Posted by JosephOHagan (15 posts) 11 months, 17 days ago

Poll: For a student starting a degree in Computer Science what would you recommend? (63 votes)

High Spec PC Running Linux 3%
High Spec PC Running Windows 35%
Average PC Running Linux 3%
Average PC Running Windows 29%
Macbook Pro 24%
Windows Laptop Running Linux 6%

So I'm planning on buying a PC or Laptop to make and develop programs on shortly. I've got a bit of money set aside and want the system to last at least 4 years. I'm about to start a Computer Science degree in September and am eager to do a lot of development and programming in my own time. I also like linux if you haven't already guessed. Thanks for any advice that you can provide.

#1 Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx (2647 posts) -

Stay away from the Macbook and you'll be fine

Also get the best PC you can afford. You'll probably want windows as most of your programs and computers in school will be running it but it isn't necessary.

#2 Posted by RazielCuts (3053 posts) -

Hard alcohol.

#3 Posted by Random45 (1394 posts) -

I recommend you REALLY make sure this is what you want to do and you're willing to go into debt for it. I'm about to graduate this semester, and I'm STILL unsure if I made the right decision, which I figure isn't a very good sign.

Oh... And Windows computer, because of what a guy above me said.

#4 Posted by Baillie (4565 posts) -

I'm doing computer science with a MacBook Pro.

#5 Posted by Viking_Funeral (2068 posts) -

Stay away from the Macbook and you'll be fine


If funds allow, I would also try to build your own computer on the cheap. Like, for under $400. It will give you some good practice putting a machine together, and will also give you an extra machine to mess around with without being afraid of breaking it.

#6 Edited by CatsAkimbo (683 posts) -

If you don't plan on gaming or rendering video or whatever, just go with an average thing or a laptop.

Most of the computer science labs at my school ran ubuntu, so maybe check first. It's not like it's crazy hard to dual/triple boot any of your choices.

Macbook is great too. I triple boot ubuntu, os x, and windows 7 on mine.

Unless you're primarily learning C# or something windows-focused, you'll probably be laughed at for using windows to actually program.

#7 Edited by believer258 (12594 posts) -

Dual boot Linux and Windows on a PC with an i7, Titan, and 64GB of RAM, as a minimum.

Kidding. I actually don't know. I'm graduating as an English major, but if I had to guess, I'd tell you to use what you can for a semester or two so you can make sure this is what you want, and then move up to a higher end PC. It would suck to buy a high end PC and then realize that you actually fucking hate this stuff halfway through the semester. Of course, then you would have a nice new gaming rig to distract you from your upcoming Humanities declaration, but it would still feel a bit odd to spend that money on something for work and then just use it for leisure.

@random45 said:

I recommend you REALLY make sure this is what you want to do and you're willing to go into debt for it. I'm about to graduate this semester, and I'm STILL unsure if I made the right decision, which I figure isn't a very good sign.

Oh... And Windows computer, because of what a guy above me said.

Guy above you:

@razielcuts said:

Hard alcohol.

Yep, pretty much.

But yes, seems like sticking with Windows would be the best decision as that OS is compatible with practically everything. Uh... isn't the very fact that you're asking this a sign that you need to do more research before stepping into this major? Or are you just not quite confident?

EDIT: Also dual-booting is a pretty good idea anyway.

#8 Posted by RedUFO (24 posts) -

Get the best Windows PC you can afford. You will probably end up install a Linux on a partition after a couple of years. That's what I did at least.

#9 Edited by KoolAid (1126 posts) -

There are a few different things to consider.

1: I personally prefer xcode to visual studio, not everyone agrees with me but that's how I feel. I think its easier to pick xcode up. For that reason I exclusively develop on my macbook. Not to mention apps are pretty popular right now, and its a lot easier to develop iOS apps if you got a macbook. And you can still get ADT for android apps.

2: If you are going to school, you might have to take notes. Laptops, especially compact macbooks, are pretty handy for that. And for goofing off in the middle of class. Then again, by the end of college for me (which was a few years ago), I felt like I didn't even need to take notes, as everything was on an online powerpoint anyways. Pads of paper are still handy, and hell, maybe a tablet would be better for notes. But I would say the portability of your computer in college is a consideration

3: Since you are posting this on Giant Bomb, I'm going to assume you like video games. Building your own PC is going to get you the furthest in terms of performance for money. My 2010 macbook isn't great for games, but I assume a newer model would be alright.

Here are the computer choices I made for college:

Freshman year: I made a desktop pc so I could play PC games and work. I used spiral notebooks for class notes.

Senior Year: I bought a cheap dell netbook for a few hundred dollars that I installed OSX on. This is so I could start making apps for this newfangled iPhone thingy. I would say this is when I got serious about programming outside of class. It was really small and slow but it kinda got the job done.

Graduation: I bought a macbook pro that I still use today. Big step up from my netbook and like I said, I do all my development on it.

I hope this helped.

EDIT: Also, I'm going to do a pro and con list of being a computer science major, because other posters seem to think that important.


  • Programming is hard. Most people have a hump after which programming starts to become more natural. Some people bust through this hump and some don't. If you feel like giving up, I'd recommend trying to push through it. But only you can figure out if this is for you or not.
  • Seriously, programming is hard! Get used to your humanities major friends having a good time raging through college while are trying to get your homework done.


