Students are required to come equipped with a laptop capable of completing the work required by their concentration.

Harvard's preferred vendors are Dell and Apple, and part of the agreement includes discounts available to students.
However, students are not required to purchase a computer from a preferred vendor.
Harvard also has a partnership with B&H with discounts for a wider range of hardware vendors like Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and ASUS
More information about these discounts can be found below.

Other equipment may also be highly beneficial such as a mouse, which can be essential for CAD work, a large external monitor, or a secondary workstation like a desktop computer that can reside at your desk for additional computing power.

PC or Mac

It is generally a matter of personal preference to select a Mac or PC laptop.

Most software applications used at the GSD are now available for both Mac and Windows computers. This includes the Adobe suite, AutoCAD, and Rhino.

However, some still require Windows. Examples of Windows-only software would be ArcGIS Pro, Autodesk Revit, and some of the more specialized programs like MasterCAM, or plugins for applications like Rhino and Grasshopper.

Your decision should be made based on your comfort and preference, and the software requirements for your program.

Apple users do have the option to run Windows as a virtual machine on their Mac computers via the virtualization software Parallels, and Harvard does offer a discount for Parallels on their discount page linked below.  However, this setup is not usually recommended for any sort of intensive CAD Work as running Windows in this way does not take advantage fully of the computer’s hardware and not all applications are compatible with Windows running in Parallels.

Below are some general hardware recommendations that would be sufficient for the most common CAD applications used at the GSD.

Windows Recommended Specifications:

CAD applications require the same types of hardware as gaming systems, so when shopping for a Windows laptop typically you would look for the brand’s ‘gaming’ or ‘high performance’ workstations.  Examples of these for Dell would be their XPS, Precision, or Alienware series whereas their Latitude or Inspiron lines may not be sufficient.

  • Intel 12th generation or higher Core i7 CPU with built-in Intel DirectX 12.1 or higher GPU or AMD Ryzen 7000 equivalent or higher (Core i9)
    • Recently, Intel has retired their traditional ‘i’ series which has been replaced with their new AI-integrated ‘Ultra’ line.
  • Discrete GPU instead of integrated GPU
    • Discrete GPU’s would typically be listed as nVidia or AMD video cards whereas integrated GPU’s would be listed as Intel
    • If the only video card listed is Intel, then the machine does not have a dedicated video card and may not be sufficient for intensive CAD work or rendering
  • 32 GB dual channel DDR5 RAM
  • 1 TB NVMe Hard Drive

Apple Recommended Specifications:

  • Apple M2 Chip or higher with 12-Core CPU and 19-Core GPU
  • 32GB unified memory
  • 1 TB SSD storage
  • 16-core Neural Engine


  • Computer Labs

    The GSD maintains computer lab workstations in Gund Hall, Located in the Francis Loeb Library lower level. This is lab is only available during library hours.

    In addition, students may use the IQSS Computer Lab located in the CGIS Knafel Building. This computer lab contains a total of 44 workstations, each are loaded with the following applications: Lab Software

  • Discounts for Harvard Students

    Harvard students are eligible for computer discounts!

    Note, these discounts are consistent throughout the year however they may not necessarily be the best discount available from the vendors at any given time.

    We recommend checking directly with the vendors and comparing the available deals/promotions before purchasing using the Harvard discount.

    To learn more, visit the link below and supply your HarvardKey credentials when prompted:
    IT Perks & Discounts

  • Vendor Requirements

    Here are some specific requirements provided directly from the software developers.
    Adobe Creative Suite