University of Virginia: School of Architecture

Computer Requirement for Students

All students in the School of Architecture are required to provide their own personal computer. Additional requirements and recommendations for hardware and software are given below.

For Incoming Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Academic life in the School of Architecture is dependent upon personal computers for design studios, research and personal work. Computer use of some sort is required in most of School of Architecture courses, wherein students at all levels of the curriculum work with a variety of graphics-intense, CAD, GIS modeling and analysis applications.  

Computer Requirement: All students must have and bring a personal computer.  
Undergraduate Students
Requirement:Type of Computer:
All undergraduate studentsPurchase a new laptop
before the Spring semester
of your first year

(Note: Waiting until you arrive at UVA and get familiar with the school is helpful.  A standard laptop, capable of word processing and web, is sufficient for the first semester of first year.)
Laptop -- spec 1
(see specs below)
Graduate Students
Landscape Architecture
Purchase a new computer
upon entering.
Laptop or Desktop -- spec 1  
(see specs for each below)
Urban and Environmental Planning
students who expect to pursue GIS intensive courses.
   sameLaptop -- spec 1
Urban and Environmental Planning
students who do not expect to pursue GIS intensive courses.
   sameLaptop -- spec 2
Archtectural History   sameLaptop -- spec 2


We strongly encourage students purchase their new computers through the CAV Program at Cavalier Computers.  CAV Program computers are pre-configured to meet the specifications and software options for the School of Architecture.  See the bottom of this page for more detail on the CAV Program.

If you prefer, you can purchase your computer through other sources at educational discounts.  If you choose this, however, please make sure your computer meets the appropriate specification for your group.  See the table of groups above, and the list of specifications below.

Both Macintosh and Windows platforms are supported in the school. Design students (Architecture and Landscape Architecture) do need to be able to run some Windows-based software, which can be accomplished using Boot Camp on an Apple hardware platform.

NOTE: All computers brought must be able to run regular software.  Tablet computers, netbooks, chromebooks, etc. that cannot run a full Windows or Macintosh Operating System and cannot install regular software will not be adequate.

NOTE for all Design Students:

  • An external monitor screen (20"+) may be helpful to put on your studio desk, even if you have a laptop.  Design students find large screens beneficial for graphics work.  This is optional, but may be very useful.
  • We recommend students rebuild / cleanup their computer at the beginning of each year.
  • Consider a RAM upgrade at the beginning of your 3rd or 4th year.

Please read the following advice on purchasing a computer.


Software Requirement

All students in all programs within the School of Architecture are also required to purchase both Microsoft Office and the Adobe Creative Suite.  

Both are available through the University (see Cavalier Computers) at negotiated student pricing contracts.  Microsoft Office is available for $15 and the Adobe Creative Cloud is available for $240.  Computers purchased through the CAV Program will include options for both of these at time of purchase.

Additional software may be required by other courses.  If software is required, information will be provided in the individual course syllabi.  Some of this software can be purchased from Cavalier Computers also.  Others are available for web download throuhg our Software links.

The University provides basic utilities, such as for virus protection and off-grounds access, for free to students.  See ITS Software Central for details.

Many of our core design and analysis software are also available for free or at reduced cost to students.  See SARC Software for details.

Additional resources, including computer labs, imaging, scanning, and printing facilities are available in the school. These facilities are intended as supplements to personally owned computers, not replacements for them.

A required computer orientation is held for arriving students at the beginning of the academic year. 

Required Computer Configuration

This configuration is suitable to effectively work with the most common graphics software packages used in the school.

Spec 1 - Design and GIS performance

(see chart above for which levels and disciplines this applies to)

Laptop Computer

  • 2.3 GHz or better Intel Quad-Core i7 processor; Windows or Macintosh
  • Windows 7+ (Professional, 64-bit) or Mac OS X
 (10.7+) *
  • 16 GB RAM **
  • 500 GB hard drive (or larger)

Desktop Computer

  • 3.1 GHz or better Intel Quad-Core i7 processor; Windows or Macintosh
  • Windows 7+ (Professional, 64-bit) or Mac OS X
 (10.7+) *
  • 16 GB RAM **
  • 500 GB hard drive
  • Wireless network card (please check this - this is often an add-on for desktops, but will significantly help with access to the studio network)

Spec 2 - Standard use

(see chart above for which levels and disciplines this applies to)

  • 2.0 GHz or better Intel Dual-Core i5 or better processor; Windows or Macintosh
  • Windows 7+ (Professional, 64-bit) or Mac OS X
 (10.7+) *
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 250 GB hard drive

 **Recommended for All Computers**

  • Wireless Network card
  • 3-button mouse
  • 3- or 4-year warranty strongly recommended (included in CAV program machines)
  • Accessories: Cable lock, surge protector power strip
  • External Hard Drive (USB) for automated backups of your computer.

* Note: For students choosing Macintosh computers, the Windows operating system is available to students at UVa for $15, and can be installed to run through BootCamp (dual-boot setup). Through this, an Apple computer can run any Windows-based software used in the school.

** Note: Many software programs used within the School of Architecture are fairly memory-intensive.  16 GB or more is recommended for best performance and longevity of your computer, especially for those using CAD, GIS, and similar software.  More RAM is optional for those wanting to push these programs even further.

 The CAV Computer Program

The School of Architecture has partnered with UVa's Cavalier Computers to offer a line of pre-configured computers for students to purchase under the university's CAV Program.

Under this program, students can choose from one of a handful of computer configurations that out-of-the-box meet the School of Architecture's computer requirement, including some of the base software needed for School of Architecture programs.

The CAV Program computers offer the following benefits to students:

  • Pre-configured computers that meet the School of Architecture's computer requirement
  • Competetive educational pricing through the UVA Bookstore / Cavalier Computers
  • Apple and Dell platforms available
  • Microsoft Office pre-installed (under UVA educational contract pricing)
  • UVA and School of Architecture customizations pre-installed
  • Adobe Creative Cloud included in the box (UVA student license pricing, select at checkout)
  • Rhino (for design students) optionally included in the box (Student license pricing, select at checkout)
  • 3- or 4-year system warranty included (option to select which)
  • Accidental Damage warranty included.

Additional benefits:

  • Authorized warranty service on-campus through Cavalier Computers
  • A free loaner computer while yours is being fixed
  • A restore-disk to get you right back to day 1 with all included software, in the event of an emergency.
  • and more. 

See the CAV Program page at Cavalier Computers for details.
Choose Architecture to see the options configured for you.