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Hardware: PC Configuration

IST Recommendations
New PC Purchases Running Windows XP Professional


General Considerations:

  • Check the warranty and try to obtain a minimum of two years on all components.
  • Office quality PCs are usually made with better quality components than PCs marketed to the home user.
    Our experience with a wide variety of PCs indicates that quality components matter. See Note 3
  • An operating system must be purchased with the machine. See Note 2
  • Must have a CSA approval sticker on system
  • UW does not acquire PCs through leasing arrangements because of the unfavourable financial terms.
    Further information can be obtained by contacting Finance (x33722 or x36828).


              IST has recognized the requirement for a less expensive alternative to our normally recommended workstation with multiple peripheral cards (sound/video/network adapter). The best way to increase cost saving is to adopt an integrated motherboard where the video/sound/network adapters are built on the motherboard. This workstation has a smaller footprint and will meet the requirements of most administrative support workstations. IST has tested integrated motherboards and can recommend the manufacturers ASUS and Intel.. (Savings for systems incorporating these boards will vary and can be as much as $300.)

             Many of the specifications listed below are the minimun that should be considered, and some become out-of-date very quickly. Things like "133 Mhz front-side bus" has been superceded by 400Mhz and 800Mhz FSB mainboards, so the specs is listed only as a baseline reference. Also, the "best value" CPU speed changes from month to month, so it is hard to keep up with.



Standard Workstation (minimum specs)

System board

  • Pentium 4  >2.0 Ghz (The best value at this time is a P4/3.0 Ghz processor)
  • 133 MHZ Front Side Bus (FSB) or faster
  • ATA 66/100/133
  • 3 PCI ports
  • AGP video support
  • Universal Serial Ports (USB 2.0) support a minimum of 4 ports
    Recommended Manufacturers:   ASUS or Intel



  • 512 MB minimum is highly recommended

Hard Disk

  • 40 GB or greater (check the price difference to a larger drive, could be minimal
  • 3 year warranties are typically available
    Recommended Manufacturers: Western Digital ,Maxtor

Video Adapter (on system board or card)

  • supports AGP
  • 32Mb of video ram or more
    Recommended Manufacturer: ATI, nVIDA, Intel

Network Adapter (on system board or card)

  • 10/100/1000 MBPS capable
    ****ONLY SUPPORTED Manufacturer: Intel, Broadcom

Sound Card (on system board or card)
             Recommended Manufacturer: none, whatever is on system board

External speakers (optional)


  • CD reader is required
  • CDRW/DVD Combodrive is very cost effective and highly recommended over a standard CD-ROM drive. Also, DVD burners are very competitively priced if there is a need for DVD burning.

 Case and Power Supply

  • Care must be taken in choosing a case that is rigid and sturdy enough to support the motherboard and optional cards without movement.** see Note 1
  • 300 watt power supply
  • Tower is convenient as it can be hidden away under the desk


LCD Monitor Information:

               The cost of 15" LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panels are now comparable to the better quality 17" tube (CRT) monitors. The 17" LCD panels are also coming down in price and so are also competetive. Due to the way they are measured, the viewing area of the 15" LCD is only slightly smaller than the17" CRT monitor. There are several strong advantages to using an LCD display:

  • Small foot print, they occupy less space on the top of your desk
  • Low power consumption and less heat
  • Crisp clean display


There is one disadvantage in that they need to work at their designed display characteristics. Most 15" LCD displays are designed to work at 1024 X 768 and will not display as good at other rates. If an individual prefers or requires 800 x 600 for the larger character rendition then the LCD is not advisable. General information about LCD displays.


Monitor (CRT)

  • IST no longer recommends the purchase of CRT's ( monitors). LCD's are more cost effective


  • The biggest complaint of new PC owners is that the keyboard is "flimsy" and has a poor "feel’. All keyboard manufacturers have low and high end products and the deciding factor is cost. Purchase keyboards that are in the range of $25 to $50.
  • usb or PS2 connector is acceptable
    Recommended Manufacturer: Keytronics


  • Recommended Manufacturers: Microsoft Intellimouse (w/wheel) or Intellieye (optical,w/wheel) or Logitech
  • Do Not Recommend ball type only optical
  • USB optical recommended



  1. Before committing to purchase any number of PC's from ANY vendor we strongly encourage you to obtain an evaluation unit. Failure to properly evaluate the PC (including the case) may lead to no end of unexpected surprises.
  2. Please remember that you must also purchase an operating system from the vendor. The University does not have licenses for the Windows operating system, only upgrades from previous versions of the OS. You must purchase a license for Windows XP Professional (not XP Home Edition) with your PC. IST will have the current supported version of Windows installed when the PC arrives in your office. When Windows is to be deployed in your area, you will already have the required Windows license.
  3. Administrative departments supported by IST should not purchase computers that do not fall within these general recommendations. IST's support of these departments depends on a predictable set of assets in each PC that is recognized by an operating system image created for each department or group of departments. This image allows IST support personnel to quickly isolate PC problems and rebuild operating systems with minimum downtime. IST's support of PC workstations that follow these guidelines will be assigned a higher priority than those that do not.
    For more information please contact Steve Breen at extension 32686 or Peter Schepers at extension 36347. Quotes from recommended vendors are readily available from Manfred Grisebach at extension 33449.

Last updated: September 22, 2005

by Steve Breen