not the usual 3 year, please be aware that you must purchase a mid to high end model machine to ensure the computer has enough power and resource to run newer software at a minimally acceptable performance level 4-5 years down the line.

Minimum memory specifications must be no lower than 16GB and the processor must be no lower than an Apple M1 or Intel i5. For users that require Adobe Creative Suite or for users doing video or photo editing or web development that takes up at least a quarter of their time, the minimum memory should not be lower than 32GB and the processor must be no lower than an Apple M1 Pro or Intel i7. For users who will be using their machines for video or multimedia development more than half the time, either the higher end Apple M1 Pro, M1 Max, M2 or Intel i9 processors may be worth consideration. We will update these requirements annually as the computer technologies advance.
If you are thinking Dell for business machines with no low to medium video demand, please try to stay within the Latitude, Optiplex, or Precision lines. Dell drops available spare parts for all other models once the maximum warranty period has expired. Of particular note Inspiron notebook spare parts are not available 1 year after they're sold once their warranty expires. Once these laptops die, there is no way to repair them if someone doesn't already have the spare parts.

For Dell users with higher video demands to run Adobe products, video production, or other higher GPU simulation functions, both Dell XPS and Alienware machines may be reasonably considered as a viable alternative.


Manufacturers in recent years have started to realize that computers are being cycled out every 3 years as technology progresses.  As a result they are no longer making their devices last more than 3 years. To this end they are making their machines less upgradeable with more plastic and lower quality components. They are also soldered past user upgradeable parts like Hard Drives and memory modules to the motherboards.

Apple and Dell warranties

Our recommendation remains to ALWAYS get the warranties. This is especially true for laptops which generally have a higher rate of failure due to their smaller micronized parts.

Apple does not warranty their machines for more than 3 years so be aware if your machine fails at year 4 or 5 the repair costs could be high depending on the issue.

Dell does sell service contracts for more than 3 years, however they are more expensive and may not be available for all makes and models. Make sure your purchase the service contract that is appropriate to the length of time you expect to have to keep your Windows machine. It is always a good idea to buy a warranty with your computer.

Repairs are now your responsibility

Following the end of the Covid-19 Pandemic, IS&T permanently closed its ATLAS hardware repair services. All users must now contact their machine manufacturers for service. Apple users may schedule appointments with the Genius Bar at an Apple Store. Dell users may contact Dell support to either have a technician come on site (depending on the warranty) or a box for the machine to be sent to depot for repair.

Please be aware the SHASS IT Support Team does not repair machines or recover data. We are not authorized Apple, Dell, or Lenovo technicians.


Going forward, Lenovo must be contacted directly for service issues and they will send a box for return to depot.

Lenovo Thinkpads have long had a reputation in business for dependability, durability, and reliability. However this comes at a cost. Lenovo tightly controls the firmware of their machines so non-Lenovo certified parts or operating systems won't work in their machines. This means Linux Distros and lower versions of Windows (like Windows 7) could be blocked from installation. Also users will be unable to tweak the CPU or RAM clocking and hardware to boost performance. This makes Lenovo machines distinctively unsuitable for gaming or application where other non-shipped OS implementations or hardware customizations are required.

Macbook Air

Please be aware that back in 2015 we did not recommend the Macbook Air as a primary laptop machine due to its historically reported weak WiFi performance and limited number of ports. It was, however, an acceptable second laptop for travel as long as the user understands its limitations and potential connectivity drawbacks. We had also received a significant number of reports for the MacBook Air being unable to connect to the WiFi network at Heathrow Airport outside of London for example. For the light weight primary Apple laptop solution, we continue to recommend the current 13" Macbook Pro with Retina Display. In 2019, the new MacBook Air is a considerably more powerful and flexible machine than it was in 2015 and the newest more powerful 2022 Apple Silicon MacBook Air is continuing to raise the bar on its predecessors. Be aware of its limits and pay attention to the hard drive size.  Make sure you get a hard drive with enough storage to fit all your data from your old laptop.


iPads are not laptop computers. They do not (yet) have a user accessible file system and run on augmented cellular phone processors. Though there are apps that enable iPads to behave laptop-like, we do not recommend using iPads as your primary computer. iPads are really effective supplementary computing technology, life-style tools and devices to show people things on, whether that be pictures, movies, or presentations. Given the amount you would have to invest in both time and money to get the iPad to act computer-like, you would be better off buying a real computer which would do those things much better, faster, and reliably.

The Storage Conundrum

Finally, be aware of the Hard Drive (HD) sizes of the machine you're buying compared to the amount of data on the machine you currently have.  Many of the new machines are coming with smaller but faster (and more expensive) solid state HDs while older machines tend to have larger but slower (and cheaper) platter drives.  Make sure you have purchased enough storage space on the new machine to move all of your files, pictures, movies, and emails from your old machine. So when ordering your new machine, make sure to configure the size of the new HD in the new laptop accordingly. What we recommend is if your current disk usage is approaching half of the current drive, your new computer should be purchased with storage the next size up. For example, if you currently have a 512GB drive and you're using 250GB of it now, your new machine should be ordered with the 1TB HD for storage to make sure you have enough room to grow in the next 3-4 years.

Data Backup Drives

When you get a new computer, don't forget to also get a new external HD for your Time Machine or Windows Backups. Your data is the most important part of your computer and the life span of a HD used for backup is the same as the life of your computer. So if you replace the computer, replace the backup drive as well. Alternatively, users should also be using Dropbox to store their files, and also consider using Code42's Crashplan Cloud backup solution available from IS&T to help save guard their data.


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