Student Computing at Penn State College of Medicine

Recommendations for Incoming Medical Students

Medical students in the College of Medicine are required to have their own personal laptop computer. The information provided on this page should be used as a guide. Use it to determine if the laptop you own today is suitable for your use in medical school or for information to purchase a new laptop.

Laptop feature recommendations

  • A laptop should have a CPU that runs at 2.4 GHz or faster. Most processors today are faster, but avoid a laptop with a CPU slower than 2.4 GHz.
  • If you are running a standard 32 bit Windows or Mac Operating System (OS), 4 GB of RAM is recommended. 
  • Windows laptops can run XP Pro (SP3 required), or Windows 7 or 8.    
  • Mac laptops must run at least MAC OS 10.7 (Lion) to connect to our wireless network. If you are running OS 10.4, you must upgrade to OS 10.7 to be compatible with a required application used in our program. We recommend that you do not update your operating system to OS X 10.9 (Mavericks). There are several applications in the Penn State Hershey environment that have been identified that do not work with OS X 10.9.
  • Linux, UNIX and other operating systems are not supported on our network. 
  • We do not currently support the iPad. An iPad can connect to our wireless network, but other campus systems needed for your educational program may not be available on an iPad. An iPad cannot substitute as a replacement for the laptop requirement.
  • Students can use either a Mac or Windows laptop. Equivalent services are available to students using either a PC or a Mac computer.  
  • We recommend a video monitor size of at least 14 inches diagonal with a video card of 256K video RAM or more. A display with either a standard aspect ratio (4:3) or a wide screen format (16:9) is acceptable. 
  • Laptops have the ability to connect to a data network using a wired Ethernet cable and/or a built-in wireless network card. A laptop having a wireless network card that supports 802.11 a/g/n is highly recommended. Laptops with a wireless network card that does not support the newer "n" standard may experience difficulties connecting to our wireless network, especially in areas with a high density of wireless users (lecture rooms, etc.).
  • Students are responsible for the maintenance of their laptops. We provide instructions and assistance for connecting your laptop to our wireless network. We do not provide software or hardware support for student owned laptops. There are several repair centers in the local Hershey area for PC support/repair. The nearest authorized Apple Store for repair of Macintosh laptops is in Lancaster, which is about 45 minutes from Hershey by car. You will be provided with a list of these repair centers. 
  • We require that you have a copy of Microsoft Office that contains, at a minimum, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For the PC, either Office 2013, 2010 or 2007 is suitable. For the Mac, Office Mac 2011 is suitable. Training classes are available for these software programs. Other "office productivity suites" (e.g., Open Office, Google Apps) may be of use, but they are not supported. Your educational material will be provided in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel format. 
  • Students are expected to run antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software on their laptop. Free versions of popular programs are available for download (see below).
  • We recommend you purchase support services for your laptop through the manufacturer of the laptop. Often, these vendors have available on-site support plans that are more convenient and expedient than standard "over the phone" support plans. We do not provide "loaner" laptops to students in instances when their personal laptop is not working. We do provide access to public computers on a 24/7 basis in the George Harrell Library.
  • Our email system is Microsoft Outlook. Student access to their email and calendar will be available through the Outlook webmail client. Students are required to read email sent to them through the campus Outlook system. 

Software availability

During student orientation week prior to the start of classes, students will be given their Penn State Access Account user ID and password. This account will grant you access to Penn State's website, Software at Penn State, for software purchases. Office 2011 for students for the Mac and Office 2010 for Windows are available from Software at Penn State.  The account will also give students access to the Penn State Information Technology Services website for other free software downloads (antivirus, etc.).

Data storage

We strongly recommend students either use an external storage device to backup files on their laptop or use the online storage facilities provided by Penn State. Loss of data can be very disruptive to your educational program. With a Penn State Access Account, you have available up to 10 GB online storage from Penn State Access Account Storage Space (PASS) at no charge. This can be used as a backup site, or you can setup your laptop to map a drive to store your documents there.  More information is available online.


Some students find it convenient to own a personal printer.  The George Harrell Library, however, provides B/W and color printing services on a "Pay to Print" basis.  Through the campus data network, you can print to these printers from any location on campus after loading the printer driver(s) on your laptop. 

Financial Aid

The Higher Education Act, as amended in 1998, recognizes computers as an educational expense. Students may request the inclusion of the cost of a computer in their Cost of Attendance.  This is a one-time increase during medical school. All adjustments will be for Fall/Spring. The maximum increase is $2,200 for a laptop computer. The date of purchase must be between May 1 - April 30 for first time students and between August 1 – April 30 for returning students.  Students in their last semester of medical school cannot request a cost of attendance increase for a computer. Students must submit an Increase Cost of Attendance Evaluation Form and either a receipt in their name with the date of purchase or a copy of an estimated invoice in their name from a vendor. A detailed listing of all components and software for purchase must be included on the receipt or invoice.

Questions should be directed to  Please remember to include "Computer Question" in the subject line of your email message.