Questions and Answers about Amherst Computing

Your Amherst IT Account

General Computer and Mobile Device Recommendations

  • Should I get Windows (PC) or Apple (Macintosh or Mac) or other?

    Amherst College IT supports both Windows and Mac computers. Linux also may be used but has limited to no support provided by IT.

    With any platform, make sure your computer or mobile device is as up to date as possible so that it can run current software especially the current operating system for Android, Apple, iOS, Linux, or Windows as applicable.
  • Should I get a desktop or a laptop?

    We currently recommend students have laptops or laptop/tablet hybrid computers for on-campus learning. Desktops or laptops will work well for remote learning.

    If you will have heavy duty uses for your computer (gaming, video editing, large set data analysis, image rendering) you may need or want a desktop.
  • What about alternative devices such as an iPad, Wacom or other tablets, or  Chromebooks?

    We like tablet mobile devices and Chromebooks but they may be too limited to act as your primary computer or sole computing device. As an adjunct to your primary computer, however, they are great, offering a level of portability that even the best laptops can't match.

    Students purusing science, technology, fine arts and languages with non-Roman character sets will find it most helpful to have a laptop/tablet hybrid computer or a tablet mobile device such as an iPad or Wacom tablet that can be used with a stylus, electronic pen or pencil.

    Students who need assistance to get access to computer equipment should contact the Office of Student Affairs.
  • Can Amherst College help me with access to or purchase of computer eqiupment?

    Yes, Amherst College offers assistance for borrowing computer equipment and for loans and purchases. 
    • Discounted computers: You can order computers at educational prices.
    • Financial Aid: You can finance your computer purchase using a loan from Financial Aid. Contact the Financial Aid office to start this process.
    • Contact the Office of Student Affairs to request assistance for access to computing equipment.

  • What kind of configuration or specifications should my computer have?

    Having a reliable computer is important to your academic success as an Amherst student.
    Don't try to use a computer or device that is too old. It is best to replace computers after 4 years of use maximum especially laptops and mobile devices with heavy battery use. End of life for computers is considered to be 6 years as after this point most computers cannot run current software and are very likely to fail mechanically. 

    A desktop computer should be able to run the current Windows or Mac operating system (or Linux if applicable) and have a minimum of i5 or equivalent processor, 16GB memory, and 256GB SSD hard drive. Consider a larger 512GB SSD hard drive if storage of many large-size files, photos, videos, or music will be needed.

    A laptop should be able to run the current Windows or Mac operating system and some example configurations are show below. Even better, you can get educational discounts on these computers shown below. See our page detaiilng available educational discounts for computer purchases.

    A computer that will be used for high end graphics and image processing and editing purposes likely will need a discrete or dedicated graphics card (examples gaming, photography, virtual reality, video editing, graphics rendering, CAD) rather than an integrated graphics card.

    Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Yoga Laptop/Tablet 2-in-1 (or another Yoga model from Lenovo).
    The Lenovo Yoga is particularly versatile as it is a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet that includes a pen. 

    • Windows 10 Pro
    • 13.3-inch FHD (1920x1080), touch screen
    • i5 quad-core processor
    • 16 GB memory
    • 512GB SSD
    • built-in webcam and microphone
    • integrated graphics card

     MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar

    • 13-inch Retina display
    • i5 quad-core processor
    • 16 GB memory
    • 512GB SSD
    • USB-C Digital AV multiport Adapter
    • integrated graphics card
  • How can I back up my coursework and other important files?

    The College provides students access to Google Apps, which includes Google Drive with unlimited storage. We also provide access to Dropbox, again with unlimited storage for Amherst users.

    We also recommend you get a USB flash drive (also known as a thumb drive or a memory key) to quickly move files from one computer to another. Do not, however, use a flash drive as your primary backup medium. They are not reliable enough for that. 

    Note: We do not allow the Apple Time Capsule back-up device as this can disrupt our campus network.
  • How can I protect my computer and mobile devices from damage, loss and theft?

