Laptop FAQ

The undergraduate laptop recommendation for the future school year 2023-2024 has not been published yet. Please wait to purchase your laptop until closer to the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. We will publish an updated recommendation early in the summer.

Technology Requirements

Why do I need a laptop at SAIC?

Computer Resources and Information Technologies' goal is to ensure that when you graduate, you are fully conversant with the tools that technology can provide. In order to ensure an integrated curricular technology and equal access to a wide range of software, technical support, and training, SAIC has instituted a technology requirement consisting of two parts: a school-wide minimum laptop requirement and a technology fee. Owning a laptop that meets SAIC's minimum laptop requirements ensures that you will always have access to the many SAIC licensed softwares whether you're in a classroom, studio or at home. Owning a laptop that meets minimum requirements will secure assistance from the CRIT Help Desk for help troubleshooting a wide range of issues that may come up during your time here at SAIC. Visit Laptop Recommendation for more information.

Who is required to have a laptop?

All incoming undergraduate students, with the exception of second-degree students, are required to have a laptop that meets SAIC's minimum laptop requirements. AIADO Graduate students have a separate laptop recommendation, please contact for the AIADO laptop recommendation. If any degree-seeking students who owns a laptop and wants to find out if it qualifies, please see minimum requirements.

See also:

What if I already have a desktop or laptop computer?

Who will be charged the Technology Fee?

All students enrolled for six or more degree seeking credit hours are charged a technology fee. This fee enables a student to access wireless and wired networking, curricular software in computer classrooms and labs, and CRIT Help Desk support and training. In addition, students with a qualifying laptop can access curricular software both on and off campus, along with CRIT Help Desk Support. The 2022–23 technology fee is $335 per semester.

What if I am a transfer student with a prior Bachelor's degree?

Incoming transfer students who hold a bachelor's degree from another institution are not required to own a laptop that meets SAIC's minimum laptop requirements. However, it is strongly recommended that all degree seeking students at the school have a laptop as technology is integrated into the curriculum and campus life at SAIC.

Do I have to purchase a laptop before my first semester at SAIC?

Computer Resources and Information Technologies highly recommends that you purchase a laptop before or at the start of your studies here at SAIC. Technology is integrated into your curriculum and while SAIC has many labs on campus with all the SAIC licensed software needed to get work done, instructors may require you to work on projects and assignments during class. CRIT wants all students to have equal access to their technology needs. 

Is there financial aid available to cover the cost of SAIC's recommended laptop?

There are limited funds available to help defray the cost of SAIC's recommended laptop.

If you are requesting a loan, you should first use the Figure Your Cost worksheet (also included in your financial aid packet materials) to calculate how much you will need to borrow overall for the academic year. Include the cost of SAIC's recommendation to determine the total loan amount you wish to request. In addition, a family can request a Federal Direct PLUS Loan (parent of dependent students or graduate students) or a student Private loan for computer-related expenses. A credit approval is required for these loans If you are concerned about being able to afford SAIC's laptop recommendation, please share your concern with your Student Financial Services Advisor or Admissions Counselor. For more information, contact Student Financial Services at 312.629.6600 or Federal regulations prevent loan proceeds from being disbursed earlier than 10 days before the semester start date.

How will I use my laptop at SAIC?

Your laptop will be an essential tool in your educational and campus life. You will use your laptop to:

  • Take notes, conduct research, work on projects, and write papers. Participate in online discussion groups with classmates and professors.
  • Access the Internet for in-class and out-of-class projects and research.
  • Access class materials in SAIC Canvas.
  • Submit papers and other materials electronically to teachers.
  • Use email to communicate with professors, classmates, parents, and friends from your networked dorm room and wireless areas throughout campus.
  • Do advanced video and sound editing.
  • 3D animation and modeling.
  • Manipulate digital images.
  • Create and maintain your personal website.
  • Create and deliver presentations.
  • Prepare projects for high-end peripherals and output devices on campus (such as a CNC laser router, and a Jacquard loom).
  • Play digital audio files, watch Internet video and media content.

Laptop specifications

Why Apple?

SAIC has relied overwhelmingly on Apple computers for many years, and our labs and production facilities are equipped with Apple hardware and software. Apple has a history of developing software to fill the needs of artists and designers and is the industry-preferred platform in the graphic arts, visual communication design, film and video, desktop publishing, and sound production. Additionally, Mac OS X is virtually free from computer viruses and malware. Standardizing the computer platform, file formats, and software on campus enhances student mobility and facilitates project production and file sharing in our interdisciplinary educational environment.

