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 student package deals 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 2015 - 2016

Updated July 2, 2015 (recent edits in italics and cross-out)

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 is a TPM chip and do I need one?
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 8.1, 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 Pro 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 is a TPM chip and do I need one?

TPM stands for "Trusted Platform Module." If you are buying a Windows computer, it is essential that you get a model with a TPM chip. If you do not, you will not be able to encrypt your drive according to Duke Law standards and you will not be able to use your laptop to its fullest in situations such as a clinic course. When purchasing your laptop, be sure to check the technical specifications for TPM. You will probably find that this means you should shop for a more business-oriented laptop than a consumer model. (Note: Macintosh computers do not have TPM chips but solve the security issue with encryption in a different way.)

What about Macintosh computers?

Apple MacBook Air and MacBook Pro computers running Mac OS X Lion (10.7) (this operating system is no longer receiving regular updates), Mountain Lion (10.8), Mavericks (10.9) and Yosemite (10.10) 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. Because Apple is not issuing security updates for older versions (10.6.8 and below), we do not support any OS version older than 10.7. We recommend that you also have the ability to 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).

The Electronic Bluebook (EBB) software used in many courses for final exams is available for both Windows and Macintosh.


Why would I need a DVD drive?

1. Some commercially available software is now distributed on DVD.
2. 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 high level of service for computers meeting the specifications. While we do not perform hardware repair or replacement, we can assist with many other problems, including removing viruses and spyware, reinstalling the operating system, and, if necessary, providing assistance with and recommendations for backing up your data before you send a defective hard drive for replacement. Because computers not meeting the specifications often have out-of-date, non-standard or inferior parts, and because out-of-date operating systems often do not have features needed to function in our environment, we are unable to provide comprehensive support for computers not meeting our specifications. Please consider that a computer not meeting minimum specifications may have a negative impact on your education disproportionate to the cost of a new computer.

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 should provide funds to cover the cost of purchasing a new computer. 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 may include a loaner computer while yours is being repaired. For the most part, Dell, Lenovo or MacBook notebook computers made available in student packages meet our specifications. (If the Windows version is a "non-pro" version, then you should allow time to update the operating system before the semester begins.) We recommend Dell laptops for Windows users. Note that some Lenovo models do not contain TPM chips.

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, and likely do not have TPM chips. 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. 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 Minimum Recommended Specifications Comments
Processor Intel Core Duo or i core Processor, ~ 2.5 Ghz Dell, Lenovo and MacBook Pro computers feature this processor.
TPM Chip Required for Windows computers Ask a sales associate or check the technical specifications. It is also possible to check the computer's BIOS for this feature (which is sometimes turned off in the BIOS and otherwise invisible to the system).
Memory (RAM) 4 GB You may want to consider 8GB. If the model you prefer cannot be upgraded after purchase (such as the MacBook Air), be sure to get 8GB.
Video RAM -- Most video graphics solutions available today suffice.
Hard Drive 250 GB We recommend getting a Solid State Drive (SSD), which is much faster than a traditional hard drive. Hybrid drives have some of the speed benefit of an SSD and the size of traditional hard drives, and may be a reasonable compromise if you store large files such as video.
Display Personal choice Display size is a matter of personal preference. Some will want a smaller and lighter laptop, while others will want a bigger screen with a 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. Some displays, such as Apple's Retina Display, have an extremely high resolution and pixel density, and you may find that combination advantageous, even for reading text.
Network Interface WiFi 802.11n and Wired Ethernet 100 BaseT Wireless networking is available throughout the law school and across the Duke campus. We recommend that your laptop support 802.11n. Many classrooms and other locations also have wired ethernet ports that can provide a better network experience, such as when you are streaming video or web conferencing.
Operating System Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, Window 8.1 Professional, or Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8, 10.9 and 10.10, with BootCamp or virtual machine software and Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Please see details above. Note we do not recommend moving to 10.11 El Capitan (unless, of course, it is the native operating system when you buy your computer). Our exam software may NOT be updated for 10.11 by the time of exams and if there are incompatibilities you may not be able to use your laptop to take the exam.
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 or Backpack Designed to carry a laptop 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.
Internet Access
You will need to arrange for an Internet Service Provider account for home access Typical options are: through your apartment building; through your cable TV provider; through a mobile network; or through your landline phone provider.
Insurance Check the provisions of your homeowner's or renter's policy If you have no policy 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 disk drive. Duke offers space on network servers for backing up your important content (notes, papers, etc.) as well as through cloud storage solutions through Box and Microsoft's OneDrive. You may also want to consider an external hard drive with back-up software (or use the built-in backup software of your operating system) to minimize your problems should your computer fail, but don't rely solely on a back-up system that can be damaged or stolen along with your computer. Flash drives can be used to keep instant back-ups of crucial data. Online backup services such as Mozy are another possibility, though typically unnecessary.
Anti-virus and Microsoft Office You can download for free anti-virus software 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