Computing Information and Resources

The Mechanical Engineering Department does not require students to purchase a computer, nor do we recommend any particular brand. The Department provides five 24-hour labs for ME student use. These are accessaible by your Cal Poly ID card.  These labs provide PCs with over $100,000 worth of Math and Cad programs that are used in ME classes.

Students can purchase their own personal computer if they choose to run the free and low cost student versions, email, write reports, or do web research, etc. from their dorm room or off campus.  Some computer software companies offer free or low-cost student versions that can be loaded onto a personal computer to allow studying out of class. For example Solid Works provides a free 150 day Educational version. If you choose to purchase a MAC you'll want to consider VMware Fusion , Parallels or Boot Camp that comes with the Mac so you can run Windows programs as there are more engineering software programs available for the PC than a Mac.  Cal Poly's University Store offers student discounts on computers and peripherals, however due to the constantly changing computer industry, competition, close-outs, sales tax, and shipping, it pays to shop around. Microsoft Office 365 and Symantec End Point Anti Virus can be downloaded free from the portal my.calpoly.edu.  The residence halls at Cal Poly are both wireless and hard wired with Ethernet.  Do not connect without virus software.

Laptop computers take up less space but you'll be paying a premium for portability and they are generally not as easily reconfigured as full size computers. Also, laptops generally don't have the cad graphics capability offered by a full size computer.  Think twice about getting a 17" laptop because you'll get real tired lugging it around.  Here is a link to SolidWorks website with a list of notebooks certified to run SolidWorks. Lesser machines will run SolidWorks but these have higher end graphics cards that have been tested and are certified to run SolidWorks.  If you decide to purchase a laptop, be sure to get a locking cable for it for security purposes. There is wireless available across campus.

Consider the following recommendations when deciding on a personal computer:

  • When you're down to deciding between two similar computers, go for the one with more memory as opposed to a faster processor. For example, a 3 GHz computer with 16Gb ram would be better than a 3.3 GHz computer with 8 Gb ram (8 Gb ram is the minimum and 16Gb is recommended.) We suggest the newer Quad Core or better Technology.  Solid State Drives (SSD) drives are the latest trend since they are very fast and we recommend them.

  • Suggest an external USB drive to back up your system and data.

  • A dual layer DVD burner will enable you to copy more of your larger files for backup and portability than just a DVD burner.

  • The storage of choice are USB "pen" drives. (put your name or cell phone number on it and don't forget to take it with you when you leave the lab).  The university provides 5 Gb of storage "U" drive on the server accessable in the labs and off campus.

  • Don't feel like you have to show up on the first day of school with a computer. The longer you wait the cheaper or faster they become.

E-mail for more information