Faculty/Staff Computer Purchasing

Please review how to purchase a computer with HMS funds during the COVID-19 emergency.

Harvard University offers educational pricing on computers and software to faculty and staff through the Buy-to-Pay supplier portal. HMS Information Technology provides recommended desktop and laptop models. Our recommendations are reviewed and updated regularly.

Purchasing Computers, Monitors, Printers, and Accessories

HMS faculty and staff who have access to the Buy-to-Pay supplier portal can purchase departmental computer equipment. 

Important: Please check with your lab or department administrator or finance manager prior to shopping for a new computer. Some departments have established procedures for purchasing through the HCOM Marketplace.

If you have questions about how to purchase or would like guidance on ordering a new computer, please contact your local departmental client services representative or the HMS IT Service at 617-432-2000.

Purchasing Process:
  • Log into the Buy-to-Pay supplier portal (HarvardKey login required).
  • Under the A/V and Computer section, select the Apple or Dell Online punchout to search for computers. HMS Recommended models (desktops, laptops, monitors, accessories, etc.) should appear as soon as you connect to the online store.
  • Select the model to purchase and submit the requisition.
  • Upon submission, you will be required to provide the delivery information, billing code and finance approver. This information is provided by your administrator or finance manager.
  • Once the order is approved by your finance manager it will be submitted to the vendor.
  • The vendor will confirm the order. Once the order is assembled it will be delivered. The requester will be notified via email several times during this process.

More information about using Buy-to-Pay can be found on the Harvard Training Portal (HarvardKey login required).

Note: Some web browsers may not work correctly with the HCOM Marketplace. If you have difficulties, please try using a different browser.

Purchasing Non-Standard Computers

If you need to purchase a non-standard computer for specific research or multimedia needs please contact your local departmental client services representative or the HMS IT Service Desk at 617-432-2000 prior to purchasing. There are many configuration options available for both Apple and Dell. Your client services representative will be able to guide you through the process of selecting the appropriate computer and configuration to meet your needs. 

Note: Support for non-standard devices may be subject to best effort support and not given the same priority as standard offerings.

Purchasing Accessories
  • Accessories shown are recommended based on the HMS Standard Recommendations.
  • Purchasing products that are not recommended may result in some accessories being incompatible.
  • Some accessories may require additional cables or adapters to work properly.
Purchasing Notes
  • Apple portable computers are not upgrade-able after purchase. If you choose to buy an Apple computer, please consider how long you expect to use the computer and configure it with an appropriate amount of RAM, storage and processor speed, even if the initial purchase will be more expensive. You won’t be able to upgrade it later.
  • People often find it useful to purchase other accessories when purchasing the computer. Items such as noise canceling headphones, spare power adapters and external Bluetooth mice can make the computer more usable in a larger variety of areas around the campus.
  • Tablet computers like the Microsoft Surface, Dell tablet, and Ultrabook computers running ChromeOS are not full featured computers and may not perform the same as a full featured computer. Some software may not work or work correctly.

Apple at Harvard University

Save on Apple products when purchased through the Harvard University portal.

  • Purchasing portal is for personal purchases only.
  • Available to faculty, staff, students, and affiliates.
  • Harvard University educational pricing applies to Macintosh computers, iPads, iPhones, and accessories.

Hardware Purchasing FAQs

  • How often is equipment updated?

    HMS Information Technology regularly reviews computer recommendations based on vendor refresh cycles. At a minimum, equipment offerings will be reviewed on a yearly basis.

  • How do find the serial number or asset number?

    Every computer will have a serial number located on it somewhere. In some cases, such as Dell desktops, it will be a Service Tag number, located on the top or back of the case. Some Apple desktop computers will have the serial number located on the bottom, or you can find the serial number using About this Mac, located under the Apple menu. Click the More Info... button to see the serial number.

    All laptop computers will have the serial number on the bottom.

    • Dell computers will have a white OR a black and silver asset label applied to them. Usually near the Service Tag label.
    • Apple computers may have black and silver asset label applied to them on the bottom

    The asset label will always be on the top or back of the desktop, or the bottom of the laptop, and have an 8-digit alpha-numeric text starting with HMS, with the following phrase on them:

    HMS Information Technology
    Need Help?
  • How do I purchase a computer?

    Please check with your lab, department administrator, or finance manager prior to shopping for a new computer. Some departments have established procedures for purchasing through the Buy-to-Pay supplier portal.

  • How do I purchase software licenses?

    Software licenses for many applications are available from the SHI Store in the Buy-to-Pay supplier portal. Please check with your lab, department administrator, or finance manager for guidance on purchasing software. Some departments have established procedures for purchasing through the Buy-to-Pay portal.

  • Who decides what kind of computer equipment I get?

    Your work responsibilities determine what type of computing equipment is appropriate for you. Individuals who travel or attend meetings will have a need for a light-weight laptop, while a standard tower would be more appropriate for those who primarily sit at a desk. Your departmental Client Services Representative or the HMS IT Service at 617-432-2000 for assistance with selecting the best computing equipment for you.

  • What are the equipment replacement lifecycles?

    Computing equipment lifecycles have been determined by balancing functionality and cost. The current purchase/replacement cycle is as follows:


    3 Years


    4 Years


    5 Years


    7 Years

  • What if I want to buy a computer before the standard life-cycle time frame?

    The standard life-cycle time-frame is an industry suggested time-frame for replacing computers. HMS IT does not mandate that computers be replaced at the end of the life-cycle, but we do strongly recommends keeping the computer in service for the recommended period of time to get maximum utility from the computer.

    There is no policy preventing a computer from being replaced before the recommended life-cycle, however doing so reduces the maximum return on investment in the computer.