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School of Medicine Technology Services

SOMTech, Administrative and Academic Systems,
and Educational Technologies

SOMTech, Administrative and Academic Systems, and Educational Technologies

Computer requirements for medical students

Please note: This page lists purchasing recommendations for Medical Students only. For purchasing recommendations for faculty and staff, click here.

2017-18 laptop computer requirements for incoming UME students

VCU School of Medicine requires incoming medical students to own a laptop computer. Our goal is to provide an educational environment that promotes the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in technologically advanced clinical and research workplaces.

Students are required to bring a Windows-based laptop for ALL exams. Students may use an Apple laptop for day-to-day classwork, but MUST bring a Windows laptop for exams. Apple laptops are NOT allowed for exams in the School of Medicine due to incompatibility with certain required standardized exams (such as NBME.) Apple laptops running virtualized environments (such as Bootcamp, Parallels, VMWare, etc.) are NOT allowed for exam sessions.

Laptop computers must meet the VCU Student Computer Initiative (SCI) minimum requirements. In addition, School of Medicine student laptops are required to have digital video output and any necessary adapters to convert it to HDMI. This ensures a proper HDMI connection to the collaboration tables in the Learning Studios.

Students are expected to bring their laptop to class every day for use in classroom activities, self-paced learning materials, case studies, exams, quizzes, conferences, presentations and evaluations.

Students are expected to bring the peripherals necessary to use the laptop in the classroom and for exams, such as power supply, mouse, MiniDisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter, Thunderbolt-to-HDMI adapter, Ethernet adapter, etc.

May 17, 2017 – We have received questions from incoming students regarding the Windows-based laptop requirement for exams. This is a requirement for NEW students matriculating this summer (class of 2021) and is based on required standardized tests (such as NBME) being incompatible with the Apple operating system. Incoming students are free to use Apple laptops for day-to-day class sessions, but a Windows-based laptop is REQUIRED for ALL exams.

Susan DiGiovanni
Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education and Student Affairs

Minimum requirements

RAM 6GB minimum
CPU Intel i3 or greater/equivalent
Operating System

Windows 8 Pro or greater (no Home or RT editions) 64-bit
Windows 10 Pro or greater (no Home or Mobile editions) 64-bit

Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 g/n (or greater)
Ethernet port and/or adaptor
2 USB ports
13" screen
Video out Digital output
(HDMI or Mini DisplayPort)
*see Additional hardware requirements

Recommended

RAM 8GB or greater
CPU Intel i5 or greater/equivalent
Windows 8 Pro or greater (no Home or RT editions) 64-bit
Operating System Windows 10 Pro or greater (no Home or Mobile editions) 64-bit
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 g/n (or greater)
Ethernet port or adaptor
3+ USB 3.0 ports
15" screen
Video out Digital output
  • HDMI for Windows laptops
*see Additional hardware requirements

iPads, Android and other tablets, netbooks, Chromebooks, smart phones, eReaders and similar devices are not suitable replacements for a laptop computer. Windows tablets running Windows 8.1/10 PRO are suitable (Note: Windows 8.x RT Tablets are not suitable), though it is recommended you purchase a keyboard attachment.

If you have any questions please email somedtech-l@lists.vcu.edu.

Additional hardware requirements

1. Students are required to provide their own Ethernet cable (plus any necessary adapter) to connect to Ethernet ports during exam sessions.

2. Students are required to provide their own video adapters in order to attach to HDMI connections on the collaboration tables in the Learning Studios. For example, Mac laptop users will need to provide their own Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI or Thunderbolt-to-HDMI adapter.

3. We strongly suggest that your laptop have at least 250 GB of free space available on the internal hard drive in order to download and run some of the School of Medicine eCurriculum applications. Also, we suggest a laptop with a 15” screen in order to better view diagrams and charts during exams.

See the FAQ for more details.

Microsoft Software

VCU students may download Microsoft Windows and Office for both PCs and Macs at no cost as part of their Student Technology Fee. Click here for more information and to download the software.

RamTech

Laptops obtained through VCU's RamTech program are academically priced, meet VCU and School of Medicine laptop requirements and include on-campus warranty service with next business day turn-around and free loaners in the event of a delayed repair. Find out more here.

Frequently asked questions

Why can't I get a Mac?

Many of the tests required by third party accreditation groups require Windows for the testing environment. While our own testing environment is not limited in this fashion, we have decided to standardize on one platform in order to maximize stability and security with the exam system. While you are allowed to have a Mac for day-to-day classroom work, we require that you use a Windows laptop for exams.

How much memory should I get with my computer?

We require a minimum of 6GB of memory (RAM). See the SCI computer requirements Opens a new window page. Depending on the applications you run on your computer, more memory may be needed and 8GB (or more) is recommended.

I have a laptop I used in undergrad. Can I use it here, or do I need to buy a new one?

  • Most current laptops bought within the last two years satisfy the School of Medicine’s laptop requirements.
  • Please verify that your computer meets our minimum computer requirements.
  • Apple laptops can be used for day-to-day classwork, but you MUST bring a Windows-based laptop for exams.

Why is an Ethernet port important?

Students will be using their laptops to take tests, quizzes, and exams. Testing sessions will not be available via Wi-Fi and students will be required to use hardwired Ethernet ports to connect to the data network. Some students, particularly Mac users, may want a USB-to-Ethernet or Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter for day-to day classwork.

How long will this laptop last?

With normal usage — roughly six hours per day — and under a normal humidity, air quality and temperature, a laptop will typically last about three to four years, depending on the brand and quality. However, the life of a laptop or its components may be shortened if there is excessive usage or the laptop is mistreated.

Should I get the extended warranty?

It is always recommended to get at least three years of factory or vendor warranty.

Do I need the accidental damage plan?

It is not required but may be useful depending on how you plan to use your computer. Bringing it to campus every day in a backpack will expose it to greater risk than using it at home..

What is a good laptop brand?

There are many quality laptop brands available, including Dell, HP, Toshiba, Sony, Apple and Lenovo. Consideration should really be placed on the processing capabilities, storage capacity, battery life, dimensions, and how well the combination of those features meets your needs. Also, while Apple laptops may be used for day-to-day classwork, you are required to bring a Windows-based laptop for exams.

How can I get Microsoft Office for free?

If your laptop does not come with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, or PowerPoint) installed, VCU students may download Microsoft Windows and Office for both PCs and Macs at no cost as part of their Student Technology Fee. Click here for more information and to download the software.

How do I protect my new computer from viruses and malware?

VCU does not provide support for personal use antivirus solutions. See here for more information.

Can I use my iPad or other tablet device?

While iPads, other tablet devices and smartphones can be used for many applications and to access the Internet, these devices are not suitable for a student’s primary computer and do not replace the laptop requirement.

What happens if my laptop is lost or stolen?

  • In conjunction with the VCU Student Computer Initiative, all VCU students are encouraged to register their computer system with the VCU Police Department and indelibly and clearly mark their equipment with a personally identifiable code to prevent theft. See here for more details.
  • Students or their parents may wish to consider insurance coverage for the computer. This can be incorporated as a rider on a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
  • Always report a lost or stolen device to the VCU Police (804-828-1234). If lost on campus, check with the Curriculum Office and VCU Campus Security.