What are the specifications to purchase a laptop for 2022-23 School Year?

The 2022–23 SAIC Laptop recommendation includes:

  • Apple MacBook Pro
  • Apple M1 Pro 14in with 8-core CPU, 14-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
  • 16GB of Unified Memory
  • 512GB SSD Storage
  • SanDisk Professional 1TB G-Drive ArmorATD™ (for data backup)
  • Anker USB-C 7-in-1 Hub with Ethernet adapter (this can be found on Amazon)
  • 3-year AppleCare+ for Mac (needs to be purchased within 60 days after the initial purchase of the laptop)

PLEASE NOTE: At this time Bootcamp/Windows is not developed or compatible for laptops built with the M1 and M2 chips. Currently the software industry is playing catchup with Apple’s new M1 and M2 processors which are utilized in Apple’s newest laptop models. Some software may not yet be compatible with the newest processor. Additionally, some third party software is not yet optimized for the M1 and M2 processors and uses Rosetta 2 to run on the newest Mac models. You can find a detailed list here listing the software that is compatible with the new M1 and M2 chips.The CRIT Help desk will update our community as compatibility changes in the future.

What if I already own an Apple MacBook Pro?

In order for CRIT to assist in the most efficient way possible and provide equal access to a wide range of software, technical support and training, SAIC has instituted a laptop requirement for the 2022-23 school year with the following minimum specifications:

  • Apple MacBook Pro
  • 512GB Internal Storage (External storage will not meet the requirement for 512GB of internal storage)
  • 16GB Memory
  • 3 Year AppleCare Protection Plan or 3 Year AppleCare+ for Mac

PLEASE NOTE: At this time Bootcamp/Windows is not developed or compatible for laptops built with the M1 and M2 chips. Currently the software industry is playing catchup with Apple’s new M1 and M2 processors which are utilized in Apple’s newest laptop models. Some software may not yet be compatible with the newest processor. Additionally, some third party software is not yet optimized for the M1 and M2 processors and uses Rosetta 2 to run on the newest Mac models. You can find a detailed list here listing the software that is compatible with the new M1 and M2 chips.The CRIT Help desk will update our community as compatibility changes in the future.

If you currently own a laptop that you believe meets these specifications and is a 2019 year model or newer, please email us at with the serial number from your laptop, and we will confirm whether your laptop meets the requirements for the 2022-2023 school year.

What if I already have a desktop or laptop computer?

Desktop computers do not satisfy the technology requirement due to SAIC's unique and mobile computing environment. PC computers also do not qualify, as our core curricular software licenses and instruction are specific to Apple, and the School is equipped with Apple computers in most of our labs and production facilities. If you already have an Apple laptop computer that meets or exceeds the minimum specifications, please verify if your laptop meets SAIC requirements by emailing us the serial number of your MacBook Pro as well as your SAIC ID number to the CRIT Help Desk at We will then review your information and determine if your laptop meets the requirements. Please note that the verification is only valid for the 2022–23 school year, and we cannot guarantee that your laptop will be able to run SAIC-licensed software beyond this year.

What are the benefits of SAIC's specified model and configuration?

Standardizing the laptop model and configuration provides numerous benefits to SAIC students:

  • CRIT Help Desk will help facilitate Apple warranty hardware failure repairs and provide a loaner laptop to use during the process (warranty repairs for damaged laptops must be facilitated by the student)
  • The computer model and configuration can be optimized to meet the needs of SAIC students.
  • SAIC can provide a software package that has been thoroughly tested for software functionality and network access.
  • The SAIC CRIT Help Desk can provide effective technical support and training.
  • CRIT can provide software and operating system upgrades. Some departments like the AIADO classes require very specific software, which CRIT can provide a fully tested software template for those needs.

Can I purchase a MacBook Pro that is more powerful than the recommended model?

Yes. As long as your laptop meets or exceeds all the current recommended model specifications, the laptop will be sufficient for use in classes during your 4 years of study at SAIC. If you think you might need a more powerful laptop than SAIC's recommendation it is best to upgrade the laptop at the time of purchase. Current Apple laptop models are non-upgradable after the time of purchase.

Can I purchase my laptop through SAIC?

