Computer Purchase FAQ

Computer Recommendations (docx)

How will I use my computer?

All students use online resources to register for classes, pay tuition, purchase a parking pass and more. Many campus classes involve a combination of face-to-face meetings with online participation, or you may be enrolled in a completely online program. Most students, whether campus or DE, use Blackboard, ECU's online course management system, to retrieve and submit assignments, access class resources, take quizzes and check grades. ECU entities, including your instructors, the Financial Aid Office and others, communicate with you through email. Class assignments might include meeting online and instant messaging.

Most assignments and other coursework are completed using Microsoft Office (free through your ECU Office 365 subscription). Several departments also have specific software packages to complete assignments. All students should consult with their academic advisor before choosing a computer.

Why should I purchase a computer from ECU?

Laptops recommended through the Student Computing Initiative program are specifically configured to meet your needs as an ECU student AND have FREE on-campus warranty support. Extensive planning goes into the selection of the computer configuration to insure the models meet the demands of your academic needs. Vendors are chosen based on the highest standards of performance, pricing and customer satisfaction. Pirate Techs staff provide complete on-campus support, including under-warranty repair.

Benefits of purchasing a Student Computing Initiative recommended computer:

  • On-campus warranty support
  • Assurance that the computer will be compatible with ECU network and systems
  • Special discount pricing and profits are returned to the university for scholarships and support
  • Assurance that the computer meets the recommendations of ECU academic departments

What type of computer do I need?

Many academic programs require or recommend students have a computer. Some departments may require a laptop you can bring to class or a system that is able to run specific software. For example, you may need a high-end video card or a minimum amount of RAM.

Check to see if your program has a requirement. All students should consult with their advisor before choosing a computer.

My Department does not have a specific recommendation. Which computer should I choose?

Any of the ECU-recommended, basic computer configurations will meet your needs. ECU makes every effort to ensure that commonly-used student applications (email, Blackboard, Banner, etc.) run on both the Windows and Mac platforms. However, we cannot guarantee that every software application required by an instructor will run on both platforms. There are rare occasions when applications only run on a PC. However, on-campus computer labs often have software that is not available on your personal computer.

Do I need to purchase a warranty?

Three-year warranties are recommended for all computers. Accidental damage insurance is also highly recommended. Having warranty protection with a local service provider insures you have minimal time without your computer should there be a problem and also helps with unplanned costs. Check with the Dowdy Student Stores' Tech Deck team for available options.

Why Lenovo, Apple and Dell?

Lenovo, Apple and Dell have the highest satisfaction rating by laptop owners based on industry surveys conducted by independent sources like PC Magazine, and they are leaders in the field of education, working with more universities than other computer companies. They also offer the best pricing on the computer models selected by ECU, with prices below normal educational discounts. ECU's partnership with them has been very successful and beneficial for our students.

Should I shop around?

We encourage parents and students to shop around using our recommendations as a checklist to ensure all key components are included. ECU's Tech Deck at Dowdy Student Stores offers Student Computing Initiative models, which can be purchased with free on-campus support and accidental damage protection and warranty extensions.

Should I purchase a laptop instead of a desktop?

A laptop's portability and ECU's wireless network allows you to access the internet in all buildings on campus and some public outdoor spaces. You can take your computer to class, the library and study sessions. Laptops also make it easy to take your computer home while on breaks or for the weekend.

Is there a difference between Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10?

The Windows OS runs on PC computers and can run on a Mac with the help of either the Boot Camp or Parallels program. All three Windows versions are compatible with ECU systems like Blackboard. However, if your computer is a touch screen, Windows 10 (the most recent version) is designed to enhance the touch screen experience. Windows 10 requires more memory and processor speed to run efficiently. Our technical recommendations reflect computers able to run effectively on Windows 10, but any version of Windows 7, 8, or 10 will be sufficient for students. See the software section below if you wish to upgrade your OS for FREE.

Can I run Windows on a Mac?

With an application like Boot Camp or Parallels, Macintosh computers can run the Windows operating system. Boot Camp is free with macOS, but you cannot run both Windows and macOS at the same time. Parallels allows both operating systems to run at once. Parallels is available for a fee.

To use one of these applications, you will also have to install a copy of Microsoft Windows on your Mac (see the software section below on how to get a FREE OS upgrade). While these applications do work, be aware that neither Microsoft nor Apple officially supports the running of Windows on a Mac computer. Check with your department before making this decision.

Does ECU recommend iPads, netbooks, smartphones or tablets?

Although popular, we recommend smartphones and tablets as a second computing device rather than a main computer.

Smartphones are widely used to check email and Blackboard assignments. We recommend both iPhones and Android-based devices but only offer limited support for any mobile device. Please note that users are generally pointed back to the service provider for most assistance.

