The Catholic University of America

While a laptop computer is not required to attend the Columbus School of Law, many students find owning one to be beneficial to their legal studies. Computer Services has compiled the information below to assist students with the purchase of their system.

Quick Links

Minimum Specs
Where to Purchase
Wireless Network
Financial Aid

Minimum Recommended Specs

In general, if you are buying a new laptop, you don't have to worry about meeting the minimum recommendations.  Any new laptop will be sufficient for your school work, with one caveat about netbooks (the really small, really cheap laptops). Read more about netbooks here.


  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66ghz
  • Memory: 3+ GB DDR2 SDRAM
  • Hard Drive: 80 GB 5400rpm
  • Display: xx.x" Wide Screen XGA - The smaller the screen the lighter the laptop. Easier to carry.
  • Networking: Integrated Wireless 802.11G Card
  • Optical Drive: 24x CDRW/DVD combo drive
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7
  • Productivity Software: Microsoft Office 2010 Student Edition
  • Warranty: at least 3yr Onsite with Accidental Damage Protection (if available)
  • Note: All versions of Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) and Office (2003, 2007, 2010) are be compatible with the law school network and programs.


  • Model: 13" MacBook
  • Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • Memory: 2 GB DDR3
  • Hard Drive: 250GB 
  • Optical Drive: 8x double-layer SuperDrive 
  • Networking: Airport Extreme Card
  • Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
  • Productivity Software: Microsoft Office 2011 Student Edition 
  • Warranty: 3-yr AppleCare Protection Plan


Tablet computers such as Apple’s iPad are very convenient for portability and ease of use.  Keep in mind, however, that you will not be able to take your exams on a tablet, since they cannot install Securexam.


Where to Purchase

There are many avenues in which to purchase your laptop and there is no particular "best" method to do so. When you look to purchase your laptop, keep in mind that many stores offer discounts in the summer months to attract students. Most retailers have the prices of their laptops listed on their Web sites to assist you when shopping around for the best price. CUA has negotiated contracts with certain vendors to obtain special pricing for our students. You must order through these links in order to get our special pricing:

Below are some links to common retailers:

The CUA Bookstore also offers IBM/Lenovo and Apple computers at discounts to students. Please see their Web site or view the fliers below for more information.


The plethora of viruses, spyware, and malware on the internet today makes antivirus software a crucial part of your Windows laptop. A single virus can bring your Windows laptop to a halt and corrupt all the data on your hard drive. Furthermore, an up-to-date antivirus program is mandatory if you wish to connect a Windows laptop to the wireless network at the Columbus School of Law. These programs, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, McAfee, Norton, and many others, can be purchased from any electronics retailer, or downloaded from a variety of online vendors.  Microsoft Security Essentials is provided by Microsoft for free and can be downloaded by clicking here.  Before you purchase an antivirus package, check with your internet service provider (Comcast, Verizon, Cox, etc.) to see if they provide free software with your service, as many of them do.

If you have (or will be purchasing) a Mac, please do not buy or install utilities such as Norton, BitDefender, Kaspersky, etc.  While Macs aren't immune to malware, the chances of getting infected on a Mac are so small that the risk is not great enough to justify the toll these utilities can take on your system. In particular, these programs can cause great difficulty with the exam software we use, not to mention the relatively large amount of resources they take from your system. If you are concerned about security on your Mac, please contact us or click here.


Most Windows computers come pre-loaded with trial versions of Microsoft Office that will expire 30-60 days after the first use.  If you did not purchase Office with your laptop, deep educational discounts are available to students from many retailers. Software is available in the CUA Bookstore or at any of the sites below:

Storage and Backup

The Office of Computer Services recommends that all students use some method of external storage for their law school files. In the event of your computer crashing, data recovery can be a very expensive and time consuming process. We've put together a summary of the options for storage and backup, and we can't stress enough how important this is.  Please click here for more information.

Wireless Network

Most newer computers will have an integrated wireless card built into the laptop itself. If your laptop does not have this, please contact us for your available options, and to determine if your laptop will be compatible with the wireless network.


Your laptop can be one of the most expensive items you purchase during your time in law school. In order to keep it safe, the Office of Computer Services recommends that you take steps to keep your laptop safe.

  • Never leave your laptop unattended, even in a classroom or the library, even just for a minute.
  • Do not leave your laptop visible in your car, even if it's in a bag. Thieves recognize concealing bags, so lock it in the trunk.
  • Lock your apartment/office/dorm room whenever you leave.
  • Purchase a laptop lock and secure it every time you use it.

Financial Aid

The CUA Law Financial Aid Budget includes monies for miscellaneous costs which can be used to purchase a laptop. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid at (202) 319-5143 with any questions or for more information.


Netbooks - the term generally used to refer to a category of small, lightweight, and inexpensive laptops - can be very handy for lightening your load or for staying within a certain budget. There are drawbacks, however, that you should consider, especially if you plan to use a netbook as your only computer. Most notably, the small keyboard and screen size can make it uncomfortable to work on documents for long periods.  On the same token, there are some netbooks that cannot run the exam software we use due to the screen size, forcing a situation where you would have to rent or borrow a laptop for exams each semester.  If you do have to rent a laptop for exams each semester, the accumulated rental costs would literally be more than you paid for the netbook, and would make up the difference in price for a higher-end laptop that you could have purchased at the get-go. Another major concern with netbooks is their reliability. In order to make them as cheep as possible, manufacturers often use cut-rate components that tend to fail very easily. When considering the cost of an extended warranty, most consumers understandably decline it (why would you spend almost as much on a warranty as you spent on the computer itself?). Even with a warranty, there is still the risk of data loss (though a good backup regimen eliminates that worry), as well as the time and productivity lost if your only computer is out of order.

In short, if you choose to get a netbook, please don't rely on it as your only computer unless you are prepared to deal with the limitations and complications. And remember, with computers more so than with most things, you get what you pay for.