Computer Requirements

A letter is sent to incoming students at the end of summer detailing updated computer requirements. If you are anxious about what to expect here are last year's specs:

The computer will be an invaluable tool for you for the entirety of your career at Cal Poly. Because software in later years is more demanding, a more powerful computer will likely last longer (or for the duration of your education). Below are the minimum computer requirements that will satisfy first year software demands and allow you to continue with the machine in subsequent years. In previous years, students have regretted the decision not to meet these requirements, as they have had to purchase another machine to match the needs of software down the line.


• PC or MacBook Pro (Both can work. Some faculty believe that a PC is ultimately the better choice because some advanced software - which you will use after first year - is only available on Windows.)

• ITS at Cal Poly recommends a Dell

• If you choose a MacBook Pro, you will need to use Parallels to install Windows for certain software, as mentioned above.

• 15” screen size recommended
• 8 GB (recommended) or dedicated graphics card • 16 GB RAM (min.)
• 500 SSD GB hard drive (min.)
• i7 (9th gen or later) or AMD Processor

Other Hardware

• 2-button (min.) mouse with scrolling wheel
• USB Flash Drive (4 GB min.)
• External Hard Drive or cloud storage, (1 TB min.)
• You may also need an adapter depending on laptop ports


Note: the CAED tech support team has links to free and student discounted software on their website at

You do not need to have the software below installed before we start school—we can help you with that in the first week. However, you are welcome to get a head start and install the software, and even give it a try!

• Adobe Creative Cloud available here:

• Word Processing and Presentation (Microsoft Office or equivalent) - Office available here:

• Anti-virus software as required by the University, available here:

• Rhinoceros (Rhino) 7, available with a student discount at the Cal Poly Store:

Purchasing Rhino is required—the 30-day trial will only last...30 days.


Updated 05.01.23

Related Content