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Hardware Guidelines for Computing at MIT

Before making a personal purchase

Review the following guidelines:

  • You may not use the Institute’s tax-exempt number when making personal purchases—in fact, use of an institutional tax-exempt number to make personal purchases is prohibited under Massachusetts law.
  • You may not add personal items to a purchase order that includes official MIT purchases. For example, you cannot purchase 10 reams of paper for personal use included with an MIT order of 50 cases.
  • You may not charge personal items to the MIT ProCard.

Minimum and recommended hardware configurations

The information below provides the minimum and recommended hardware configurations for working effectively in the MIT computing environment. Minimum configurations are for currently-owned computers; recommended configurations are for purchasing machines. If your current system meets a minimum configuration, you should plan on replacing it in one or two years. IS&T can answer any questions you have about our guidelines and recommendations. See Hardware Recommendations.

Incoming students
If you own a computer and plan to bring it with you, compare it to what's listed below to see if it meets, or exceeds, MIT's minimum configuration. A system meeting only the minimum configuration may not fulfill your needs throughout your entire stay at MIT. If you intend to run processor and resource intensive applications such as engineering software or virtualization software you will want to comply with the recommended, not minimal hardware standards.

Administrative departments
Generally, MIT administrative departments can expect to replace a laptop computer every three years and a desktop computer every four years.

Hardware standards

Recommended configuration
The recommended requirements listed here are intended to be used for new computer purchases. A computer purchased with these specifications should serve you well for 3 to 4 years.

  • Intel Core i5 or i7 processor
  • 8 GB RAM* (upgradeable to 16 GB or more)
  • 250 GB hard disk or larger (7200 RPM)** 
  • DVD+-RW combo drive

Minimum configuration
The minimum requirements listed here were developed to help with assessing currently owned computers.  If your computer meets these requirements, you should be able to get 1 to 2 more years of good use out of it. Of course, this varies with specific requirements your work or studies may require.

  • Intel Core i3 processor, or later 
  • 4 GB RAM*
  • 120 GB hard disk**
  • DVD+-RW combo drive

*32-bit operating systems will only be able to use 3 GB of the available RAM. A 64-bit operating system version will be needed if you need to use the entire 4 GB of RAM.

**Schedule regular, full backups of your hard disk, either with MIT's central backup service, TSM, or with writeable, high-capacity removable media.

Recommended operating systems

  • Windows
  • Macintosh
  • Linux
    Linux note: If you are planning to install or re-install Linux on your computer, you may want to wait until you arrive on campus as MIT has a volume license for Red Hat Enterprise, including subscriptions to Red Hat's automatic update service. We offer "best effort" support of Linux.