IT Memo to Incoming Students

Dear Incoming Student:

Welcome to the University of Chicago Law School. I would like to take a moment of your time to introduce the Law School Office of Information Technology and explain the computing environment and how to make the most out of the technology at the Law School.

First, as you know, you will be required to have a laptop as a student at the Law School. The Law School supports both Windows and Apple laptops.

If you have an existing laptop that is not more than a year or two old, you should be able to bring that into our environment without issues. However, if your machine is older, please be advised that you may have issues running software which is required by the law school, such as the Exam4 application we use to administer exams.

We do recommend using either Apple, Dell or Lenovo laptops, which in our experience, tend to be more reliable and solidly constructed than some other brands, but you are welcome to purchase any brand you would like, keeping in mind our minimum requirements and recommendations outlined below.

Operating Systems

The Law School supports both Windows and Mac OS. Because of compatibility with Exam4, the software you will be required to use for exams at the Law School, we currently support only the following Operating System versions:

  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 10
  • Mac OSX 10.8 or higher

As of this time, we do not support any Linux distributions. If you are running an older version of Windows, such as Windows 7, you should be aware that this is no longer a supported operating system. If you are not running one of the supported operating systems, you will not be able to run required software, such as Exam4 for exams. If you have any questions about your operating system, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Minimum Hardware Requirements

In order to ensure compatibility with our network and software you will be required to use at the Law School, any system you purchase should meet these minimum requirements:

  • 1.5GHz or higher CPU Speed
  • 8GB or higher RAM
  • 128GB or higher Hard Drive

The following recommendations apply to your laptop regardless of the make/model you purchase. We recommend that any system you purchase feature:

  • An Intel i5 or better processor, and for best performance and longevity, we recommend an Intel i7 class processor at 2.0GHz or higher speed. Check the “turbo boost” speed rating of the processor as well.
  • 8GB of RAM as a minimum, 16GB if you want to maximize the life of your laptop, as the memory requirements for applications and operating systems tend to increase over time. (Note: For Macs and many ultra-portable Windows PCs, we recommend getting the maximum available, usually 8GB or 16GB, because they are not user upgradable later.)
  • We recommend Solid-State Drives (SSD) due to the increase in performance. The minimum size would be 128GB, however, for most vendors, the SSD “sweet spot” on pricing is now a 256GB SSD drive. (Note: For Macs and many ultra-portable Windows PCs, we recommend getting the maximum available, because they are not user upgradable later.)
  • Wired 100/1000-base T Ethernet connectivity, to connect to the Law School wired network. Some laptops, such as the MacBook or the MacBook Air, may require an external adapter for wired Ethernet.
  • An integrated webcam/microphone, to allow for video conferencing, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, etc.
  • Wireless networking via 802.11g/n, to connect to the network in the Law School common areas or in classes which authorize Internet access.
  • On-line backup service, such as Carbonite or Mozy. These on-line backup services back your machine up to the Cloud, and work seamlessly in the background, so important files are always backed up.
  • Extended warranty. The “3YR In-Home + Accidental Damage Protection” from Lenovo, the “Dell Complete Care” or “3 Year Enhanced Support with 3 Year Accidental Damage Service” from Dell or “AppleCare/AppleCare+” from Apple are highly recommended as they will extend your warranty to cover your machine during your time at The Law School.

In addition, the following—while not essential—are often very useful and nice to have on-hand, rather than having to purchase them in an emergency:

  • A network cable to keep in your case/bag, to connect to the wired network if necessary.
  • A USB “Thumb” Drive for quickly and easily exchanging files with peers.
  • A “Display Adapter” for any notebook that does not have a VGA or HDMI video output (this includes all Macs).
  • A spare power adapter (these get left behind in the Library or classrooms frequently, so it’s always nice to have a spare).
  • A travel/mini surge protector for your notebook. This provides additional protection for your laptop from power spikes and damage from electrical surges.
  • An external hard drive—for backing up or extra storage.