SAIC does not sell laptops. CRIT recommends purchasing your laptop through the Apple Store for Education page (while in the US) or in person at an Apple store in the US. By visiting the previous link mentioned or bringing your SAIC ID to an Apple store ensures that you will receive an education discount for purchase of your laptop.

Will external storage be an alternative to internal storage which does not meet the minimum requirements?

The minimum requirement for laptop storage must be internal. External storage will not function in the same way. If your laptop does not meet all the SAIC laptop requirements including storage, CRIT will not be able to fully support it. By not meeting requirements you may not have access to certain SAIC licensed software like the AIADO software template or pro-apps like Logic Pro. Our recommendation will ensure every student has equal footing with technology needs during the 4 years of study at SAIC.

Can the storage or hard drive in my laptop be upgraded to meet SAIC's minimum laptop requirements?

The internal storage in all currently sold MacBook Pro models cannot be upgraded. If you choose to have a third party service upgrade the internal storage on these models it will void the warranty. Failure to have at least 1 year remaining of your 3 year Apple Care Protection Plan will also not meet SAIC's minimum laptop requirements.

What are the laptop requirements for the AIADO Graduate programs?

If you are an AIADO graduate student, your course of study will need a more powerful laptop. If you own an Apple MacBook Pro that you think meets SAIC's the current school years minimum laptop requirements please send us an email to with your SAIC ID number as well as the serial number for your laptop. New AIADO graduate students who do not own a laptop that meet the minimum requirements, please also email Please inform us within the email that you are a graduate student in AIADO so that we can make sure to provide you with the correct recommendation for purchasing a laptop.

Software at SAIC

Can I use SAIC-licensed software after graduation or when I leave the institution?

No. All SAIC licensed software belongs to the institution and is not transferable to the student when leaving the institution. CRIT can recommend how to purchase some of the software at greatly reduced prices. Some softwares like Adobe are membership based purchases and these software's memberships die when you leave the institution, but you can purchase a new membership and sign in with that. For more information, contact the CRIT Help Desk at 312.345.3535 or

Can I install my own versions of other software on my laptop?

Yes. You may install other software at your discretion. Please note installing or updating software has the potential to cause system failure, the loss of data, network access and the ability to use SAIC software. Therefore, we highly recommended that, before installing or updating software, you backup your personal information and files. For more information on backing up your data and updates, please contact the CRIT Help Desk at 312.345.3535 or

Can I use my own copies of software while I'm enrolled at SAIC?

The school selects and provides software matched to the curriculum. By meeting the minimum laptop requirements students will not need to purchase additional copies of any SAIC Licensed software. If students choose to purchase or use their own software, CRIT will provide limited support. Also, if the CRIT Help Desk has to reinstall your laptop's software or operating system you may lose your purchased software. Therefore, we strongly recommend against purchasing your own software until you are ready to leave the institution.

Which software does SAIC offer?

As a degree seeking student taking 6 credit hours or more you will have access to the Adobe Creative Cloud, Office 365 Suites and the secure wireless network. Certain departments or classes will require installation of specific Pro Applications necessary for course material which will be available to you if you meet SAIC laptop requirements. These programs may include: Final Cut Pro, Rhino, Logic, Solidworks, Sketch Up Pro and more, please contact for a complete list.

Will I still get software if my laptop does not meet SAIC's minimum laptop requirements?

All degree seeking students taking 6 credit hours or more during a semester have access to the Adobe Creative Cloud, Office 365, Autodesk applications, and the secure wireless network. If you choose to purchase or use a laptop that does not meet minimum requirements you will only have access to the SAIC licensed applications mentioned above. Laptops that do not meet minimum requirements have limited support from CRIT.

How do I get SAIC licensed software?

Software will be available to install on student laptops during new student orientation, if you are unable to attend the CRIT portion of orientation, you can get access to the software by contacting the CRIT Help Desk at a later date.

How do I know if I will need a Pro APP or software other than Adobe CC and Office 365 apps?

SAIC emphasizes a cross-discipline education that encourages experimentation during your time in school. While some students may take a painting class during their first semester, later at SAIC they may decide to take a class in Architecture or Film departments. By having a laptop that meets all of SAIC's minimum laptop requirements, students are able to have access to any software SAIC provides and seamlessly move between courses and departments.

Best Practices

What does AppleCare+ or AppleCare Protection Plan cover?

AppleCare+ or the AppleCare Protection Plan protects the laptop computer against defective parts and offers service and support beyond what is available through the CRIT Help DeskAppleCare+ also covers some damage repairs with a deductible. Purchasing a laptop that meets the minimum requirements including AppleCare+ or the 3-year AppleCare Protection Plan ensures students have continuous support during their time at SAIC.

