Your steps for preparation:

When considering bringing a computer, please work through the following checklist.  More information on each item is found below on this page.

Read "Do I need to bring a computer to campus?" (immediately below this check list)

Review the minimum recommended specifications for the computer you bring to campus

If you're going to buy a computer:

Decide on a laptop or desktop computer

Decide on Mac or Windows (and how about a Chromebook?)

Review our suggestions for where to get a good deal on a computer

Decide on your backup strategy, so you don't lose your work.

Technology strongly recommended in addition to your computer:

▢ Ethernet cable and adapter if you don't own them (see Wi-fi and Network Considerations below)

Headset (or earphones) with microphone if you don't own one

Webcam if your computer doesn't have one built-in

Personal printer (optional)

Other devices... (Gaming, entertainment smart appliances, routers, etc... all optional)


What software do I need?

Download Microsoft Office 365, free! (through Whitman's agreement)

Update your web browser (Chrome, Firefox) to the latest version

Questions? Need help?

Do I need to bring a computer to campus?

Whitman highly recommends that you have a computer of your own for your education.  Having your own computer is NOT a requirement however. You may find that your needs are met by computers available for general use on the Whitman campus (in general use computer labs and in Penrose library, see more details below).  As has been the case during the Covid19 pandemic, there may very likely be cases where having a computer (possibly substituted by a tablet or smartphone) may become critical.  In such cases, if you do not have access to a computer, please contact the Dean of Student's office for assistance.

If I don't bring a computer, are there ones for me to use? 

Yes!  Students have access to computers in the general computing labs in Maxey Hall, Reid Campus Center, and Penrose Library. These facilities house Windows PCs, Macs, black & white Laserjet printers, color printer (library only), scanners, and even large-format color plotter printing (available in the Maxey and Science Computer Labs by appointment). Laptops are also available for checkout and use within the Library, offered on a first come first served basis for a four-hour checkout period (Windows, Mac, & Chromebook). The Multimedia Development lab in Hunter Conservatory houses Macs with multimedia software (Adobe apps, Apple apps), image scanning, and more. Several academic departments, including art, music, math, geology, and physics provide specialized computer facilities for their students as well.


We are living through the Coronavirus pandemic.  Many of the facilities listed above may either have limited availability or be altogether closed.  For this reason, if you need a computer to do your schoolwork and you don't have one, please contact the Bridget Jacobson (, 509-527-5158) in the Dean of Students office for assistance.

What if I don't bring other things listed on this web page that are "recommended"?

All of the items listed below (computers, headphones, webcams, etc) are available online and can be shipped to you here at Whitman. If you do not have these items, are unable to acquire them, and need assistance, please contact the Bridget Jacobson (, 509-527-5158) in the Dean of Students office.

Minimum recommended specifications for your computer

As long as the computer is able to run at least Windows 10 or Mac OS 10.15, it should be okay. Be sure your computer is up to date with all security patches and running the latest version of the operating system.  Though we don't officially support it, most modern Linux distributions should be fairly compatible with our systems, and will run quite well on older computers.  Further:

Keep in mind that older computer may not continue to last more than a year or two. And even if it is able to run the necessary software now, that may cease to be the case in a year or two.

If you're going to buy a computer...

Deciding on a laptop or a desktop computer

It really depends on your personal work style and preferences.

Students say they find a laptop easier to bring home during term breaks, summers, and off campus study. They also appreciate the ability to take their laptop to the library or other locations to work.  Laptop portability is a major factor in the selection process, make sure that the weight and dimensions will work for both you and any accessories you might have already purchased or are in the process of purchasing.

Many major manufacturers, such as Dell or Apple, offer educational discounts to students (more info below). Purchasing an extended warranty is advisable and bringing any warranty information and parts/cables that came with your computer to campus is recommended in case service work is needed.

Deciding on Mac or Windows (and how about Chromebooks?)

Mac or Windows... this is entirely your preference.  Both platforms are fully supported by Whitman and have full access to the college’s resources, including printers and networks.  We estimate that student computers are split about 60/40 (Mac/Windows).  The decision comes down to personal preference, so research which will best suit your needs.  If there are particular Major areas of study you are interested in at Whitman, you may wish to consult with those departments to see if they have any advice in this matter, but this is entirely optional.  No Major at Whitman will require you to own a particular type of computer.

A word about Chromebooks:  These wonderful, low cost computers will work in many cases at Whitman, but not all.  If you bring one of these, be prepared to encounter difficulties in properly formatting documents for class assignments.  You will also not be able to install software used in your classes (often free of charge) because Chromebooks will not allow software that runs outside of the Chrome web browser to be installed on the computer.

Where can I get a good deal on a computer?

Whitman does not sell computers on campus, but you can receive educational discounts from many major manufacturers. As a starting point for looking for a good deal, we offer you information here on Apple and Dell educational sites:

Program details: 

Dell’s Member Benefits:

Deciding on a backup strategy

Before you  arrive on-campus, put together a backup plan. Options include: an external hard drive and online services like Google Drive, Office 365, or Box. There are few things worse than losing years worth of data when your computer's main drive misbehaves.