In addition, you should consider screen size. Many students find ultra-portable notebooks, which typically feature 13” or smaller screens, very convenient due to their light weight and small size. However, the smaller screen real-estate can have an impact on some software, such as Exam4, making it hard to have your notes or outline open and simultaneously viewable on the screen with an exam answer. Some students feel this trade off isn’t worth it and prefer a larger screen to be able to view documents side-by-side. Either way, it is a personal preference—but you should be aware that choosing one over the other is always a trade-off in some respect.

We also strongly urge you to keep your machine up-to-date, with security patches from Microsoft or Apple, as well as making sure your virus definitions are up-to-date for your anti-virus software. Failure to keep your Operating System up-to-date can lead to problems with required software, such as Exam4.

In order to get the best possible pricing on your laptop, you should take advantage of the educational discounts offered by purchasing through Apple, Dell, or Lenovo’s educational stores for the University of Chicago:

If you have any questions about whether or not something is supported or recommended, please feel free to call or e-mail the Help Desk at any time.

COVID-19 Considerations

Because so much is currently uncertain for the next academic year regarding Covid-19 and potential restrictions from the State or University, we also have the following recommendations:

Webcams. Most laptops now come with a built-in webcam (and have built-in speakers/microphones). If you are considering a model that does not have a webcam, you should purchase an external USB webcam that you can use with Zoom and other web conferencing utilities.

Residential Internet. You should have a residential internet package that provides you with at least 10Mbps of connectivity, up and down if possible, to ensure you don’t have issues with performance on web conference calls.

Printing. If access to the building is restricted, your ability to print will be restricted as well. There are many affordable laser printers on the maket today, such as the HP LaserJet Pro M203dw or the Brother HL-L2370DW. These are straight forward black and white laser printers. Both HP and Brother make color laser printers, as well as multi-function devices that can print/scan/copy as well, if you would like something with more robust features.

Software Recommendations

You will need several pieces of software at the Law School, including anti-virus software, Microsoft Office, and Exam4 for exams. Fortunately, this software is provided for you free of charge under various campus licensing agreements. Please note, you won’t be able to access these downloads until you have your CNetID.

You should install and run anti-virus software at all times. The University provides Symantec End-Point Protection free of charge. You can find out more information and download the software here:

The University also provides Microsoft Office O365 (as well as 2016 for Mac and PC for download) free of charge, to enrolled students. You can get your free copy of Microsoft Office here:

In addition to Office, the Microsoft operating system (Windows 10) is also available to students for free or nominal charge. If you need assistance selecting or installing an Operating System upgrade, please feel free to contact the Office of Information Technology.

If you want a cloud-based solution for sharing documents between machines (for example, if you have a desktop and a laptop) or between users (for group projects, etc.) the University offer’s free Box.com accounts. This service functions similarly to DropBox or other cloud-based file sharing services, but the Box agreement with the University offers several advantages: 1) it is free to students; 2) you start with a 50GB quota, but that can be expanded on request; 3) when you leave the University, you get to keep your free account with Box.com. You can sign up at http://uchicago.box.com with your CNetID.

Finally, you will need exam software in order to take your Law School exams. The Law School uses currently uses Exam4, but more details will be provided as we near exams.

As exams approach, the Law School will make practice exams and training sessions available on how to use the Exam4 application. We highly recommend completing the practice exams and attending at least one training session prior to taking your final exams.

Printing at the Law School

The Law School provides a number of public printers for student use. You can print to these printers directly from your laptop or from the Law School computing lab machines. The Law School uses software called Paper Cut to keep track of student printing, to help minimize waste. Each student receives a quota of 1200 pages per academic year, which is more than enough to print out your course information and assignments. If you exceed your quota and need to print, you may purchase print cards at the Library Circulation Desk or the Copy Center which will allow you additional printing.

Additional Computing Information

The University’s IT group, IT Services, has a number of resources available for hardware purchases and software licensing. You can find more information at:

Additionally, you can find out more about Information Technology for law students on the Law School website at:

Contacting Law School Office of Information Technology

The Office of Information Technology is here to help you with your computing needs, Monday through Friday, from 8:30AM to 5:30PM. You can also reach us via e-mail at helpdesk@law.uchicago.edu or phone at (773) 834-5300. We’re happy to answer any questions we can.\

I hope this information proves useful, and please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff if you have any questions about computing at the University of Chicago Law School.

David Gulbransen
Director of Information Technology