Computer Recommendations



Duke Law School Strongly Recommends That Each JD Student Own a New or Recent Laptop or Notebook Computer running Windows or Mac OS. Duke Law's student financial aid budget for entering students includes an amount towards the cost of purchasing a new laptop or notebook. Please contact the Law School Financial Aid Office for details.

Academic Technologies recommends purchasing new computers through the special package deals (usually available mid-April) and finance plans at the Duke Technology Center (919-684-8956). Their student packages usually offer 3 or 4 years of warranty and accidental-damage coverage.

Recommended Specifications for New Computers 2014 - 2015

Updated April 11, 2014

Computers purchased now should meet the specifications in the table found at the bottom of this document. See also the "frequently asked questions" immediately below.

What version of Windows should I get?
What about Macintosh computers?
Why would I need a DVD drive?
What if I have a computer that does not meet the specifications or no computer at all?
Can I get financial assistance?
Where Should I Buy? What Brand Should I Buy?
What About Insurance?
Recommended Specifications for New Notebooks

What version of Windows should I get?

We advise against any "home" or standard version of Windows. The home or standard versions of Vista, and 7 (even home premium) as well as the plain version of Windows 8 and 8.1 are not fully compatible with an enterprise network, and may lack important encryption software. Tablets running Windows may also not be fully compatible with our network and software. We recommend that students get Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, or Windows 8.1 Pro. All software that we distribute is compatible with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 and Windows 8, so both 32-bit or 64-bit versions are fine; power users may find the 64-bit operating system a better fit. Note that it is possible, once you are here, to buy Windows 7 or 8.1 Pro at the Duke Computer Store for a low site-licensed price. However, we do not generally recommend buying a computer with a home version with the expectation of upgrading when you arrive here. Upgrades are certainly possible - and we can help with the process - but they require more patience and time than you may have at the start of the school year. Do not come to the law school with a computer with Windows XP! That operating system is no longer supported by Microsoft and is a security risk.

What about Macintosh computers?

Apple MacBook Air and MacBook Pro computers running Mac OS X Lion (10.7), Mountain Lion (10.8) and Mavericks (10.9) are fine for use in the law school; relying on an older computer with an older operating system can lead to problems and we do not recommend it. Mac OS version 10.5 is no longer supported at the law school. We recommend that you also run Windows, either in a dual boot configuration (using Apple Bootcamp) or using a Windows virtual machine such as VMWare Fusion (available for free from Duke's Office of Information Technology website). Note that some software in use at the law school will only run under a Windows environment.

The Electronic Bluebook software used in many courses for final exams is available for both Windows and Macintosh. EBB no longer supports Mac OS 10.5 or Windows XP.


Why would I need a DVD drive?

1. Some sections of the first year contracts course use The Contracts Experience DVD in lieu of a casebook. (However, this software is generally installed now in a different format by Academic Technologies staff.)
2. Some commercially available software is now distributed on DVD.
3. Sometimes we distribute videos on DVD-ROMs, and the law library's collection of law-related movies is on DVD.

What if I have a computer that does not meet the specifications, or no computer at all?

Academic Technologies staff provides a comprehensive level of service for computers meeting the specifications. While we do not perform hardware repair or replacement, we do help with many other problems, including removing viruses and spyware, reinstalling the operating system, and, if necessary, helping to back up data before you send a defective hard drive for replacement. Because computers not meeting the specifications often have out-of-date, nonstandard or inferior parts, and because Windows home edition does not support advanced networking features, we are unable to provide comprehensive support for computers that do not meet the specifications. We urge you to consider that by not purchasing an adequate computer you may be handicapping yourself for a very small amount of money relative to the cost of your education.

Currently 14 desktop computers are available for law students in law library carrels, and other computers are available for short-term use in other locations in the library and around the building. We have a small pool of laptops for loaning, but our loaners are not intended to cover long-term needs for any one individual.


Can I get financial assistance?

 Duke's student financial aid budget includes an amount towards the cost of purchasing a new computer, which should more than cover the cost of purchasing a portable computer meeting our recommended specifications. Please contact the Law School Financial Aid Office for details.

Where Should I Buy? What Brand Should I Buy?

Students purchasing new computers are eligible for special package deals and finance plans through the Duke Technology Center. Computers available under this program may include extended warranties that cover screen replacement and damage to plastic parts - and provide a loaner computer. For the most part, Dell, Lenovo or MacBook notebook computers listed on the Duke Advantage Program site meet our specifications. (If the Windows version is a "home" version, then you should allow time to update the operating system before the semester begins.) We recommend Dell laptops for Windows users.

