Computer Specifications

Computing is a core part of USF’s engineering program. Engineers need to be able to solve problems, visualize and analyze data, and interact with other devices in a wide variety of work spaces, in teams and individually. As a result, we require our students to have a laptop computer. This is also an excellent opportunity for you to learn to manage and maintain one of the most important tools in your engineering career.

Listed below are suggested specifications for hardware and software. For students with financial hardship who are unable to afford a laptop, we have a limited number of laptop computers available as loaners on a per-semester basis. If you are unable to afford a laptop, please email so that we may plan accordingly.


In the first two years of the program, all software is platform-independent. In the last two years of the program, depending on your concentration, you may encounter programs that require Windows. Please contact us for instructions for running Windows on a Mac platform, as it will involve partitioning your computer's hard drive into two operating systems. If you are not a person who enjoys tinkering with your computer setup, we would recommend a Windows solution.

If you are bringing a current computer, anything that meets the specs below will be sufficient for at least the first two years of the program. If you are purchasing a new computer to last through college, we would recommend purchasing a PC, so as to ensure that you will be able to use any Windows-specific software you encounter in your upper-division courses.

Hardware requirements

We recommend:

  • (Windows) Dell Precision 3541 or 5540.
  • (Mac) MacBook Pro.
  • 16 GB RAM minimum
  • Minimum 512 GB SSD HD

You should also have a USB thumb drive (and associated dongle, if using a Mac) for transferring data between lab and personal computers. A dongle/adapter may be necessary if your laptop does not have USB 2.0 or 3.0 ports. Many newer machines just use USB-c only, which lets them be lighter and thinner, and then everything (power, displays, peripherals) can use the same interface. If you want to be able to interface with a device that uses the older USB interface (or HDMI or VGA to connect to projectors and so on) you will need an adapter.

Computing in the Curriculum

In the first two years of the program, you will be using Python and Arduino for your programming needs, along with presentation tools such as the Microsoft office suite (or cloud-based equivalents, such as the Google Suite) to prepare documents and presentations. All of the tools used in the first two years are freely available and cross-platform. Your instructors will provide instructions about how to install and configure this software in the appropriate classes. Your USF email is a Google account so you will have cloud-based storage and the whole Google suite.

In the third and fourth years of the curriculum, you will be exposed to specialized software, such as AutoCAD and Revit, depending on your concentration area. We make every effort to use software that is either open-source and free of cost, or has a free student license available.