Buying a PC? Buying advice for students

Are you looking to buy a computer to use for your studies at the UiO? For most people, this is a big investment, so it's important that you buy right when you first spend so much money. Here is some advice from the USIT (University Center for IT).

NB: Please note that this is general advice. If you are going to study subjects that are likely to have special demands on the computer you will be using, consult your supervisor or student IT at your institute.

Laptop or desktop?

The benefits of having a laptop are overwhelming. You can bring it to lectures to take notes, you can bring it to study groups and you can work on it at home. If your studies require you to have a particularly powerful computer, you may need a desktop computer, but most people will be able to find a laptop that meets their needs.

  • When you buy a laptop, you should also get a pouch or carrying case with padding so that the computer is not easily damaged.
  • Make sure your insurance covers damage and theft of your laptop and that the amount limit is high enough to cover your loss.
  • Back up your content regularly to an external hard drive or server, or save it to OneDrive (part of Office 365 which is free as long as you are a student at the UiO). 

Expensive or less pricey?

Very few students need the most expensive laptops, but you should also steer clear of the cheapest ones. Examine the market a bit and consider what you get for the money in different price ranges. If only designs make one machine more expensive than another, you may not need the most expensive one. A computer which is clearly not durable (lightweight outer plastic that can be easily crushed or cracked, open-field keyboard into the machine that lets in dust and crumbs, and so on) can be a poor investment when you have to buy new after a short time.

How much memory?

As of 01.04.2016 we recommend a minimum of 8 GB memory (RAM). An 8 GB memory machine will work quickly and well with most programs and websites. If you know that you are going to use especially power-intensive programs (or games), you may want to check if you need more memory, but for most people 8 GB is good.

What kind of hard drive?

Our advice is to buy SSD (Solid State Disk). Traditional hard drives rotate when in use and the speed is typically set in rpm (rotations per minute). Even if a hard drive has a speed of 7200 rpm, it is significantly slower than an SSD. SSDs are also less susceptible to impact damage since they do not have moving parts


To use the computer at UiO, connect it to the wireless network. The wireless network at UiO supports most standards, but if you also want to use the machine elsewhere, the wireless network standard should be at least 802.11b / g / n. Some suppliers are cutting out support for 802.11b and 802.11g. The 802.11n is the most widely used at present, and a computer using this standard will be able to connect to most wireless networks.

What about wired network access? Not all laptops have an outlet for network cable connection. If you have a special need for very fast transfer of large amounts of data, you may need this.

Operating system and software

At the UiO we support the three main data processing platforms: Windows, OS X and Linux. This means that you should be able to use UiO's IT services from all these. If a subject you are studying requires the use of software that can only run on one of these, or if the teaching requires the use of a particular platform, you must adapt it. If you think this may be the case for you, contact your supervisor or student IT at the institute.

All students get Office 365 for free as long as they are students at the UiO. Other software is available through the UiO Program kiosk, MacProg and WinProg. Check out what you can access for free before buying expensive software yourself.

Optional equipment and ports

To connect the machine to a TV, monitor or projector, make sure that it has the right ports. Many study group rooms have a screen or TV that can be used to display work. Commonly used standards are HDMI (common for TVs and large screens), the Displayport standard is used on much newer equipment, and analog VGA is used for some projectors at UiO. There are adapters from Displayport to most other standards, so that can be a good starting point. Webcam is not a requirement for study, but can be an advantage if you want to keep in touch with family and friends, or partners, via Skype or similar.

If you use your computer intensively, it may be uncomfortable to use only the trackpad. Consider buying a mouse to use with your computer.

Noise and heat

Noise and heat generation are difficult to assess when looking at a computer in the store. Still, it is wise to look for the air holes. Large air holes under the machine may indicate that it is poorly suited to soft surfaces (in the lap or in the bed). If you are sensitive to noise and need to use the machine a lot on a quiet room or similar, it may be worthwhile to consult with the store staff  if any of the models stand out for much or little noise from fans or the like.

Use the return policy

Many stores give you open purchases for a period (often 30 days), and if you shop online, you have a 14-day withdrawal period. If you are dissatisfied, you should use the return policy.

Digital exam

If you are going to use the computer for a digital exam, there are special requirements. Please see the requirements or contact your student IT staff. 

Published Sep. 19, 2019 10:08 AM - Last modified Sep. 19, 2019 10:33 AM