  • You will have the ability to make video games.
  • You will become really rich if that is something you want to pursue. This is usually not related to making video games.
  • If programming is something you like to do, you can have a very engaging career where work is actuality exciting instead of some bullshit you have to get through every day.

#10 Edited by DystopiaX (5375 posts) -

@koolaid On the other hand, watch your humanities majors friends panic as they approach graduation and can't find a job, whereas there's high demand for people in your field.

Do what the people said before and don't get something hella expensive until you know you want to do it. I quit after a year. For what it's worth, the first year of computer science you don't really need any kind of good PC really, any kind of computer should be fine.

#11 Posted by Skytylz (4067 posts) -

If you can afford it I'd recommend a macbook. I've done a fair amount of development on both Windows and OSX, but I definitely prefer OSX. Can't beat that bash terminal and the file structure is a light nicer. The only reason to use windows for dev work is if your doing .NET stuff which is great because Visual Studio is god tier. Overall, though I definitely prefer my mac for development.

Also, if you want an IDE for java, use intellij, fuck eclipse. vim > emacs. And sublime is my favorite text editor right now because there are some great shortcuts in it. One more thing, I'd definitely recommend just using a plain text editor for c or c++, i pretty much only use vim when doing those but I don't do them that often.

#12 Edited by Clonedzero (4206 posts) -

An average PC i'd say. Nothing fancy, so you're not afraid to tinker with it, but nothing crappy either.

Just dont turn into one of those assholes that "pimps his PC" out. No no i dont mean by having a very powerful machine, that's fantastic go for that, but dont' be that dude that puts TONS of unnecessary glowy LEDs and transparent cases and all sorts of other garbage on it.

Plus if someone breaks into your house they'd steal the obviously expensive PC, if its a shitty generic black or grey case ('d go grey, looks shitter) no ones gonna steal it.

#13 Edited by JosephOHagan (15 posts) -

Thanks for the advice so far guys. Some of you have mentioned the difficulty of programming and that I may change my mind about studying computer science but having spent quite a bit of time toying around with programming at school and home I can safely say that I'm sure it's what I want to do. You may be wondering why a new system is necessary then, well my current setup is a laptop from 2009 that's propped up by an encyclopedia to stop it from overheating. Even if I was forced to switch course it would be to something such as Maths, Physics or some form of engineering and my interest in programming would still exist.

Also I feel that I should make it clear that when I say a PC running Linux, I intend to dual-boot the system but primarily use the Linux OS and environment for development.

#14 Posted by Butano (1844 posts) -

I actually use a Surface Pro 1 for school to take notes with and develop on. It runs Windows 8, but I was able to install an external hard drive with Ubuntu 13.10 and just boot to it when I do programming assignments (use to use Xubuntu through VMWare, though that was still somewhat limiting due to the Pro only having 4GB RAM). OneNote is a godsend when it's combined with the stylus and OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). It's got good specs too. i5 Ivy Bridge, 4GB RAM, 128 SSD, and an optional microSD slot. The Pro 2 has newer specs and a better battery (along with more storage options), but I've had the Pro 1 for a little over a year now and will probably continue to use it for another year or so.

#15 Posted by Lumley (992 posts) -

I'm a 3rd year Computer Science student myself and I've been using a ~£500 laptop for the past 3 years (6GB RAM, i5 processor). I haven't done any programming that my laptop can't manage and personally I find a laptop a lot more useful for the student lifestyle. Because I had a laptop travelling home with it wasn't an issue, I could take it into the computer labs, or lectures, and I could sit downstairs with it in my student house and socialise / binge watch awful daytime TV.

Of your choices an average PC with Windows would be the best option - or a Macbook dual booted with Windows if that's more your thing. Not that there's anything wrong with macbooks, but for a student that's quite an expense.

Also, I don't know what the University/College/whatever you're going to is like but at mine there are computer labs (specifically for people on my course) that are full of triple boot machines. Any programming we need to do for projects can be quite easily done exclusively in labs.

Also.. programming isn't that difficult (at least not the stuff you'll be doing first and second year!). The first 6 months of my course presumed that you knew absolutely nothing about programming so I (with my 2 years experience of VB.Net) absolute flew through it.

#16 Edited by Bollard (6243 posts) -

As a 2nd year Computing student, my University solely uses Linux, and getting experience with it is pretty useful. My home PC is a Windows machine, however I largely work over SSH on the lab terminals which all run Ubuntu. You don't want to end up looking like a tit who has no idea how a shell works. Learning to compile code on the command line is also really useful to get your head around how the compiler and linker work together, and so on.

Secondly, you don't need a powerful machine. You aren't going to be compiling thousands of lines of code every half an hour in your Uni work, so a modest computer will do just fine (unless you want to game on it). Also don't feel restricted to either having Linux OR Windows, partition your hard drive and dual boot with both.

#17 Edited by JosephOHagan (15 posts) -

@lumley: In terms of programming being hard I get what your saying and personally I haven't found anything I've studied so far too hard and whenever I do encounter something slightly hard than the norm, I love the challenge of breaking down the code and logic of it and understanding it fully.

#18 Posted by Guppy507 (44 posts) -

MacBooks are great for programming, and if you end up gravitating more towards web stuff, Coda is absolutely fantastic.

You'll need something with Unix, so MacBook or Linux of some sort.