    • It is very common for computers and devices to get damaged by liquid spills so keep liquids away from your computer.
    • Make sure to use computers on a stable surface which won't collapse or get knocked over by you or by rambunctious pets or kids in your household.
    • Use protective cases and covers where possible.
    • As much as possible protect power supplies from getting tripped over, pulled out or chewed on.
    • Since power supplies break easily and get lost often, it is a good idea to have a second one in case you need it.
    • Make sure power supplies are the appropriate kind for your devices and securely plugged into electrical sockets as when they are not there can be sparks and a fire risk.
    • Don't leave computers or devices unattended in public spaces or common areas or next to open windows or doors accessible from streets or sidewalks.
    • Never leave computers or devices out in plain sight in and try to avoid leaving at all in vehicles, as many items are stolen this way and the extreme hot and cold temperatures in vehicles parked outdoors will damage electronic equipment over time.
    • Run the updates prompted for your computer operating system to keep its security up to date.
    • Turn off and restart your computer and devices at a minimum once a week so they can have downtime and apply updates.

Technology for Studying On-Campus

  • Do I need a computer for on-campus studies?

    Yes, plan to bring a laptop or a laptop/tablet hybrid computer.

    Students purusing courses in science, technology, fine arts and languages with non-Roman character sets will find it most helpful to have a laptop/tablet hybrid computer or an additional tablet mobile device that can be used with a stylus, electronic pen or pencil.

    Students who need assistance to get access to laptops, tablets or other technology for their coursework should contact the Office of Student Affairs.

    In the past we have offered many public and specialized classroom computing facilities for students but will not have those facilities available this academic year.
  • How should I plan to charge my devices (computers, phones, tablets)?

    Make sure you have at least 2 sets of power supplies for each computer or mobile device, including phones, so that if one cable breaks or gets lost, you have a back-up.

    Also, we recommend purchasing a portable charger you can bring to classes with you. Anker is a highly rated brand of portable charger that we recommend, but whichever brand you select, make sure to get a highly rated or recommended brand of portable charger as cheap or unreliable models could be a fire risk and can damage the power components of your computer or mobile device.
  • Do I need to bring a printer?

    Usually we recommend that you do not bring a printer to campus. Though inexpensive to purchase, personal printers are often expensive and time consuming to operate. For the current academic year, IT will support as much as possible public printing for students studying on-campus, but if you think you will have frequent or extensive printing needs then you may wish to bring a personal desktop printer.

    Learn more about printing at Amherst.

    Note: We do not allow wireless printers on our network. If you bring a wireless printer to campus, you must bring a USB cable so you can use it in wired mode.
  • What if my computer stops working?

    Contact AskIT at askit@ amherst.edu or 413-542-2526. If your computer stops working due to a software or virus problem, or there is a campus network issue we will assist you. As possible over the phone or via email or an Amherst IT remote session, we will evaluate hardware issues, that is problems with the computer itself, to let students know what to ask for in terms of repairs.

    Amherst College IT Support Services will not fix your computer hardware.

    To protect your computer hardware, we recommend you buy a computer with a manufacturer's warranty of at least three years. For best service, you'll want an on-site warranty for desktop computers; a depot/off-site warranty is fine for laptops. Best option for computer repairs will be to mail your laptop to the manufacturer's repair service, such as Apple or Lenovo. Also, there are several computer repair shops in the area for both Windows computers and Macintoshes that the IT Department can recommend.
  • What if I accidentally destroy my laptop/smartphone/mobile device?

    Most manufacturers offer accidental damage protection for laptops, phones, and mobile devices such as tablets at an additional charge. We strongly recommend purchasing this protection because accidents happen. Accidental damage protection covers problems in almost any circumstance (dropping the computer, falling off a bike and smashing the computer or device, soda spilled on a keyboard, screen impaled by a pen, phone dropped into water, tablet stepped on ...).
  • What if equipment provided to me by Amherst College stops working, is broken or destroyed, or gets lost or stolen?

