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IT Services Recommendations on When to Replace Aging Computers

For 2013–2014

This recommendation deals with when to replace an aging computer. If you are buying a new computer, IT Services recommends purchasing one of the Stanford Dell Bundles (Windows), Stanford Lenovo Bundles (Windows), or Stanford Apple Bundles (Macintosh), which offer pre-configured desktop and laptop computers that will meet the needs of most students, faculty, and staff and are available at discounted prices. You can find more information about the bundles on the following web pages:

If you choose to purchase a new computer that is not one of the recommended bundles, it should meet the following recommended requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.8 or 10.9; Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate; Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise
  • Offers native encryption capabilities
  • Core i5 or faster
  • 4-8 GB RAM or greater
  • 500 GB hard drive (256 GB for SSD) or larger
  • EPEAT Gold Rating

Definition of general academic and administrative computing needs

This recommendation deals with computers for general academic and administrative use. For the purposes of this recommendation, general academic and administrative needs are defined as:

  • the ability to run at least four applications concurrently (e.g., a browser, an email client, a word processor, and a spreadsheet application)
  • the ability to install and run current, off-the-shelf, general-purpose business applications
  • the ability to install and run current Stanford-specific administrative applications
  • the ability to encrypt all data on the hard drive (whole disk encryption)

This standard must be adjusted accordingly for users who place either higher or lower demands on their systems (e.g., for special-purpose applications on the high end or simply as a web-browsing terminal on the low end).

Three to four year replacement rule of thumb

Based upon experience with the continuing changes and improvements in desktop computing capabilities, it is recommended that a three to four year replacement cycle will create an adequate platform to support standard business applications. However, each computer should be assessed on a regular basis to ensure that it continues to support the unique work applications of its user.

If your computer is below this line...

If your computing needs fall into the profile of "general academic or administrative use," as described above, and your current computer falls below the standards listed below, you should plan to replace or upgrade your computer in the 2013–2014 academic year.

Windows computers

  • Windows 7 (Enterprise or Ultimate Editions); Windows 8 (Pro or Enterprise Editions)
  • Core 2 Duo or newer
  • 2 GB RAM

Macintosh computers

  • Mac OS X 10.7
  • Core 2 Duo or newer
  • 2 GB RAM*

*You can upgrade your RAM without replacing your computer in most cases.

All computers

If you spend more than a few hours each week using any of Stanford's web-based administrative applications, such as PeopleSoft or Oracle Financials, IT Services strongly encourages you to have at least a 20-inch display, or larger. Display size is measured diagonally from corner to corner. A bigger display means less scrolling and squinting, as you try to view a large amount of graphic information within a limited space.

More specific information about operating system requirements is given in the following table and notes.

Fully supported, modern OS.
Windows 7 Enterprise1 or Ultimate1
Windows 8 Pro1,2 or Enterprise 1,2

Mac OS X 10.91
Mac OS X 10.81

Plan to replace in the coming year

Windows 7 Professional

Mac OS X 10.71
Outdated OS / Not supported.
Should be replaced as soon as possible.

Windows 7 Home Premium3
Windows Vista (all editions)3
Windows XP (all editions)3
Windows 2000
Windows ME
Windows 98
Windows NT 4.x
Windows 95

Mac OS X 10.0-10.6
Mac OS 9
Mac OS 8.6
Mac OS 7


  1. Offers native encryption capabilities.
  2. See Windows 8 at Stanford for compatibility issues.
  3. Note on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 Home Editions:
    Home additions are not recommended for faculty and staff computers. These versions are not compatible with the campus infrastructure.
Last modified September 24, 2013