IT Connect
Your connection to information technology at the UW

Acquiring computers and hardware for working remotely

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many UW students, faculty and staff to study, teach and work remotely. Working remotely may require additional computers, hardware and peripherals than you or your department have on-hand. The following recommendations should allow most people to effectively work remotely. Be sure to follow both UW and your department’s procurement policies when ordering equipment.

Options for faculty and staff

Departments may need to purchase additional computers, hardware and peripherals for their faculty and staff to effectively work remotely. UW-IT recommends the following hardware specifications and purchasing options that should allow most users to work remotely. UW-IT can not provide departments or individuals with computers or hardware for working remotely. Be sure to follow both UW and your department’s procurement policies when ordering equipment.

Hardware specifications

For new workstations, the  following minimum hardware specifications are recommended.

  • i5 Processor
  • 256GB SSD
  • 8GB RAM

These specifications will ensure that you receive a machine that will function well for most needs for the duration of the warranty period. We strongly recommend that you only purchase business-class computers, such as HP EliteBook/Elite Desk, Dell Latitude/Optiplex, Lenovo ThinkBook/ThinkCentre.

Equipment recommendations

The following laptops and desktops are examples of computers that meet the hardware specifications above. Due to the increased demand caused by the coronavirus, laptop supplies have been constrained at most retailers. You may need to shop around to find a model that is available. Be sure to follow both UW and your department’s procurement policies when ordering equipment.




You will also need a monitor if you purchase a desktop computer. Both desktop computers listed above use DisplayPort Cables for their video. If you have an older monitor that doesn’t use DisplayPort, we recommend ordering either a new monitor that does or an adapter that converts DisplayPort to the video port on your monitor. Read this guide to video ports if you’re unsure what kind of ports you have.


If purchasing a desktop computer, you may want to also purchase a webcam so you can participate in meetings that use video conferencing.

Most laptops sold today, including the recommendations listed above, have a built-in webcam. If you’re not sure if your laptop includes a webcam, look for a small circle above the center of your laptop display. If your laptop doesn’t have a webcam installed or if you need a webcam for your desktop computer, you may need to order an external one.

We recommend an HD camera with a USB connection, like the Logitech C920 HD Pro Web Camera. Much like computers, webcam inventories are constrained at most retailers, so you may need to shop around to find somewhere that has one in stock. Be sure to follow both UW and your department’s procurement policies when ordering equipment.

Options for students

Affordable or free computers

Several Seattle-area programs offer affordable or free computers. Some programs may not be operating due to coronavirus shutdowns.

Borrow computers from the UW

Laptops and other technology are available for students to borrow from the UW. In Seattle, the Student Technology Loan Program allows students to borrow laptops and other equipment. Both UW Tacoma and UW Bothell have similar equipment borrowing programs.

Note: As of March 24, 2020 both UW Tacoma and UW Bothell report that equipment is no longer available due to closures. Check with those program’s websites for current information.

Laptops checked out from UW Libraries

The due dates for equipment checked out from UW Bothell and Cascadia College Campus Library have been extended to June 17, 2020. Please contact Library Technology Services at or 425-352-3145 if you have any questions, or if you need to return the laptop prior to June 17, 2020.

UW Tacoma libraries are closed and ask that checked-out equipment, such as laptops and headphones, be returned when the library reopens. UW Libraries are extending due dates and/or forgiving fines during the coronavirus situation.

Last reviewed March 25, 2020