Though extra-long sheets and a Yale sweatshirt may be at the top of everyone’s packing list, one of the first purchases many people consider when they get accepted to college is a computer.

Yale has no computer requirement, and there are computer clusters in each residential college, as well as in the libraries and in Connecticut Hall. Nevertheless, nearly 90 percent of students own their own computers, said Loriann Higashi, coordinator of Academic Media and Technology.

“Generally I’ve seen that students who have their own computers like to use them for other things, to be able to check their e-mail in their room, use [AOL] Instant Messenger, and play games,” Higashi said. “I’ve even seen students who have their own computers do their work on the clusters because they don’t get distracted there.”

The “laptop versus desktop” debate is an important decision for students who decide to buy a computer. Both laptops and desktops have their pros and cons. Laptops are more portable but also easier to steal than desktops. They are more expensive, but taking notes on a computer in class or writing a paper outside is impractical — and often impossible — tasks with a desktop. About 80 percent of Yale students own laptops, Higashi said.

“Desktops are cheaper, more powerful for a given price, CRT monitors [that come with desktops] are larger, more expandable, etc., so, unless portability is a priority for the student, which it very well might be, I would go with a desktop,” computing assistant Jerry Moon ’02 said in an e-mail.

In terms of Windows or Macintosh operating systems, personal preference is the only factor, Moon said. The clusters include both PCs and Macs, so compatibility is not an issue.

The student computing Web site,, has more specific information on processor speed and memory recommended by Academic Media and Technology. The web site also has links to Dell, IBM and Apple pages offering discounts to Yale students on a few computers, but Higashi encouraged students to shop around, checking out different prices.

“Different vendors will give you different peace of mind in terms of service, but the computing assistants will support anything,” she said.

There are computing assistants, or CAs, assigned to each residential college, as well as several on duty at Connecticut Hall, Cross Campus Library, and Dunham Laboratory. They are available to help students set up their computers at the beginning of the year and provide assistance throughout the year. They help connect computers to the network, install printers and solve general computing problems. CAs are in especially high demand when viruses circulate. Yale has a site license for Norton Antivirus, so students can download and update it for free, reducing virus vulnerability.

Security is a concern, especially with laptops. A locking cable and an alarm can be as cheap as $30 and prevent theft; both are available at the Yale Bookstore. Students can also purchase the STOP tracking program, which registers laptops and labels them with silver tags with bar codes that require seven thousand pounds of force to be removed. The bar code enables the company to track down the missing laptop if stolen.

“There is a great deal of resources for computing at Yale, both in terms of equipment — scanners, color printers in the clusters, for example — and humans — CAs collectively know a great deal–and the students should take advantage of it,” Moon said.