Minimum Recommended System Configurations

September 2017

Summary: This document is directed at providing guidance for systems suitability for faculty and staff university work. It aids departmental and workgroup computing support staff when recommending the purchase of faculty and staff laptop, desktop, and server computers.

Windows 7’s end-of life is January 14, 2020. Start migrating to Windows 10 soon.

Objectives:

  1. take full advantage of the campus computing and network environment
  2. improve interoperability among computing platforms
  3. work with campus resources from off campus when possible
  4. encourage hardware acquisitions which remain usable for at least four year life cycles.

Note: Minimum for our purposes does not mean marginal. The specifications listed below are for computers that will be quite adequate for most users for at least four years.

  • These are general purpose configurations. Research activities often require specialized configurations.
  • We make recommendations which represent the minimum configuration which meets the above objectives, but recognize that in some departments other solutions better meet local needs.
  • We recommend Windows 10 or 8.1 Professional or Windows 7 Professional [9] for university use. “Home” versions are not recommended for use on University equipment. 
  • Some software designed for Windows XP needs upgrading to function under newer versions of Windows. Check with your local computing support office for recommendations. Some older hardware and software may have to be replaced in order to work with current versions of Windows. Most systems less than three years old can run Windows 10.
  • Some departments are utilizing thin clients aka virtualized systems. Check with your Computing Support Coordinator.

Laptop/Notebook computer considerations:

  1. Transfer of information:
    transferring information between your Laptop/Notebook and your UCI networked environment can be as easy as buying a USB flash drive (aka thumb drive, pen drive), or it may require the set-up of the laptop as networked. Preparing your laptop for wireless networking is strongly recommended.
  2. Expandability:
    Laptop/Notebooks should be expandable – both memory (RAM) and device attachment (slots/ports). Operating systems, applications and external devices tend to demand ever-increasing system resources, so expandability is important to ensure that they remain usable during a three-year life cycle. Consider the number of USB2 and USB3 ports available, as well as the video display out port. You may need to buy an adapter to connect to the projector(s) you use most frequently.
  3. Desktop docking and display:
    Sometimes it might be best to purchase a mobile workstation with desktop docking ability. In this case, an inexpensive display might be suitable for the mobile workstation while a large, full-color screen and dock stay in the office. Alternatively, a mini-dock which provides only a subset of additional interface ports may be enough. OIT has some experience with these options and are available to offer advice.

We try to keep this document up to date, but prices and capabilities change rapidly.
A desktop PC workstation around $700 (including monitor) will usually meet the goal of remaining fully usable over a four-year life cycle

Hardware Recommendations

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System Class
[1]
Windows Desktop [9]
Windows Notebook[9]
Mac Desktop
Mac Notebook
Servers
CPU
Core i3, i5, i7[3]
Core i3, i5, i7[3]
Core i5, i7[3]
Core i5, i7
[3], [8]
Server requirements vary greatly, depending on:

  • application
  • # of users
  • expected lifetime of server
  • uptime requirements
  • future applications

Because servers are often expected to serve a large number of clients for several years, expandability is often a key requirement.

Check with your software vendor about recommended system configurations, and consult with other users with similar needs before purchasing servers.

Also consider storage space (rackmount), power supply/UPS, RAID configuration.

Memory[4] [4a, b]
8+ GB
8+ GB
8+ GB
8+ GB
Disk [5]
120 GB or more
120 GB or more
120 GB or more
120 GB or more
Optical
DVD±RW – some lightweight laptops & tablets do not have an optical drive
Monitor[6]
19″ LCD or larger
[8]
19″ LCD or larger
[8]
Network[7]
10/100/1000 BaseT
10/100/1000 BaseT and wireless ethernet (802.11b/g/n)
10/100/1000 BaseT
10/100/1000 BaseT and wireless ethernet (802.11b/g/n)
Backup
Purchase an external hard drive, or use institutionally available backup over the network
Graphics processor
Dual-monitor support is increasingly desirable.
Ports
All desktops and laptops should have at least two USB 2.0 ports easily accessible. Consider USB 3.0 ports, which are backward compatible. Tablets may have only one USB port; consider an external USB hub.
[1] Several system manufacturers offer all-in-one configurations. These configurations may be desirable for situations in which desk/office space is at a premium, or for energy savings.

[2] New Intel processor designs also include a Processor Number, which indicates processor features other than clock speed. Not all processors with a given designation are created equal! See http://www.intel.com/products/processor%5Fnumber/

[3] “Core” refers to the newer lines of Intel CPU chips. As of this writing Core i5 and i7 CPUs are mainstream. Intel CPUs have varying capabilities regarding multimedia and/or power consumption. Read more about Intel’s CPU line.

