Architecture Computer Requirements

(Updated March 2021)

NOTE: All students should have a full computer, at least an older computer, available for coursework in the Fall Semester of their first year. Using a smart phone only will not work for courses.

Architecture students are required to have a computer with minimum specifications listed below by the spring semester of their first year. We believe it will be in the best interest of students to have a computer that meets these minimum specifications in the fall semester of their first year. That is our recommendation. However, architecture students are not required to have a computer that meets these minimum specifications until the beginning the spring semester of their first year. 


Architecture undergraduate students must have their own computer by the Spring Semester of their first year.

Architecture graduate students must have their own computer by the Fall Semester of their first year.

Windows computers are required for Architecture students.

The School of Architecture at North Carolina State University sees computers and digital media as powerful tools through which architectural ideas can be developed, presented, explored and evaluated. As such, the computer and its associated technology broaden the repertoire of media available to the designer. The Architecture faculty believes that students should be proficient in the use of all available media, from pencil and paper to virtual reality, and should be able to knowingly switch from one mode of design work to another with ease.

Architecture students are introduced to computers as design tools in the Spring Semester of their first year of the undergraduate curriculum, or first semester of the graduate program. Before that, undergraduate students are introduced to conventional design tools in First Year Experience design studios.

The Architecture faculty realizes that computers are as useful in a variety of learning environments (lecture and seminar rooms, travel studies, and even at home), as well as the design studio. To be equally viable with traditional media in varied settings, the technology must be fully portable. Therefore, the School of Architecture requires that students purchase a Windows laptop and associated software as listed below. Undergraduate students should have the computers ready to use for required coursework at the beginning of the Spring Semester of their first year. Graduate students should have their computer ready to use for required coursework at the beginning of their first semester.

The Architecture faculty prefers not to base hardware specifications on a particular operating system, but on the capabilities that are needed to support the necessary software. Computers using Windows 10 Pro or Education Edition operating system are recommended for the School of Architecture because of software requirements. Below are the minimum technical specifications for student computers in the School of Architecture.

Each department in the College of Design has different computer requirements. Please read the College’s Student Computing Requirements Information page for general information before spending money on computer hardware or software.

We recommend that your computer meet or exceed the specifications below. A computer with greater capability (processor speed, RAM, disk capacity) and expandability will be more likely to continue to run required software in later years of college.

This chart provides minimum recommendations for students purchasing new computers. Software requirements are listed at the bottom of the chart. Additional specialized software may be required in other courses, as determined by the instructor. Students may consider the purchase of other software to support their particular goals and learning styles.

Components Windows Laptop
CPU (Processor) or Model Any model using Intel Core i7 or newer processors.
Should meet current Lumion system requirements.
System RAM
16 GB minimum. Students who intend to pursue coursework requiring advanced rendering should upgrade to 32 GB minimum.
Hard Drive (Storage)
512 GB SSD minimum, more preferred (multiple drives are fine)
15″ minimum
(second external monitor recommended)
Graphics Processor Unit (GPU) Should have a discrete GPU. Should meet current Lumion system requirements. 
6GB video memory or more. No integrated graphics processors.
Operating System

Information for obtaining a free student license of Windows 10 Education is available here.

Windows 10 Home or Pro
Audio Standard on PCs
Network Adapters
Wi-Fi card or adapter
Backup External Drive – Windows Backup & Restore (external drive needs to be at least twice the computer’s storage capacity)

Cloud Backup Services – Google Backup & Sync (using NCSU Google account with “unlimited” storage) or another backup service

Warranty Service Minimum 3-year onsite parts and labor or third-party loss/damage coverage

Be sure to check for educational discounts through the College of Design or Wolfpack Outfitters.

Many Autodesk products are available free through Autodesk’s Education Community.

Additional software may be required for certain courses.

Microsoft Office 365 (free for NCSU students)
Autodesk AutoCAD 2018 or later (NOT LT version)
Adobe Creative Cloud
MultiFrame is required after first year for ARC331 and ARC332.


The College’s Information Technology staff will be glad to go over purchase choices or answer any related questions. You can send an email to or use this form to contact the College Information Technology staff with specific information about your problem.