Selecting a Laptop

Your ‘to-do list’ should be your first source of information in regards to choosing a laptop. However, the following information may be relevant as your consider the Mac vs. PC debate…

Over 50% of the class generally have either a Dell or Lenovo / IBM laptop, with the remainder opting for a Mac or other brand. The school has negotiated special discounts with Dell and Apple, and you can also get a 10% discount as a Columbia student at the Apple store.

This being said, practically every brand and type of laptop known to civilization can be found in use by students at CBS – unlike many schools, and typical of our culture, we do not enforce one type of computer that everyone has to have. You can get (within reason and ideally with the minimum specs required) whatever is best for you.

Things you should think about and our recommendations:

Running Windows on a Mac –  ITG will provide VirtualBox for Windows installation on Macs. All students must have Windows access to Excel as a requirement of the core. The only Windows for Mac program that ITG will support is VirtualBox. While you will be able to work in the Mac OS without any problems for most classes, the software we use in statistics and decision models (and most advanced finance courses) will only run in Windows, so you will need to run Windows at some point.

Size and Weight – You will likely use and bring your laptop to school every day. For this reason, many people are huge fans of the smaller / lighter models.

Battery – There are many places to charge your laptop within Uris Hall (nearly all classrooms have charging stations at each seat) and in Warren. However, for those times when you want to study off campus, it’s always nice to have a battery with extra capacity.

External Hard Drive – While there are several options for backing up your laptop for free, (e.g. SugarSync and DropBox), there is value in purchasing an external hard drive and regularly backing up your valuable data.

Back Up – Students have to adhere to the minimum requirements to receive support: ITG encourages cloud-based backups (as opposed to backups on external hard drives).

Security – It’s unfortunate, but laptops have been known to go missing around campus – so always make sure to keep an eye on yours! For Mac users, you can also check out Hidden, which enables tracking of your laptop location. The University also provides PC / Mac PhoneHome for lost/stolen laptops (


3 responses to “Selecting a Laptop

  1. Hey everyone, I just wanted to add a comment to the MAC/PC debate.

    First, let me say I’m a HUGE mac fan. I owned a newish mac before b-school, but I knew I would be working in Excel a ton. I did some shopping and found a great, lightweight Toshiba PC at Best Buy for ~1000 (including warranty), link below.

    I hated buying another new computer, but it was totally worth it. Especially if you’re considering anything finance-related, you will be using Excel all the time, and you will want to know all of the PC short-cuts since pretty much every office uses PC.

    I also had a friend who started with her mac, but bought my PC half way through the school year. When you see your mac buddies dealing with the hassles of switching between windows & mac OS, you will be happy you got a PC. Plus, it’s nice to have a work computer separate from a home computer.

    Here is the model I purchased:;jsessionid=1615437E858219DB778429A2237F864B.bbolsp-app05-34?id=1218301623975&skuId=1930072

    Good luck!

  2. This is such a great comment!

  3. 0% of the class generally have either a Dell or Lenovo / IBM laptop, with the remainder opting for a Mac or other brand. The school has negotiated special …

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