[4] Pay particular attention to that maximum configurable amount of RAM and the slot configuration. Avoid configurations where increasing RAM requires discarding existing modules. If budget is a concern, consider purchasing systems less RAM and buying additional memory from a 3rd-party manufacturer.

[4a] Some models use system RAM as shared video RAM to reduce cost or weight. If you have a shared VRAM configuration, extra RAM is recommended.

[4b] As 64-bit operating systems are now common, 8 Gb of RAM is the recommended base level. Ensure that your new pc can support at least 6 or 8 Gb of RAM for maximum upgradeability over the expected life of the system.

[5] Hard disk upgrades are often reasonably priced. Some users may require more disk space. It is not unusual to need 500 Gb or more, especially if you store many graphics files. USB flash drives are usually used to for transfer of files in lieu of floppies… In 2016, 500 Gb disk drives are a typical “starter” size.. Ultra-portable laptops and tablets may have solid state drives with capacity of only  64 Gb.  This may be acceptable if you utilize cloud storage for your files. Analyze your needs before purchasing.

[6] For laptops, suitable screen sizes often depend on how the computer will be used. Monitors should be capable of 1024×768 (XGA) resolution or better . Consider a touch screen if you will use Windows 10.

[7] Laptops should have, a wireless network card, a network card and a modem. Network cards should be 10BaseT / 100BaseT / 1000BaseT auto-configuring Ethernet. Many current wireless cards support the 802.11n standard as well.

[8] Laptops serve a variety of needs. For example an “ultra mobile” laptop or tablet may have a 12″ screen, and a 128Gb hard drive. A “desktop replacement” is likely to have a 15 or 17″ screen, a 360Gb drive, and as much RAM as a desktop system. Consider the user’s needs.

[9] Recommended Windows Editions

Professional Education Enterprise Ultimate Home 10S
Windows 10 yes yes yes n/a no no
Windows 8.1 yes, but deprecated n/a yes, but deprecated n/a no n/a
Windows 7 yes, but deprecated n/a yes, but deprecated yes no n/a

Windows 7’s end-of-life is 1-14-2020.

Windows Education and Enterprise editions are available only to departments enrolled in the UC-MCCA leasing program or purchasers of Software Assurance.


Software Recommendations

Operating System

  • Windows: See note [9] above. Key issues to consider: 1) Older (often 16-bit) software may require the 32-bit O/S. 2) Newer software versions being released now and in the future may require a 64-bit O/S.
  • Mac: Mac OS X 10.11 – 10.13  (El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra)
  • Linux: RedHat Enterprise Linux 6 – 7,  CentOS 6 – 7. The latest version is preferred.
  • For all operating systems, you should regularly apply the most recent security patches.

Productivity Software

  • Win/Mac: Microsoft’s Office suite – Office 2016 (Windows/Mac), Office 2013 (Windows)
    Note: Word Perfect is an acceptable alternative within some departments, but Microsoft Word is the preferred document format for sharing documents between departments. Some units have reported positive experiences with the OpenOffice.org suite.

E-mail

  • All: UCI Gmail, Office 365 Exchange Online, Webmail,
  • Windows:  Microsoft Outlook 2016, 2013, Thunderbird,
    Macintosh: Mail (included with O/S), Outlook 2016, Thunderbird,
  • Many departments utilize centralized Email; please check with your Computer Support Coordinator

Internet Tools

  • Win/Mac:
  • Browsers: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Edge (all with the current version al security patches)
  • Supported Web Browsers 
  • Terminal emulation: puTTY, SecureCRT SSH Tectia, dataComet
  • File Transfers: WinSCP, dataComet (Mac), sftp (bundled with Linux). The use of standard, unencrypted FTP is discouraged for security reasons.

File Exchange Format

  • Text: ASCII, MS-Word (.doc/.docx) , RTF
  • Graphics: TIFF, GIF, JPEG, PNG image formats
  • Video: MPEG, QuickTime
  • Mail: MIME
  • Archives: BinHex, Stuffit (Mac); ZIP, Auto-extract (PC)

Products approaching end-of-life:

Acrobat XI October, 2017
Office 2007 April, 2017
Office 2010 October, 2020
Office 2011 (Mac) October, 2017
Windows Vista April, 2017
Windows 7 January, 2020
RHEL 6 2020
CenOS 6 2020

About this document

This document was prepared by the Office of Information Technology in coordination with UCI Computing Support Coordinators (CSCs)