Other technology we recommend

Wi-fi and network considerations

Whitman's wi-fi network is available throughout the campus  You can connect to the wireless Internet when you are working in the library, the campus center, Ankeny field, or any academic buildings, and more.  (Technical note: Whitman's wireless network broadcasts a  Wireless-B (802.11b) signal which any Wireless-G (802.11g), Wireless-N (802.11n)  or higher card can receive. Especially for Windows computers, it's worth confirming before buying that the computer's wifi capabilities support these B, G, or N or higher protocols.)


It's always possible to encounter wi-fi interruptions in particular places/occasions.  If this happens, it can be inconvenient or intrusive to your learning.  Technology Services is doing everything it possibly can to ensure these interruptions to wi-fi don't happen, but just in case, we recommend you bring an ethernet cable (and an ethernet adapter if necessary) so you can use our wired network. (See "How much of the campus is wired?" below.)

To be prepared for plugging in to the Whitman wired network, we recommend you bring:

How much of the campus is wired?

Almost everywhere has wired network capabilities, including residence hall rooms.  Just look for the plug in the wall.

When in a residence hall or campus house, we strongly recommend plugging into the wired network. A wired connection will be faster, more secure, more stable, and more robust than a wireless connection. It will also help keep the load on our wireless network down, which helps balance the network's overall performance.

Headset (or earphones) with a microphone

Your classwork may necessitate connecting to certain interactive online resources/events-- this is especially true during the Coronavirus pandemic.  Any headset with a microphone made to be used with a computer will work, though you may wish to consider headsets that are "over the ear" rather than "ear buds" due to their comfort and increased ability to block out surrounding sound.  If you own earphones for a smartphone, these may in some instances work with your computer.  Try them out!

Webcam (if your computer doesn't have one built-in)

Your classwork may necessitate connecting to certain interactive online resources/events-- this is especially true during the Coronavirus pandemic.  Many, but not all, computers have built-in webcams.  If your computer doesn't have one, we recommend purchasing any webcam made for plugging in to a computer.  Do make sure that before purchasing a webcam you find out what kind of plug it has-- the most common one is USB.  Make sure your computer has a USB port!  If you do not, determine the name of the port that you do have (a prevalent example is USB-C) then google that port name plus the word "adapter."  If the results are confusing, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Technology Services for assistance.

Personal printer?

Whitman has printers available for your use in a wide variety of locations. (Here's how to connect to those printers.)  Bringing a small personal inkjet printer for your room is entirely optional.  It needs to be connected to your computer via USB, and not wireless, as wireless printers cannot be connected to our network.


We are living through the Coronavirus pandemic.  Campus printers and the facilities that house them may either have limited availability or be altogether closed.  At the time of this writing, we are continuing to explore and develop as many capacities for student printing as possible.  Keeping this in mind, you may wish to bring a small printer with you to Whitman.  Rest assured that even without your own printer, there will be printing open to you at Whitman, even during this pandemic.

About other devices:  Apple TV, Chromecast, Smart TVs, wi-fi routers, Gaming Consoles


What software will I need?

Microsoft Office and a web browser or two should be sufficient for the vast majority of your activities at Whitman.  Beyond the basics, most specialized software that would be required by students depends heavily on specific classes. Anything that cannot be obtained for free will be available in one or more computer lab around campus. In general, the only software students need is an "office/productivity suite" and a modern web browser.

Mircosoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc), Open Office, Google apps:  free!

Microsoft Office is installed on most Whitman-owned computers, including both Windows and Mac computers found in our computer labs.

In addition, for current faculty, staff, and students Whitman now offers Office 365 for computers and mobile devices.  The Office 365 licensing allows for up to 5 downloads to install the current version of Office for personal computers (both Mac and Windows) and also up to 5 mobile devices (Office apps are available for iPhone/iPad, Android Phone/Android tablet, and Windows phone/Windows tablet.)  Also included is unlimited space on Microsoft's cloud storage OneDrive.

Note:  Cloud storage access to OneDrive is only available with a current Whitman account.  Access will end when accounts are closed. Individuals are responsible for transferring or saving documents to their personal devices prior to termination of their Whitman account. 

To access Microsoft Office 365:

Some students also make use of the free and open-source suite and Google Suite, which comes free with your Whitman email (Whitmail).

Update your web browser, and which browser to use

Various web browsers are available for your computer.  Short and suite:  stick with with Firefox or Chrome.  Other browsers like Internet Explorer, Edge, Safari may work, but also have certain known trouble issues-- so don't use them unless you must.

Also, make sure you frequently update your web browsers (and you computer).  Doing this will ensure functionality and also help keep your computer and privacy safer online.  if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Technology Services for assistance.

If you have any questions about technology, or need help:

Please do not hesitate to contact Technology Services for assistance.  We are here to help!