IAM Recommended Computers

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In general you will find our labs to be available for most students to use while taking courses in IAM but some students do find a need for purchasing their own computers. In IAM you will find a wide range of machines both Mac and PC to run our wide range of computer applications. Most of the software that we use in the IAM department is cross platform so it is up to your preference whether to use Mac or PC. There are a few Windows specific software exceptions noted below.

For Windows, Windows 10 64-bt Professional is recommended.

Alternatively, you can use Bootcamp Assistant on an Intel Mac to install Windows as a second Operating System, allowing you to pick which OS you want to use when you start your computer. You will need to have a copy of Windows to do this, but you can get a free copy through the Dreamspark Program once you are enrolled in IAM classes. Again, you will need an Intel Mac to do this, G5's or anything older cannot run Bootcamp.

Platform Specific software


  • Visual Studio 2017 (IAM Major/Game Design Major Intro to Programming)
  • MS MSQL Managment Studio (IAM Major Data Design)
  • AutoDesk 3ds Max 2018
  • AutoDesk MotionBuilder 2018


  • Xcode IDE


You can see a list of all the software currently installed in the labs on the Open Lab/Homework Lab - RM 122 page.

Students and Faculty get hardware discounts from Apple and Dell.

Students and Faculty also receive discounts on software. Columbia College Discounts

Adobe software is available through your Columbia College Office 365

The IAM department is a member of Microsoft's Dreamspark program so students and faculty can get free Microsoft products. See the Dreamspark Page for more details.

Computer Recommendations

In general it is up to the student on whether they find a laptop or desktop to be more appropriate, but there are some helpful guidelines that will apply to either form factor.

  1. Buy as much as you can! Technology is rapidly changing and buying a computer that meets the needs of todays software will only cause your system to become outdated and unable to run software that may come out a couple years down the road or even a few months in some cases!
  2. Processor: We recommend at minimum a quad core processor and our preference would be Intel Core i7 or Intel Xeon E5 processors.
  3. RAM: this is what will allow students to run multiple applications at once or higher performance applications more smoothly. In general we recommend nothing less than 8GB but again buy more if you can. Especially with systems like Mac Book Pros that do not allow you to upgrade this after purchase since the memory is soldered to the logic board.
  4. Graphics: In IAM we use both NVIDIA and AMD and the best advice we can give you is to by a discrete graphics card from one of these manufactures. Some manufactures use shared graphics memory typically made by the processor manufacture (e.g. Intel IRIS, Intel HD). This means that your graphics processor is actually borrowing from the system RAM we mentioned above to power graphics. In IAM we have AMD FirePro and NVIDIA Quadro, and NVIDIA GTX cards. Any of these would work fine and if you are looking at a Mac, the AMD Radeon R9 series will do as well. Again the more the better but ideally you'd want to try and get no less than 2GB of dedicated video memory if possible.
  5. Storage: There are a couple of suggestions here and you may need to balance this with what makes more sense for you.
    1. First, did we mention buy as much as you can? Typically 1TB of storage is a good place to start but you can supplement lower capacity onboard storage with external drives which are relatively cheap.
    2. There have been many advancements in flash based storage (also called Solid State Drive - SSD) and although the prices have come down quite a bit they are still pricy to purchase direct from the manufacture (Apple mostly). Sometimes it works out to be cheaper to buy an SSD after market from Crucial or Samsung and install this yourself but this may require some advanced computer repair knowledge (especially for Apple computers). The boost in performance is totally worth it though so if you can, buy flash based over traditional hard drives.
  6. Another great tip would be to check out any software that your program is going to require and check the vendor sites for their system requirements and if possible buy something with a bit more than there minimum recommendations.
  7. Lastly, many of your instructors and fellow students can also be a great source for recommendations so don't be shy!