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Laptop Recommendations for Undergraduate Students

The most frequent question we get from incoming undergraduate students is, “What type of computer/laptop should I purchase as a Cybersecurity student?”  

Some may think that being a Cybersecurity major must require an expensive, high-end computer. This is not the case. Instead, what is important is that students have a well-functioning laptop or desktop computer of their own. Generally speaking, a Windows-based computer is better for Cybersecurity students because the software we run is more accessible on Windows computers. However, we have plenty of students who are also Mac users; it’s just that Mac users face minor inconveniences with some of the labs. 

For performance, it’s beneficial that whatever laptop (or desktop) is purchased, get one with a decent processor and sufficient RAM/memory (>= 16 GB). This is especially valuable when running virtualization software. You don’t need a high-end processor in the Cybersecurity major, but it’s best to avoid one on the low-end or a cheap computer. Also, consider hard drive storage of at least 250 GB to help store virtual machines. We don’t make recommendations on specific brands or models.

In your first year, most Cybersecurity students will take two 100-level classes: CYB 150, which covers the fundamentals of the discipline and CYB 110, which covers the Linux operating system.  In these classes we’ll conduct labs where students benefit from bringing a personal laptop to class. During these labs, students install virtualization software, Linux virtual machines and security tools like Wireshark, Nmap and others. As students’ progress as sophomore and juniors, students effectively build their own cyber range on their very own laptop (and/or desktop) computer. For many labs, we also use the Anderson University Cyber Range in classes starting with CYB 230, Network Security.

In summary, we recommend that students have their own laptop computer and the following:

  • Microsoft Windows is generally preferred over Mac for Cybersecurity majors.
  • Expensive computers with high-end processors are not necessary, but avoid the low-end.
  • Get at least 16 GB of RAM/memory and 250 GB of storage on any computer.

If you have any questions about this topic or anything, feel free to contact Dr. Kenneth Knapp at kknapp@andersonuniversity.edu.