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Computing Requirements

UCSF School of Dentistry Computing Requirements: Equipment and Literacy

These requirements are effective as of June 13, 2014.

All students entering the UCSF School of Dentistry must own a laptop computer that meets either Configuration A or Configuration B, and must be confidently able to perform the tasks described in the Computer Literacy requirement without assistance.

How do I choose between configurations A & B?

Configuration A: Lists the specifications we require if you have purchased a new laptop computer within the past 2 years and do not plan on buying a new computer. This configuration will likely not provide adequate performance through the end of your program.

Configuration B: Lists the specifications we require if you need to purchase a new computer. This configuration will likely provide adequate performance for 3 to 4 years.

Regardless of when you purchase your computer, plan on upgrading or purchasing a new computer 3 to 4 years later.

Hardware requirements

If something is not listed as required, we offer no specific recommendations and suggest that you make purchase decisions based on your budget, or your desire for particular features or convenience.

Configuration A - Required if NOT buying a new computer

Memory (RAM): 4 GB or more (Windows or Mac)
DVD Drive: YES
Graphics Hardware: No specific requirement
Network Interface Card (NIC): Wireless 802.11g

Configuration B - Required if buying a new computer

Memory (RAM): 8 GB or more (Windows or Mac)
DVD Drive: YES
Graphics Hardware: Select a graphics card option upgrade if available
Network Interface Card (NIC): Wireless 802.11n



Surge Protector

UL 1449 listed (UL 1449 certification is typically indicated by a stamp or a label on the device)

Security Cable


Privacy Screen

A laptop privacy screen is a filter that attaches over your laptop's display to make information visible to only you, and we require it when you take certain exams. You'll need to select one that fits your laptop. Because there are many kinds of laptops and privacy screens we cannot provide recommendations or guidance on purchasing, but here are two examples:

3M™ PFMA13 Laptop Privacy Filter Apple® MacBook Air® 13-in
3M™ PF14.1 Privacy Filter for Standard Formatted Notebooks

You can usually find privacy screens at most stores that carry computer accessories. When not taking an exam that requires it, we do not require you to use the privacy screen. Most privacy filters detach easily, enabling you to use them only when needed.


Not required

Hardware to Support the Ability to Transfer Files

2 GB USB drive or larger, we strongly recommend IronKey.  IronKey is a special kind of USB drive. Like any other USB drive it stores files, but unlike most USB drives IronKey is automatically encrypted. You set a password for it the first time you plug it in, and it asks for your password every time you use it. IronKey works with Windows, Mac, and Linux, providing strong security for all your data no matter what kind of computers you encounter.

As a healthcare professional, you will encounter confidential patient information and other confidential information. Federal law, California law, and University policy require you to keep this information secure. Encryption is one way to do that, and IronKey is one of the easiest ways we have found.

There are many occasions when you will need to copy files from one computer to another. We require a USB drive with at least 2 GB of space, but on occasion you might need to copy a file that is too large for your USB drive. There are many ways to accomplish this task, and some of these ways may influence purchasing decisions for your computer, such as whether to purchase a wireless card or USB drive.

File Storage

As a member of the UCSF community, you'll have access to Box, a web-based file storage and file sharing service. If you're familiar with the popular service called Dropbox, Box works similarly, enabling you to store files and share files or folders with individuals or groups. You'll have 60 GB of storage space in Box.

Details: UCSF Box.

NOTE: Currently Box may not be used for legally protected or policy-protected confidential information such as patient records, social security numbers, or credit card numbers. For data requiring a higher level of security, we recommend IronKey.

Extra Battery

We strongly recommend you consider the purchase of an extra battery for your laptop, as you may often be in environments with a limited number of available electrical outlets for long periods of time.

If something is not listed as required, we offer no specific recommendations and suggest that you make purchase decisions based on your budget or your desire for particular features or convenience.

Laptops are REQUIRED

Computers come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit different needs, for example: desktop, minitower, tower, laptop, all-in-one. Dentistry requires laptops.

What if I have a Mac?

CAD/CAM technology has been newly introduced into the UCSF Dentistry curriculum, and because the software is only available in a Windows version at the moment, Windows emulation software such as Parallels or VMWare Fusion is necessary, along with a compatable installation of the Windows operating system. Must have Mac OS 10.7 Lion or later.

