Purchasing a Mobile Device

Mobile Computing at the Medical School

This FAQ will assist you in choosing a computer to bring with you to Medical School.You can contact the MSIS Service Desk M-F, 7 am - 7 pm at 734-763-7770 or by email at msishelp@umich.edu. We will help you with your mobile and personal computing needs as much as possible (free of charge). If we don't know the answer, we will help you find someone who does!

Laptop requirement at the U-M Medical School
Electronic Note Taking And Course Packs
What and Where Should I Buy?
The University of Michigan Computer Showcase
Financial Aid
Hardware requirements and reccommendations
Home Internet Access
Where Can I Find More Information On Home Internet Access, Printing, Etc.
Protect Your Electronic Devices from Theft
Further Questions


You are required to have a mobile computing device such as a laptop or tablet at the Medical School (smartphones are not part of this requirement). Purchasing a device is a significant expense, so we recommend that if you already have a fairly modern device (four years or less), bring it to campus and try it. You can purchase a new device later if you need to upgrade. If you are considering the use of a tablet, most students use their tablet as a secondary computer, relying on a laptop and/or desktop as their primary device for overall computing needs (i.e., the traditional student workflow of using multiple applications and windows for studying and project work).

You can evaluate the suitability of your device(s) in advance at the following website:


Key Point

Students think that laptops are necessary, and that use of a smartphone and/or a tablet is of additional utility. Desktops are not considered necessary. Full-sized desktop computers are available in our computer labs.

Electronic Note Taking And Course Packs

The Medical School provides preclinical course materials (e.g., slide presentations that accompany lectures and small groups) in an electronic file format. Students have the option to use their computing devices to view, edit, and manage these materials electronically and/or print these materials at their own expense. These resources are available to all students via a free, university supported online storage and file sharing service called M+Box (see http://www.itcs.umich.edu/storage/box/ for more information). The M+Box system works with most modern computing devices and current operating systems. Students often use an electronic note-taking application as a way to study and manage their electronic materials.

Note Taking with Tablets:

Many students use tablets for electronic note taking. The M+Box system that you will use to access your lecture and course pack resources is most compatible with IOS (e.g., iPad and iPhone) and Android tablets. At this time support for the Microsoft Surface is less than ideal. Students often use a note taking app in conjunction with M+Box to work with their documents. Because there are so many different tablets and associated note taking apps available, it is not possible for us to recommend one tablet or app over another. You will have to experiment to find out what's right for you. Below is a list of note taking apps that are currently popular; this may give you a place to start.

The Five Most Popular Note Taking Apps For Use With Box




More Info


iPad, IPhone




Android, iPad, iPhone

$29.99 per year (subscription)



iPad, iPhone



iAnnotate PDF

Android, iPad, iPhone

Android (free); IOS ($9.99)


Documents 5

iPad, Iphone



As part of your orientation, the Medical School will be providing in-person consulting and online resources to help you configure your computing devices with the M+Box system and develop a process for taking notes and managing your files.

What and Where Should I Buy?

Hardware and Software

Hardware: There are many models and sellers of mobile computing devices. A name brand laptop with a good warranty will run between $350-1500. Students often purchase Apple, Dell, HP, and Lenovo brand products. Tablets run between $200-700. That said, we do not recommend one brand or vendor over another. However, regardless of what and where you buy, we do recommend you purchase a warranty with full accidental coverage, when available.

Software: Most software that is used at the Medical School is web-based and free of charge (e.g., lecture videos, virtual microscope, course resources). The University subscribes to Google Docs/Drive and Box (branded as M+Box for UM) cloud storage, which provides many productivity software products free of charge. Microsoft Office is also available for purchase for $47.17 at our on-campus store, the UM Computer Showcase (see below for more information).

The University of Michigan Computer Showcase

University owned and operated, Computer Showcase provides sales, service and support of personal technology for U-M students. Product selection includes computers, tablets, software, security essentials, audio accessories and other peripherals at not-for-profit academic prices.

Students can choose from a selection of Apple, Dell and HP notebooks - as well as extended warranty coverage - and get expert purchasing advice from peers with first-hand knowledge of the U-M IT environment.

Hands-on computer demos and full-service Support and Repair are available in two locations: on Central Campus in the Michigan Union and on North Campus in Pierpont Commons.

