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Choosing a Laptop

Corporate Laptops

These are the things to keep in mind if using a corporate computer on the Business School's network infrastructure

Although some EMBA students already have a notebook computer for use at work, there may be significant limitations to its usefulness in the program due to its existing corporate policies and configuration, especially if that includes either a corporate locked-down set-up or access to corporate VPN or other secure networks.

ITG recommends that students satisfy their notebook computer requirements with a computer that is not configured to connect to a corporate network. This may be a machine that is exclusively for use at the program (whether a personal purchase or an employer purchase), or it may be a system that is used for travel and does not have to connect to the network at work. With a computer that does not have a potentially conflicting network configuration, you will gain the full benefit of courses that use the network in class.

    If you choose to use your corporate notebook computer for the program, you should discuss any issues with your corporate IT support staff several weeks in advance, so that you will have time to get a separate computer for use at school, if necessary.

  • To be eligible for support at Columbia Business School's (CBS) Student Technology Centers, the notebook computer must satisfy the requirements listed below. Note that Windows 2000, XP Home, Mac OS 10.5 and earlier, and Linux are NOT supported by our staff. If the computer must run on such operating systems, support will have to come exclusively from your corporate IT department.
  • Corporate IT departments sometimes lock configurations on notebook computers by requiring an administrative password to make changes. ITG cannot configure such locked systems for our network, often due to restrictive policies in place on that computer even after obtaining the administrative password.
  • At times, corporate computers are configured to go through a firewall for all Internet connectivity. Such configurations, which are often hidden, will not work at CBS, even if all the rest of the configuration appears to be compatible with the Business School network. Be sure to double-check the existence of a firewall with your IT department before arriving on campus.
  • Please do not expect Virtual Private Network (VPN) software (typically used to securely connect to corporate networks) to function at CBS. The Schools' firewall infrastructures have extensive outbound rules which often interfere with VPN traffic and School traffic must take priority.

Student Laptop Buying Tips

Following these tips can be the deciding factor between a slight frustration and a major upset as a new laptop user.

The Big Choice of Weight vs Everything Else

As a student, the weight of a laptop is important. With dozens of new Ultrabooks (Weight: 2-4 lbs; Battery life: 5+ hours; Display: typically 14" or lower) offered by every major PC manufacturer, your choices are almost endless as they've gone from being exception to becoming the rule. With academic demands dictating that you carry a laptop most times while on campus, you'll find yourself leaning toward this option for mobility. Your other options are the Mainstream Laptops (Weight: typically 5 lbs; Battery life: up to 4.5 hours; Display: typically 14" or higher) or Desktop Replacement Laptops (desktop feel, with fuller size keyboard and large display, but not ideal for mobility).


A good warranty is critical, so don't skimp. It is recommended to obtain a computer warranty for the duration of your Business School program, typically 2 years.

  • Windows
    Minimum 2 Year Standard Support, but recommended 3 Year Next Business Day, On-site Enhanced Support.

  • Apple
    AppleCare Protection Plan (at least 2 years, but recommended 3 years)

Wireless Networking

Since 2009, 802.11n has been the industry's latest standard. It has a much faster speed than its predecessors, the best range, and is less prone to signal interference from outside sources. You'll need this to do the majority of your work while on campus. Virtually all laptops come with this as a standard. If it does't, then don't buy it.

After working with both, Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) and Aruba Engineers (the makers of our wireless access points), ITG has identified and inlcuded a list of interoperable wireless devices and their chipset/driver version combinations that have been confirmed by the Aruba quality assurance team to work with Aruba Network Access Points.

Wired Networking

All Business School classrooms in Uris Hall and Warren Hall are equipped with ethernet ports at the desks for a solid internet connection. In order to take advantage of this with your MacBook Air or Ultrabook, you will need to purchase a usb-to-ethernet adapter and have an ethernet wire.


All trackpads are not created equal. Trackpads get worn out after a while and are known to frequently misinterprert hand gestures or either be too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Most students eventually invest in a small portable bluetooth mice.

Brand Matters

Just take a look at these latest numbers from Gartner, Inc.

Preliminary U.S. PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 3Q13 (Units)


3Q13 Shipments

3Q13 Market Share (%)

3Q12 Shipments

3Q12 Market Share (%)

3Q13-3Q12 Growth (%)











































Note: Data includes desk-based PCs and mobile PCs, including mini-notebooks but not media tablets such as the iPad.

Source: Gartner (October 2013)