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Division of Information Technology

IT Help Desk
Kansas State University
Hale Library
2nd floor
1117 Mid Campus Dr N
Manhattan KS 66506


Technology Buying Recommendations FAQs

Q: Do I have to buy a computer for college?

A: No. K-State does not require purchasing a computer. However, computers are useful for production of reports, term papers, and presentation materials, accessing online course materials, communicating with instructors and accessing online databases -- and having a personal computer available right when you need one can be a major time-saver.

K-State has several all-purpose university computing labs on campus for use by students, faculty, and staff at no charge. The labs are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, many departments and colleges have specialized computing labs for use by students majoring in those fields of study.

The College of Veterinary Medicine has implemented a Student Computing Initiative, where every 1st-year student enrolling at the college receives a new covertible laptop computer as part of their technology fee. For more information, please review the college's Student Computing Information page.

Students who live in the residence halls have access to small computing labs that are restricted to use by building residents. See ResNet for more information.

Q: How long should a computer meet the needs of a K-State student?

A: In general, you should expect that a basic, minimum-recommendation computer system will meet the needs of students through their freshmen-sophomore years at K-State. When students begin to specialize in their field(s) of study, they will usually need access to specific software required for upper-level courses -- which may require a higher-end computer.

Q: Should I buy a laptop or a desktop computer?

A: Either one is fine, but consider these aspects:

  • Laptops are more portable and take up less space. They have a smaller screen size, are more expensive, and require battery recharging and replacement. They can be stolen more easily due to their portability. Check your homeowner's policy for security purposes, to see if laptops are covered (beware of the standard $2,000-deductible limitation on some policies concerning theft).
  • Desktop computers cost less, have a larger screen size, and can have significantly more hard disk space than laptops, for the money. They typically take up more space and are less portable. Desktop CPUs and hard drives can be faster than those in laptops. Out-of-warranty repair costs for desktops will generally be lower.
  • Upgrade issues (disk space, memory, peripherals) need to be considered for both types.
  • Connectivity requirements and issues should also be considered.

Q: How much will a computer cost?


  • New desktop computers with upgrade capabilities can be purchased in the $1,000 range, not including the cost of a printer or other peripherals. Laptop computers with equivalent functionality are in the $1,500 range.
  • Used computers that have been refurbished and upgraded usually sell for about one-third to one-half the cost of a new system.
  • Used computers that have NOT been refurbished or upgraded sell anywhere from $20 and up, depending on their perceived functionality.

Q: Should I buy local or order online?

A: Local companies can provide faster turnaround and problem resolution, as well as personalized one-on-one troubleshooting and customer service. Local companies in your hometown may not be able to provide support on the Manhattan or Salina campuses.

Online companies can provide significant savings over local computer companies, but there is a tradeoff. If or when problems occur, it can be more difficult and time-consuming to get problems resolved with online companies, since malfunctioning hardware must usually be mailed back to the company.

Regardless of whether you buy locally or online, be aware that K-State's Technology Service Center provides warranty repairs and authorized service on Dell and Apple computers.

Q: Where can I get help on buying a computer?

A: The IT Help Desk can assist in determining your computer needs. Stop by 214 Hale Library, e-mail helpdesk@k-state.edu, or call 785-532-7722.

Q: Does K-State sell computers?

A: Educational discounts on computer systems are available to K-State students and employees through the K-State Student Union Computer Store. A K-State ID is required.

K-State does not have computer truckload sales (as some universities do) to provide computers at lower cost to students and faculty.

Q: How do I decide what computer to buy?

A: Use the following process to determine the computer that best fits your needs.

  1. Make a detailed list of things you want to do with a computer. (Examples: email, web browsing, downloading music, writing reports, sharing files, printing documents, watching videos, making spreadsheets, etc.)
  2. Make a wishlist of things you'd like to do but don't need right now. Also think about what you'll want to be doing two years from now. (Creating a database? Playing high-end computer games? Archiving files and photos onto DVDs?)
  3. Make a list of the software you need to perform your computer tasks. List the software name, version, disk space needed, and special requirements. Plan extra disk space for software on your wishlist.
  4. Find the total amount of disk space needed for the software you plan to use. Then note any other hardware/software needs and the space those require. Multiply the total disk space by 2 to get an estimate of how much hard disk space you should get.
  5. Get familiar with some of the computing terms for computer parts, software, and uses.
  6. Talk to the computer staff at the IT Help Desk about other things to consider -- including how to select a computer that can be easily upgraded.
  7. Take your lists to a reputable computer dealer and be willing to discuss options and choices. Be sure to check warranty considerations, as well as how much support they can provide when you have problems.

Q: Where do I find a computer sales/supplies store?

A: Before making any purchase, students are advised to compare systems and supplies available through the Union Computer Store. The store has lower, educational pricing on computers and software for students, faculty, and staff. Computer sales and services are also available from a number of Manhattan businesses. The Yellow Pages are still a good resource, as are online web searches.

Q: How do I get connected to the Internet?


  • In the residence halls: Wireless access to the Internet is included in the technology fee.
  • Off-campus:Local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can be found in the Yellow Pages under "Internet".
  • On campus: The Manhattan and Salina campuses have multiple wireless network locations.

Q: Do I need to buy any software?

A:Big software savings are available at the K-State Student Union Computer Store, 785-532-7319, computerstore@k-state.edu. The store has many vendors offering educational pricing (lower than retail) on software.

Do NOT buy antivirus software, because K-State's licensed antivirus software is required. It is available free from the university's antivirus site and is part of the CatPack software collection for Macs and PCs. The CatPack also has software for e-mail, web browsing, file transfer, and more.