    Email askit @amherst.edu and we will let you know the next steps to take.

  • What if my computer and/or mobile devices get lost or stolen on-campus?

    Immediately contact Amherst College Campus Police and report the loss/theft.

    We also strongly recommend (so strongly that we put it in bold) that you insure your computer under a parent's or family member's or your own homeowner's or renter's insurance policy so that in the event of a loss or theft, you will be able to recover some money. Please note that insurance companies may require a police report to provide reimbursement for a stolen computer or mobile device. Remember that if you buy a computer through Financial Aid and it is lost or stolen, the unpaid balance of the loan remains your responsibility.

Technology for Remote Learning

  • What computer equipment do I need for remote learning?

    • a computer, whether a laptop, laptop/tablet hybrid or desktop
      see our computer recommendations in the General Computer and Mobile Device Recommendations section of this page
    • students pursuing coursework in science, technology, fine art, and languages with non-Roman character sets may find it helpful to have a tablet such as an iPad or Wacom tablet for drawing and handwriting
    • for assistance for getting access to a computer and/or tablet type of mobile device for your studies, contact the Office of Student Affairs
  • What accessories or additional equipment might be required or helpful?

    • you will need some combination of a camera and microphone - whether built-in to a laptop, all-in-one computer and monitor type of desktop, or a tablet or smart phone, OR a standalone webcam, OR a flip phone or landline telephone combined with a some kind of a camera that can work with a laptop or tablet such as a USB camera
    • if you will use a smart phone or tablet as your camera and/or microphone for Web videoconferencing, you may wish to get a stand or tripod to hold the device in place
    • you will need an Internet connection and/or phone or tablet data connection
      if you don't have access to an Internet connection, are in the United States, and your geographical area receives Verizon cell/data coverage, then IT can provide you a wi-fi hotspot device, please make requests through the Office of Student Affairs
    • you may find it helpful to have earphones for sound and if needed with noise canceling for blocking ambient sounds
    • you may want a headset microphone for handfree talking and listening
      some earphones and earbuds include a microphone and noise canceling combining several useful options into one device
    • you may find it helpful to have an external keyboard and mouse or trackapd, and specifically in an ergonomic keyboard design to make typing as comfortable as possible
    • depending on your coursework and vision needs an external monitor may be helpful
    • for assistance for getting access to any computer equipment or technology needed for your studies for remote learning, please start by contacting the Office of Student Affairs
  • What if I accidentally destroy my laptop/smartphone/mobile device?

    Most manufacturers offer accidental damage protection for laptops, phones, and mobile devices such as tablets at an additional charge. We strongly recommend purchasing this protection because accidents happen. Accidental damage protection covers problems in almost any circumstance (dropping the computer, falling off a bike and smashing the computer or device, soda spilled on a keyboard, screen impaled by a pen, phone dropped into water, tablet stepped on ...).
  • What if equipment provided to me by Amherst College stops working, is broken or destroyed or gets lost or stolen?

    Email askit @amherst.edu and we will let you know the next steps to take.

  • What if my computer, mobile device or other equipment gets lost or stolen?

    Many computers and mobile devices have an option to enable of "Find my computer" or "Find my phone". You may want to enable this option to help recover a lost computer or device. For a stolen device, if you enabled "Find my computer" or "Find my phone" etc. you may be able to lock the device remotely which is a good idea to do if you can in order to protect your privacy and security.

    For a stolen computer, mobile device or other equipment, contact your local police as possible to report the theft. In some areas in the United States, for instances of theft where the value of items stolen is less than $5000 and the items stolen do not include a vehicle, you may be able to report the theft and receive access to the police report entirely as an online process.

