Buying a Computer for Medical School

All students in the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia are required to own a laptop computer. If you plan on using your present computer,  make sure it meets the requirements in the Is my Current Computer Adequate? section below. If you need to buy a new computer, we recommend that you consider one of the configurations described in the What Computer Should I Buy? section. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us at

Is My Current Computer Adequate?

Generally computers need to be replaced every three to four years. The configuration below is a bare minimum that would be usable for a year or two.

Bare Minimum Equipment: Intel Core Duo processor 1.4 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 250 GB hard drive, 1024×768 resolution or higher, 12″ display, 802.11 WiFi.

Operating System: Mac OSX 11 (Big Sur) or above. Microsoft Windows 10 Home or Pro (64-bit, Version/Build 20H2).

Either Windows-compatible or Apple Macintosh computers are equally appropriate for use at the School of Medicine. Netbooks, Chromebooks, and laptops running only the Linux operating system do not meet our minimum requirements.

The specifications above are the minimums required to take web based exams within our curriculum and exams in the clerkships administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).

What Computer Should I Buy?

Recommended Hardware Configurations

Some students value portability, while others value the flexibility of a larger screen, hard drive, and keyboard.

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch; M1 or Intel CPU; 8GB RAM; 256GB Flash storage. Prices from $1000.

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, M1 or Intel CPU; 8GB RAM; 256GB Flash storage. Prices from $1300.

Dell Latitude 5420, Intel Core i5 CPU; 16GB RAM; 14” FHD Display, 256GB Flash storage. Prices from $1000.

HP Elitebook Folio 1040, i5 CPU; 8GB RAM; 256GB Flash storage. Prices from $1700.

Cavalier Computers has defined several laptop configurations that include on-site support and accidental damage coverage here – School of Medicine computer package options


We recommend a 1TB or greater external drive. Backups of your key documents, data, and operating system are critical in case of laptop failure or loss.

A large external display (19″ or larger) for home can be helpful when viewing virtual slides as well as opening multiple documents simultaneously.

Some students find that having a printer at home is helpful.

What about a Mobile Device or Tablet?

Optional if you have a smart phone. During the 3rd year of medical school, many of our students prefer a small tablet (typically an iPad mini) to carrying around their laptop. Apple iOS devices are the most popular with our medical students; however, many students have had success with Android phones and some have been successful with Android tablets.

Which software should I buy?

Your initial software expense should be minimal. For example, we require that all students install anti-virus/malware software and no-cost options exist for both the Windows and Mac platforms.

You will need office software to view the Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Adobe PDF files distributed by faculty. There are options: (1) Acquire Microsoft Office from Cavalier Computers – free for one Windows or Mac computer; (2) Google Docs is a free option; (3) Pages/Numbers/Keynote on the Mac platform comes bundled with Mac computers.

For note-taking students will often use Microsoft OneNote (typically free for Windows and Mac) or a free PDF viewer and annotation tool like PDF XChange Viewer (Win) or Preview (Mac).

The discounted Microsoft Office and other free or heavily discounted software titles are available to UVA students at ITS’s Software Central Download site.

Where should I buy computer hardware and software?

There are many places to get good deals on computer equipment and software including direct from the manufacturers, online retailers, and local retail outlets. Cavalier Computers, a division of the University of Virginia Bookstore, offers educational discounts that meet or beat many prices available elsewhere. Cavalier Computers is located on the University grounds and offers the added convenience of packages designed specifically for medical students, plus local service and accidental damage coverage. You can contact Cavalier Computers at (800) 759-4667, option 2, or visit their site at to get information on their packages and order on-line.