Choosing a Laptop

All Columbia Business School students are required to have a laptop computer before matriculating. Incoming students should see their To-Do list for additional details prior to starting their course of studies.

There is no one perfect laptop. ITG provides support for both Windows and Mac OS computers. The choice of which laptop is the right one for you is a highly personal one:

  • Do you want a lightweight model with the longest possible battery life?
  • Would you trade-off slightly heavier weight for more functionality?
  • Is it important for you to have a larger keyboard and display?

We suggest that you purchase a computer with abilities beyond your need, keeping in mind that your needs will change over time. Generally, we recommend laptops targeted towards business professionals that tend to emphasize performance and durability:

  • Dell's Latitude
  • HP's ProBook or EliteBook
  • Lenovo's ThinkPad
  • Although we do not recommend a Mac for your time at CBS, if you must use one, Apple's MacBook Pro is the better choice among their laptops

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to buy Microsoft Office?
No. Microsoft Office is provided to you free of charge.
Mac vs Windows
ITG provides full support for both Windows and Mac (as long as it's an Intel-based Mac!). If you must buy a new computer in order to meet the School’s minimum requirements, it is highly recommended that you purchase a native Windows machine (not a Mac). See the “Attention MacBook Owners!” section below for more information.
Is there other software that I get for free through the University?
Yes. Please see the Useful Downloads link on your left.
When can I have my new computer configured by ITG?
Incoming students, please see your Admitted Student site To Do list for the item named ITG New Student Configuration. Continuing students can stop in to ITG anytime -- there is no specific time to drop off the computer and no appointments are necessary.

Support Eligibility

During your time at the Business School, the Information Technology Group (ITG) will provide a valuable service by supporting you with the School’s core technology, your accounts, and laptop computer. However, this support is not the School's core business, and the support we provide has to scale over 2,700 MS, MBA & EMBA students. Some of Columbia's peers address this challenge by limiting their school's IT support to a single model of laptop, with a specific software image applied to it. When something goes wrong with your computer that is not solvable within 15 minutes, your computer's hard drive is reformatted, and the software image reapplied. ITG does not subscribe to this model and prefers to allow you an extremely wide latitude in your choice of laptops. However, in order to receive optimal laptop support from ITG, your laptop has to meet a few minimum requirements that relate to both software and hardware. Please see the "Hardware and Software Requirements" link on the left for supported configurations.

If your laptop does not meet the laptop minimum requirements, but comes close to them, you might still be able to do most tasks at the Business School. The School has a standard infrastructure, and the School's applications are all accessible via a web browser. However, you will not have access to ITG Support Specialists, who are key to getting your computer configured for the School's network and keeping it correctly configured when you encounter problems. In addition, if your laptop is stolen or has to be returned for hardware repairs, you will not be eligible to participate in our loaner program unless the laptop you own meets all of the minimum requirements. Most importantly, your laptop runs the risk of not supporting software that is required for your courses.

Attention MacBook Owners!

Certain programs that are necessary to complete courses at the Business School will not run on the macOS (Macintosh operating system). Those programs require a Windows environment. If you intend to purchase a new laptop for your studies at CBS, the School highly recommends that you purchase a computer that already runs Windows natively (not a Mac). Many students who have chosen to purchase a Mac prior to CBS have later regretted the choice because they ended up using Windows more than anticipated, and Windows virtualized in a Mac never performs as well as if it were ran natively (e.g., the OS is slower and more prone to glitches, and there is a learning curve for the keyboard, etc.).  In fact, the latest models from Apple using their proprietary M processors can only run a new version of Windows for which most software developers have not created a version of their applications; as such those M Macs may become insufficient for your studies at CBS. For these reasons, we recommend that anyone who has to purchase a new laptop to meet the School’s minimum computing requirements selects a native Windows machine.

If you already own and intend to use a Mac for the program, the School requires that we set up Windows on your Mac using the VirtualBox utility. To have a fully supported Mac at CBS, among other minimum requirements you have to own at least macOS Catalina (version 10.15). You will also have to have a minimum of 50 GB of free space in your hard drive, as the Windows installation requires an allocation of 35 GB.

The Business School's Microsoft Campus Agreement will cover the actual installation of Windows free of charge for you, once you have allocated space in your Mac's hard drive.

Hardware Failures

ITG can help you diagnose whether an issue is caused by your laptop’s hardware, and provide you with technical information that you may pass on to your warranty support; however, ITG is unable to fix hardware issues. For hardware malfunctions, students typically depend on the type of manufacturer/service warranty accompanying their laptop. ITG recommends an on-site hardware repair warranty from your vendor for the length of your stay at Columbia Business School. Be sure to place strong weight on this fact when you are deciding which laptop to purchase and where to purchase it. If your laptop has a hardware failure right before exams, a vendor that provides on-site, next business day support is clearly preferable to one who only provides mail-in support with a three-week turnaround period.