Netbooks are small, lightweight laptops. They are also good as a second device (great for taking class notes and surfing the web), but they usually have limited processing power. The small screen size of the netbook is not as friendly when working on class assignments.

What software will I need?

Windows Operating System . Enrolled students are eligible to download the Windows operating system FREE OF CHARGE. Visit for details. This operating system is yours to keep even after you leave ECU. ECU supports Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10 and Mac OS X 108.8 or higher.

Microsoft Office . Your Office 365 subscription allows FIVE computer downloads of the latest Microsoft Office suite. Both Mac and PC versions available. This also includes mobile apps and web apps that work with your 1TB OneDrive cloud storage to create or edit documents online. After graduation, you ECU email address transitions to the alumni system, and you also get to keep the 1TB OneDrive cloud storage with the Word, Excel and PowerPoint web apps. However, the Office download installed on your laptop or desktop computer will no longer work and files will become read-only once you leave ECU.

Antivirus software . Symantec Endpoint antivirus is available FREE to enrolled ECU students. Visit the ECU Download Center to submit a request form.

Campus computer labs . Often, you may need a special program to complete classwork. ECU has campus computer labs with various software available. Printers are also available (see "Print Quota" below).

Virtual Computer Lab (VCL) . ECU maintains an online computer lab where students connect to a remote computer from anywhere through their internet connection. These remote computers are loaded with many specialty software needed for certain classes. This saves you from having to purchase the software. The VCL is available to students enrolled in the current semester only. Book a session reservation at

There may be additional software required by your instructors. Many software packages are available for purchase through ECU Dowdy Student Store at academic discount pricing.

How do I connect to the Internet on campus?

Wired Access . ECU residence halls have wired network access in every room. Computers need a standard Ethernet cable to connect. A computer must be running a currently supported operating system (Windows Vista/7/8/10 or Macintosh OS X 10.8 or higher).

Symantec Endpoint Protection antivirus program is available free to enrolled ECU students and is required for all Windows systems. Symantec is also recommended for Macs. Submit a download request through the ECU Download Center.

Wireless Access . Your computer needs a standard 802.11(b, g, n, or ac) wireless card to access wireless. ECU maintains two wireless networks:

The eduroam network service is available in residence halls, all buildings and some campus outdoor spaces as well as off campus wherever the service is available (NC State campus, for example). Each wireless device must onboard (connect) to the eduroam service. Begin the process at
The ecu-wifi network is used to onboard (connect) to the eduroam service as well as to connect internet-ready devices such as smart TVs and other multimedia equipment not supported by the eduroam network. Please be aware that devices like personal wireless routers are not permitted to connect to either network.

What's in the computer?

  • Processor. Intel Core processors efficiently run multiple applications simultaneously and work great with Windows 7/8/10. Best for laptops because they are fast and energy efficient, so your battery lasts longer.

  • RAM memory. The memory used to run applications and open files. RAM affects how fast a computer will open and close files or programs and other operations. Purchase the most you can afford.

  • Video card memory. Integrated video uses your computer's existing RAM to play video and render graphics, which can sometimes slow down other processes. A separate video card adds additional RAM dedicated to processing video and improves the performance of the computer, particularly if you run multimedia applications.

  • Wireless cards. Most areas of campus have wireless access. N is the current standard but AC type cards are now available. AC wireless is faster with¬† faster downloads if you connect to an AC wireless network.

  • CDRW/DVD/BD drives. There are several types of optional optical drives. Multi-burners are able to play and burn DVD, CD and Blu-Ray disks, Combo Drives play DVD, CD and Blu-Ray but may only be able to burn CDs and DVDs.

  • Hard Drive. Size and speed are a key consideration, with 5400 RPM as standard for laptops. 7200 rpm drives access data faster which makes the computer perform faster. Solid State Drives (SSD) provide a large increase in performance but are more expensive than a standard drive. Large hard drives are great for storing lots of data but often increase the system's price. An external hard drive is good to store and back up valuable data like music, video and photos. SSD drives are recommended whenever possible.

  • Battery life. Energy efficient components like processors and wireless cards extend the life of the battery. Over time batteries don't hold a charge as well, so having a long-life battery initially pays dividends later.
  • What do I need to know about printing?

    It is recommended that students have a personal scanner/copier/printer to print class assignments.

    However, enrolled students also receive a yearly $30 print allowance for use in computer labs and either library. The Pirate Print service allows a student to send a print job from a personal computers (on or off campus) to one of several printing kiosks on campus.

    Where can I find assistance?

    ECU's IT Help Desk is available during business and evening hours to provide phone assistance for common computing issues. Call 252.328.9866 | 800.340.7081.

    Pirate Techs Student Computing Support Center has two locations: Joyner Library 1101 and Health Sciences Campus Student Center Room 211. Services include software troubleshooting, virus/spyware removal, network troubleshooting, and is a full service repair center for Dell, Lenovo, and Apple computers covered under warranty.