â€¢ Operating systems. There are three major operating systems for consumer PCs: Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Macintosh and Linux, the open-source system provided by different developers, and in some cases available free.
Begin by finding out if the college or university has a preference. Even departments within individual schools may have different requirements. For example, the University of Texas’ College of Education specifically requires those seeking a teaching degree to have a Macintosh laptop.
It may also help to know something about your student’s field of study. Art and design majors, for example, will probably need a Macintosh, while those studying business will definitely want a Windows-based PC. Computer science majors could go with either, though Linux is also a good choice.
Link: Houston Chronicle