What about netbooks and iPads or other tablet devices?

Netbooks and iPads are small, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive computing devices that can be a wonderful alternative to having -- and in some cases, lugging -- a regular-sized notebook computer around. However, because these devices typically have less processing power and lack certain essential capabilities of a traditional laptop or desktop computer, we recommend that you do not use a netbook or iPad or other tablet as your primary computer hardware. However, it's fine as a companion to your primary computer.

Microsoft Office requirement

Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are required.

Windows: Office University Windows users: If you need to purchase Office University (e.g., so that you have a legal copy), we strongly recommend Microsoft's special offer for students.

Mac: Office for Mac 2011 Mac users: If you need to purchase Office for Mac 2011 (e.g., so that you have a legal copy), we strongly recommend Microsoft's special offer for students.

NOTE: Your computer must have the most recent service pack and all critical updates for Office installed. (How to do it: Windows users: visit Microsoft Update. Mac users: open any Office application, then select Check for Updates from the Help menu.)

Wireless Access

Wireless access to the the secure UCSFwpa network is now broadly available on all UCSF campuses, particularly in classrooms, lecture halls, and the Library. (Information on how to get connected, here.)  For maximum data and device security, members of the UCSF community are requried to use the UCSFwpa network exclusively while on campus, and not the slower, less secure UCSFguest network, or private wireless networks.

Where do I buy computer stuff?

You may purchase computer hardware or software from any vendor. We recommend starting with the online-only UCSF Technology Store, because students receive educational discounts on hardware and software, including Apple and Dell products.

Need financial help?

If you need financial assistance to pay for a computer and internet service, UCSF Student Financial Aid may be able to help. The funding source is an additional student loan, usually a Federal Stafford Loan. The loan will not be disbursed in a single check but will be divided equally by the number of quarters enrolled during the academic year.

To receive a loan to cover computer costs, you must:

  • Make the purchases in your own name.
  • Charge the purchases to a credit card, or if you cannot or prefer not to charge, obtain an itemized estimate, including taxes.
  • You'll need to provide electronic copies of your paid receipts or written estimates. If you have more than one document, combine them into a single PDF file or ZIP file.
  • Complete the Computer Funding Request Form.
  • If you have questions about financial assistance, contact Student Financial Aid at or 415/476-4181 before you purchase the computer.

Computer Literacy

Computer literacy is an entry requirement for the UCSF School of Dentistry. You will not be able to complete your coursework without a solid foundation in basic computer skills, which we define as confidence in using:

  1. Microsoft Excel
  2. Microsoft Word
  3. Microsoft PowerPoint
  4. Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer
  5. Adobe Reader
  6. Anti-virus software
  7. E-mail

To meet these requirements, you must be confidently able to perform the following tasks without assistance:

Microsoft Excel

  1. Create a new Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, and enter data into it.
  2. Create graphs and charts in Microsoft Excel using the spreadsheet data.
  3. Insert tables from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet into a Microsoft Word document.
  4. Insert graphs and charts from Microsoft Excel into a Microsoft Word document.

Microsoft Word

  1. Create a new document in Microsoft Word, and enter text into it.
  2. Cut and paste text.
  3. Format text using bold, underline, italics, superscript, subscript.

Microsoft PowerPoint

  1. Create a presentation with at least 3 slides.
  2. Begin the slide show.
  3. Stop the slide show.

World Wide Web

  1. Connect to a Web site with a Web browser and print a Web page to a printer.
  2. Open a PDF document on a Web site to view and print it using Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader.

Anti-virus Software

  1. Check a computer for viruses using anti-virus software.
  2. Update the virus definitions for anti-virus software.


  1. Create and send an e-mail message to a given e-mail address.
  2. Open and read an e-mail message that someone has sent you.
  3. File received e-mails in folders according to topic.

Having trouble meeting this requirement?

If you are not yet able to complete these tasks with confidence, you are responsible for obtaining the required training before the first day of classes. Unfortunately, UCSF cannot provide support to help you meet this requirement. We suggest that you consider free tutorials on the Web, as well as courses available at community colleges and adult education centers.