Products can be purchased in-store or ordered online. In-store pickup and shipping are both available for online orders through August 1. Payment options include cash, credit and student account billing; shipping charges are waived on orders over $750 paid by student account.

For more detail on products, services and special sales, visit:


Financial aid

Students needing to purchase a laptop computer may request an increase in their financial aid budget of no more than $2500 to cover the cost. This request must be in writing directly to the Financial Aid Office. Any increase made for a computer purchase will be in the form of loan only. If the computer is purchased through Computer Showcase, we will receive information directly from them, they will bill the Student Account, and any funds borrowed will go directly to the Student Account. For those purchasing outside the University, a receipt will be required before any adjustments can be made. Once approved, funds will be released directly to the student.

This allowance will be added one time only during the students' medical school career. Upperclassmen also have the option of requesting this allowance.

For more information about your financial options, go to:


Hardware requirements and recommendations

The hardware requirements and recommendations listed below have been selected to ensure that your laptop will be able to use the software and other computing systems necessary for your curricular computing activities. Processor and operating system recommendations are specific to a PC; others apply equally to a Mac or PC.



(computer speed)


Pentium 1.5 GHz or faster recommended

Memory (RAM)


2 Gigabyte or larger recommended

Screen Size


14" is recommended - it will provide a good balance between screen size and portability

Hard Drive
(storage space)


80 Gigabytes or larger

Operating System
(any version)


Windows 7 and Mac OSX




802.11g/n aka: WiFi



1000 built-in Ethernet adapter (should be a standard component)

Optical Drive


DVD Reader & CD Burner Combo drive, or DVD Burner

Removable Storage
(not required, but strongly recommended)


• USB Key Drive (1GB or higher recommended) – will simplify document management and file sharing

• External Hard Drive for making backups



Because you will be transporting your laptop to and from school, a lighter and less bulky model would be preferable over a heavier and more bulky laptop



3-4 years of coverage. Highly recommended to get Complete Care (accidental damage warranty), or equivalent



Some of the software used for coursework requires headphones



A laptop carrying case (i.e. saddlebag, backpack) to transport your laptop and accessories is recommended

Ethernet Cable


7 foot Cat 5e Ethernet cable

What about my home Internet access?

High-speed Internet (aka: Broadband) access is recommended. Many students use the Internet to download and stream lecture videos.  These files can be over 300MB for each hour recorded.  Download speeds vary with Broadband service.  Here is a quick table listing speeds and the estimated time to download an average 300MB lecture video.

Downloads Speeds Approximate time to download a typical lecture file (~300MB). You may expect 3-4 lectures per day. Comcast AT&T U-Verse
3 Mbps 22 min - Pro
6 Mbps 10 min - Elite
10 - 12 Mbps 6 min Performance* Max
15- 18 Mbps 4 min Blast* Max Pro
24 Mbps 2 min - Max Turbo
50 Mbps 1 min Blast -

We feel that the 10-12 Mbps is sufficient for most Medical Students´ needs with regards to lecture videos. However, your needs may differ. You can always increase your bandwidth later if necessary.

* Note: PowerBoost provides bursts of download and upload speeds for the first 20 MB and 10 MB of a file, respectively. Actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed (Comcast, 2012). After the PowerBoost, the speed is reduced to roughly half advertised speed, hence why we list Performance as 10 Mbps, not 20 Mbps (as on their website), and Blast Plus as 15 Mbps (not 30 Mpbs). The Extreme 50 and 105 services do not use PowerBoost .

Additional information about the Comcast options: http://www.dslreports.com/faq/15643

Where Can I Find More Information On Home Internet Access, Printing, Etc.?

You can find detailed information in the UM Medstudents "Purchasing a Mobile Device" site:


Protect Your Electronic Devices from Theft

The University of Michigan Police Department is offering a free Laptop, Personal Electronics and Bicycle Registration Program to members of the campus community to deter theft and avoid the consequences or assist in the recovery of stolen property. We urge you to consider this program. For more information:


Who can I contact for laptop support or further questions?

You can contact the MSIS Service Desk M-F, 7 am - 7 pm at 734-763-7770 or by email at msishelp@umich.edu. We will help you with your mobile and personal computing needs as much as possible (free of charge). If we don't know the answer, we will help you find someone who does!