We strongly recommend that you do not buy a Windows computer from a big-box store such as Best Buy. The models carried in these showrooms are not optimized for use in an enterprise environment such as ours. The Dell computers available from the Duke Technology Center, especially the Latitude line, are enterprise models and are more easily configured for and used in enterprise-computing environments than are the models typically available in big-box stores and some online websites. Warranties through consumer stores and websites may not cover your laptop throughout your career here, and in some cases getting repairs done can be time-consuming. You may also wish to review the annual reliability surveys of consumers published by PC Magazine.

 What About Insurance?

Even if you use your security cable religiously and never leave your computer unattended, you should carry financial protection in the event of loss. The law school, like other public facilities, does experience theft. Most homeowners and renters insurance policies cover computers as insured contents, subject to the policy deductible. Review your policy and if you believe your coverage is insufficient, you may wish to purchase a computer insurance policy from Safeware or other vendors.

Recommended Specifications for New Notebook Computers

Features Recommended Specification Comments
Processor Intel Core Duo or i core Processor, ~ 2.5 Ghz Dell, Lenovo and MacBook Pro computers feature this processor.
Memory (RAM) 4 GB If the model you prefer cannot be upgraded after purchase (such as the MacBook Air), consider getting 8GB.
Video RAM 256 MB Most video graphics solutions available today suffice.
Hard Drive 250 GB Buy a larger hard drive if you will be saving media (music or video) files. If buying a computer with a solid state hard drive, a 128 GB drive can suffice, given the cost of a larger drive; consider purchasing an external hard drive as well.
Display N/A Display size is a matter of personal preference. Some will want a smaller and lighter laptop, while others will want a bigger screen with more desktop space (higher native resolution). We advise looking at a number of laptops and screen resolutions before making up your mind. Since even small laptops are very powerful, you may want to consider a smaller laptop and then an external monitor and/or keyboard for use at home.
Network Interface Wired Ethernet 100 BaseT and WiFi 802.11n Wireless networking is available throughout the law school and across the Duke campus. We recommend that your laptop support 802.11n.
Operating System Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, Window 8 Professional, or Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8 or 10.9, with BootCamp or virtual machine software and Windows 7 or Windows 8. Please see details above.
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW drive Please see details above. We recommend a DVD+/-RW drive for writing to DVD discs as well, but a DVD / CD+/-RW drive (for writing to CD discs) would suffice.
Carrying Case Designed for portable computers It should have sufficient padding, keep the computer snug and offer room for the accessories you use every day.
Warranty 3-year warranty A 3-year warranty will provide coverage throughout your law school career. Computers available from the Duke Technology Center can be purchased with at least a 3-year warranty and may include accidental damage. We recommend coverage for accidental damage, but you may also wish to check the terms of your insurance coverage. Duke Computer Repair services Dell, Lenovo and Macintosh computers.
Security kit Providing cable and lock. Never leave your computer unattended in a public area, even when it is secured. Kensington and others manufacture cables that will hook the security port on your computer. You should have and use a cable; however, remember that a while a lock may deter casual thieves it will not prevent theft altogether.
Internet Access
You will need to arrange for an Internet Service Provider account for home access. We make no specific recommendations here. Typical options are: through your apartment building; through your cable TV provider; through a mobile network such as Clear; or through your landline phone provider.
Insurance Check the provisions of your homeowner's or renter's policy. If you have no policy (not recommended!) or the provisions are not adequate, consider a special policy from Safeware .
Back-up for your Data You should back up your user data at least weekly Hardware malfunctions and some viruses can cause a loss of data and in some cases corrupt your entire disc drive. Duke offers space on network servers for backing up your important content (notes, papers, etc.) and will soon be offering storage on You should also consider purchasing an external hard drive with back-up software to minimize your problems should your computer fail. Flash drives can be used to keep instant back-ups of crucial data. Online backup services such as Mozy are another possibility.
Anti-virus and Microsoft Office You can download for free anti-virus and Microsoft Office software for either Mac or Windows once you have a Duke NetID. Duke's Office of Information Technology and the Duke Technology Center offer other site-licensed and educationally priced software as well.

Please see OIT's website for more information:

Important: bring all your software discs, manuals and software license keys with you when you come to law school. We cannot help you install your software again without the discs and/or license keys.





Note: This page has content for the above groups.

students working on laptops

For further information, please feel free to contact:

Wayne Miller
Assistant Dean for Academic Technologies
(919) 613-7243

You may also wish to contact the help desk:
(919) 613-7072