Software and computer needs

Find out about the computer software and hardware you’ll need to get started in your architectural or design studies.

Closeup of laptop in dark

What you need

To study Design or Architecture, you’ll need your own personal computer.

If you’re studying a Bachelor of Design Innovation, a Bachelor of Architectural Science, or a Bachelor of Building Science, you’ll need to have access to an internet-connected computer in your home, flat, or hall of residence. This will allow you to access the Blackboard online student learning portal and complete your homework—including coursework, research, design work, essay assignments, and reports.

Buying a laptop

Buy the best laptop you can afford. Architecture and design disciplines are mostly visual and rely on advanced graphics software for both 2D and 3D work.

Many students find that they need to upgrade their computer at some time over their course of study. If you buy a powerful computer in your first year, it should easily last for the duration of your three-year undergraduate degree.

Go for power

At the start of your first year, it’s not compulsory to have a powerful gaming or CAD (Computer Aided Design) workstation computer with an expensive graphics card—but we strongly recommend getting one. You’ll need one in later years, depending on which programme you specialise in.

Buy a computer or laptop with at least these specifications:

  • an i7 processor
  • 8–16GB RAM
  • an SSD hard drive
  • a discrete NVIDIA, AMD, or other mid-range graphics card with dedicated graphics memory.

Graphics card

Make sure your computer has a separate—not integrated—graphics card. Ideally, it should have 4GB of dedicated graphics memory, but a minimum of 2GB is acceptable. Buy the best you can afford.

Many CAD programs work best with an NVIDIA graphics card.

Physical size

While desktop computers are good value for money, they aren’t portable, so for most people, we recommend getting a laptop that can be brought to campus or taken elsewhere when needed.  Of those, 15-inch screen-sized models typically provide the best balance between portability and specifications.

Laptops with greater than 15-inch screens often have better graphics processors but are larger and heavier to carry around.

Those with less than 15-inch screens are smaller and lighter but tend to lack enough processing power to run CAD software well.

In any case, also getting a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse to plug in when at home will give you even more screen space and be more comfortable to use when there.

Operating system

It is partly a personal choice to choose between Windows or Mac. Many of the Bachelor of Design Innovation degree programs are Mac-based or a mixture of Apple and Windows. However, it is recommended that the Wellington School of Architecture and the School of Design Innovation’s Fashion Design Technology, Game Design, and Industrial Design program students buy Windows computers for the best compatibility with the software used at the schools.

Some CAD software does not run on Mac computers—and even if you use a Windows emulator or Bootcamp, it may run very slowly. Also, many CAD and design programs won’t run on computers with the new Apple M1 Arm chip—most software currently in use was designed to run on Intel/AMD chips. Generally, only Apple and Adobe have released software for the new M1-based Macs.

Software for your first year

Ideally, you should purchase the Adobe Creative Cloud package for use at home or on computers without a licensed install. A student subscription costs around A$30 a month.

Many other programs are available free for personal use. The following are used by the Wellington School of Architecture:

  • Rhino 7—school-owned cloud licences will be available for free.
  • Sketchup Make—Download for free.
  • Autodesk suite—Download for free.
  • Microsoft Office—Free for students to use online or to download through Office 365. Log in to myTools for students. If you’re not already using OneDrive, you should also install OneDrive through Office 365.

External hard drive

We recommend that you mainly use our network drives for your current project work and assignments. Each student is assigned around 100 GB of tier-1 resilient storage, along with 1 TB of free OneDrive cloud storage.

A portable SSD drive is handy for storing a backup of your work or transferring files between your home PC and the School. Cloud storage, while good, is not a discrete separate backup.