College of Engineering

Computer, Software and Calculator Recommendations


Most Engineering Departments provide remote lab systems via Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).  Once students are entitled via their enrollment in a participating department, they will receive instructions on how to access lab systems remotely.  Consequently, the College of Engineering currently does not mandate that students bring their own personal computer to Penn State, but students may be required to use computers frequently for communications and other academic activities. Computer ownership will enable students to fully benefit from the in-class and out-of-class activities and opportunities. If you plan to buy a new computer, consider these technology minimums:

  • Profile: Laptop or desktop.  Laptop is recommended.
  • Processor: Intel i5 (adequate) I7 (preferred) or higher
  • Memory: 16GB or higher
  • Hard drive: SSD 256 GB or higher
  • Wireless networking: Required
  • Networking: Ethernet (optional)
  • Display: 13 inch or larger
  • Operating System: Windows 10 or 11 is recommended with the latest Microsoft service packs and updates applied.  Apple with latest macOS version with latest updates applied.   
    *See note Considerations for using a Mac
  • Camera and microphone (if purchasing a new laptop, verify that it includes a built-in camera and mic).
  • USB ports
  • Sound card and speakers
  • Lock and cable (recommended)

*Considerations for using a Mac
Some software used for Engineering courses is only available for Windows.  Departments maintain computer labs with this necessary software and as mentioned earlier, most offer Windows applications remotely via VDI labs.  With the advent of the M1 & M2 chipsets running Windows applications on macOS can be difficult, so VDI is the preferred method to access this software.  If you must run Windows on your Mac, please be aware of these potential limitations based on your chipset and limited compatibility with virtualization packages such as Fusion and Parallels.  Some virtualization options may be available through the Software at Penn State.


Software Availablity

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 is available to all Penn State students. You can learn more at

Software at Penn State:

Penn State offers students with a variety of software at reduced cost or at no additional cost, including the current version of Windows Upgrade. Please note that in order to download the Windows Upgrade, you must have an existing operating system already installed on your machine.

Information is available at

Microsoft Azure Dev Tools for Teaching Program:

The College of Engineering participates in the Microsoft Azure Dev Tools for Teaching program, formally know as DreamSpark. This program provides currently enrolled College of Engineering Students at the University Park campus no-charge access to the current Microsoft operating systems as well as development products like Visual Studio.

For more information, visit -

Anti-Virus Protection

The College of Engineering and the University strongly recommend including anti-virus software on your machine.

For more information about anti-virus software options, visit -


Other software applications may be required during a student's undergraduate degree program and will be specific to a major or course. Such software requirements will be conveyed to students by faculty as needed. In addition, each department in the College of Engineering has computer facilities and software packages for high-end engineering applications that are needed by its students for academic assignments.


No specific calculators are recommended or required by Engineering programs. The calculator that most students have and use in more advanced engineering courses is a scientific graphing calculator.  Students enrolled in Math or Scientific courses should check with their advisors in those Academic Units about recommendations or requirements.


Updated 5/13/2022



The faculty and staff of Networking, Computing and Training Services are proud to be an organization within the College of Engineering’s Dean’s Office. This small but extremely dedicated assembly of personnel work in four groups that support the College’s educational, research, and administrative operations.

Networking, Computing & Training Services (NCTS)

149 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710