Please note: The AppleCare Protection Plan warranty only covers defective parts—they do not cover accidents such as theft or physical damage. Laptop insurance is strongly recommended. CRIT will only facilitate hardware failure (not damage) on MacBook Pros that meet SAIC's minimum laptop requirements.

Do I get operating system and software upgrades?

Yes. To ensure optimal functionality, CRIT provides information and instructions on how to properly upgrade or reinstall operating systems. Some updates to Pro-Apps are maintained by CRIT administrators. These are completed on a campus-wide based need. Most other applications can be upgraded as needed by the student. If you ever need help installing a new operating system or upgrading software but you are concerned or if you ever have issues with your software and need help troubleshooting please contact CRIT first. Also we highly recommend backing up your data before doing any updates or upgrades to your operating system.

Do I need laptop insurance?

Upon acquiring a laptop, you assume sole responsibility for loss, whether due to damage, loss, theft or other cause. Apple Care does not cover damage or theft and during this type of event you are fully responsible for the cost of the laptop.

We advise you to obtain personal property insurance to protect your equipment. You may want to consider covering the equipment under yours or your parents' homeowner's or renter's insurance policy. For your information and convenience, National Student Services, Inc., provides student personal property insurance; visit for more information.

Do I get a discount to purchase my laptop?

SAIC does not offer discounts or coupons for purchasing a laptop. While in the U.S., Apple provides a student discount at an Apple store as well as online through the Apple Store for Education.

How do I backup my laptop?

CRIT recommends backing up your laptop at least every week. Backing up your computer is critical during your time as a student. By keeping a backup of all your files, you are protected from potentially losing your final or school work from an entire semester. We strongly suggest purchasing an external hard drive to complete these backups.

Time Machine [PDF]

See also:


How can I best protect my computer against damage and theft?

Care of the laptop and protection against theft or damage is your responsibility. Insurance is strongly recommended. Keep in mind that while insurance can replace a computer, it does not protect it against theft or damage and cannot replace lost files. To fully protect your work, backup your data frequently.

Please use common sense when on campus or out in public. Some helpful suggestions and reminders:

  • Don't leave your laptop unattended in a classroom.
  • Do not leave your laptop bag in unattended cars, or transport it in a flashy bag that invites theft.
  • Along with your laptop, be aware of the accessories that come with it. Your power supply and battery are costly and are the most commonly stolen items.

To protect against damage, we recommend:

  • Always transport your laptop in a bag or protective case.
  • Please be aware of cords and cables attached to your laptop. These can cause a tripping hazard that could potentially pull your laptop off of a table.

Technical support

What are my laptop support resources?

There are numerous support resources for laptop users:

CRIT Help Desks are located in 112 South Michigan Avenue, room 905, and 37 South Wabash Avenue, room 401. The Help Desks are open during weekday office hours. Staff can assist users with most software or hardware issues. CRIT staff can assess problems and help coordinate repairs.

Contemporary Practices faculty provide the best access to one-on-one assistance while utilizing your laptop in   classes. Both faculty and teaching assistants can provide help for students using laptops to achieve the goals of classroom assignments and projects.

The Apple Store (located in downtown Chicago about 10 minutes from SAIC's campus) provides free weekly workshops, a Genius Bar, product consulting, and retail outlet. Apple Computers and provide manuals, tutorials, and a vast troubleshooting database available to all Mac users.

What if I'm unfamiliar with Macs or computers in general?

There are numerous training and instructional resources available to students.

Students are instructed on basic computing skills during the laptop distribution session of New Student Orientation. In this session, students receive instructions on first-time setup, connecting to the SAIC wired and wireless networks, file management and backup, and accessing SAIC licensed software.

In   classes, training coincides with class assignments, and students are taught the necessary computer skills for completing class work.

Finally, students can receive personalized training from the Contemporary Practices program.

Does SAIC provide laptops to rent?

It is strongly recommended that students purchase a laptop to assist them with coursework during their time at SAIC. CRIT's loaner laptops are only used for students who meet SAIC’s minimum laptop requirements and are getting an Apple warranty hardware failure repair that we facilitate (damaged laptops need to be taken directly to the Apple store). Outside of these loaner checkouts, CRIT does not loan laptops to students. Students who need temporary use of a computer can use the general access labs.