    We strongly recommend (so strongly that we put it in bold) that you insure your computer under a parent's or family member's or your own homeowner's or renter's insurance policy so that in the event of a loss or theft, you will be able to recover some money. Please note that insurance companies may require a police report for reimbursement for a stolen computer or device. Remember that if you buy a computer through Financial Aid and it is lost or stolen, the unpaid balance of the loan remains your responsibility.

Software and Programs

  • I use a Windows computer. What version of Windows should I have?

    Any version of 64-bit Windows 10 will work well although some specialty software will require specific or the most recent versions of Windows 10.
  • What about the MacOS?

    We recommend your Mac run MacOS 10.14 Mojave or later to work well on the Amherst network, be compatible with the latest software, and to be able to receive Mac operating system security updates.

    What about other operating systems?

    Computers with Linux and other operating systems can be configured to work with the Amherst Network. Amherst College provides no support or documentation for these systems. Moreover, several of the software applications and utilities we provide over the network for Macintosh and Windows computers are not compatible with other operating systems (see next question).

The Amherst Network and the Internet

  • How do I get to the Internet from my dorm room?

    In your room you have access to the eduroam WiFi network which provides high-speed, secure WiFi access for computers, tablets, and phones. Wireless networking has been upgraded in 2020 and is available throughout the campus, including many outdoor areas. (Yes, we have wireless access points in trees!)

    Contact AskIT (askit@amherst.edu) if you need to request a wired Ethernet connection in your room or to report a damaged or non-working connection.

    You will be required to enroll  every device you connect to the network. If your device has both wireless and wired network connections, you'll have to enroll both connections. If you use an adapter for a wired network connection, the adapter must also be enrolled. For computers and other devices that have web browsers, this process is fairly painless. For other devices (such as game consoles) you will need to follow our instructions for enrolling non-computer networking devices.

    Devices that may not be used on the network include anything that acts as a wireless router or wireless access point. This includes wireless printers, Apple Time Capsule, and some SONOS and other sound systems.
  • How fast is the Internet connection?

    The College maintains a 2 gbps (2,000 mbps) shared connection to the Internet, and a 10 gbps connection to the other Five Colleges. Any individual computer connected to the College network has up to 1 gbps access to the college network.
  • Are there any restrictions on how I can use the college network?

    Yes. The primary purpose of the Amherst Network is for academic work. Other uses of the network, especially those that slow down, disrupt or might damage the network, may result in the sequestering or possible removal of the offending computer. All those using the Amherst Network are bound by the College's Acceptable Use Policy.

    While Amherst College does not monitor individual students' Internet activity, it does monitor network traffic and operation. If an external copyright owner complains to Amherst that you are freely sharing their work, your computer will be taken off the network until you remove the copyrighted material. Similarly if your computer is compromised by a virus/malware and as a result using the network improperly and/or spamming, it will be removed from the network and sequestered. You will be notified by Amherst IT if your network privileges are curtailed and what you need to do to reinstate them.
  • Can I bring a wireless access point or wireless router for my room?

    NO! Your personal wireless access point may interfere with College's wireless access points. And if the is not configured correctly you can bring down the entire network.
    Leave your wireless access point at home; it is not allowed on the Amherst network.
  • What kind of phone should I bring?

    Both iPhones and Android phones work well with the Amherst network. More information is available on our Student Telephone Service page.
  • How does access to cable TV work on-campus?

    See our Cable TV service page.

The IT Department

  • What will the IT Department help me with?

    The IT Help Desk helps with questions about or problems using Amherst network resources, your computer, software, or IT accessibility. We don't repair computers but can try to help diagnose repair issues and we ca recommend repair resources.
  • How can I get a job working for the IT Department?

    IT hires student workers towards the end of both the fall and spring semesters. For a first-year student, your first employment opportunity with us would be during the latter half of your first semester. Please email askit@amherst.edu for more information.

    I have a question you haven't covered.

    Of course you do. Feel free to contact AskIT at (413) 542-2526, or send an email to askit@amherst.edu. We look forward to hearing from you.