Computers Provided by CSE

This page explains and simplifies CSE's formal policy for computer purchases.

Your primary workstation

CSE provides a computer to every staff member and higher-degree research student at the school.

This is called your primary workstation, and is provided for your everyday work or research at CSE.

We provide one computer at a time and only replace (or upgrade) that computer if you can't do your everyday work with it.

See the Standard Equipment List of available computers

Standard desktops

If you are happy with a desktop machine (which we strongly recommend):

  • Fill out the Purchase Request form
  • Get your supervisor to sign it
  • Take it to the Head of School office (K17-104)

Standard laptops

The available laptops are more expensive, less powerful and less upgradable than desktop machines - and laptops in general are more likely to get damaged or stolen.

As such, if you want to order a laptop, you will need to:

  • Fill out the Custom Purchase Request form
  • Get it signed by your supervisor
  • Make an appointment with the CSE IT Manager to justify the extra cost to the school
  • If the IT Manager approves it, submit the form to the Head of School office (K17-104)

Non-standard computers

According to UNSW policy, we must buy computers from the Standard Equipment List wherever possible.

The policy does have some flexibility, but the school will not subsidise unnecessary upgrades.


  • Non-standard computer purchases must have a specific, exceptional research requirement.
  • If nothing from the Standard Equipment list meets these requirements, you may be able to substitute an "enterprise grade" computer
  • Any purchase must include an appropriate warranty (normally four years).
  • The computer will belong to CSE.

Any additional cost must be funded by research funds:

  • CSE will contribute up to the cost of a standard computer, if you are ordering a machine to use as your primary workstation
  • If the research funds are external (eg, ARC, LEIF, NHMRC), then they must cover a specific requirement specified in the research proposal.
  • You cannot add your own personal money to the costs

In all cases, your supervisor will need to discuss your needs with the CSE IT Manager, who will place the order on your behalf.

Accessories, extras and software

Any extras not included with your computer, such as external drives, adapters, or software not licensed by CSE or UNSW must be paid for with research funds.

Of course, you are free to buy these yourself with your own money.

Laptop power supplies

The school will pay for one power supply at a time.

If you lose your power supply then you will need to buy a replacement yourself.

If your power supply fails due to normal wear and tear, the school will pay for a replacement.

If you want more than one power supply, you will need to buy it with your money or personal research funds.

Locking cables

System Support will lock your primary (desktop) workstation and monitors to your desk.

You may not use your own lock, or lock down non-CSE-owned equipment.

If you order a laptop you may be able to borrow a cable lock for it - ask us at the time

Before your computer arrives

Standard orders should be delivered quickly, but special equipment will take longer to be delivered.

Researchers and staff can use the Oud lab (K17-G14) computers until their computer is ready to use.

The Oud lab runs Linux but you can log into a Windows virtual machine if you prefer to use that.

Go to an unused computer, click on Session, choose Windows 10 then log in using your CSE username and password.

When your computer arrives

If you get a desktop, System Support will put it on your desk, lock it down and wire it up for you.

If you get a laptop, you will be able to collect it from the CSG office in K17-111 - we will send you email when it arrives.

The email will include a loan form that you will need to fill out and get signed by your supervisor before you collect your laptop.

Running your primary workstation

Installing and maintaining your machine

Your primary workstation will be self-administered.

This means you will be responsible for installing, configuring and maintaining the operating system and software on your computer yourself.

You are also responsible for making regular backups.

CSG will not have access to your computer to do these things for you.

You must also read and comply with the self-administered computers policy.

UNSW Device Enrolment

Apple Computers bought by CSE are now automatically associated with the UNSW "Device Enrolment Program" (DEP), also called "Mac SOE". This gives users a "Self-Service" App which lets them install software licensed to UNSW. This service is administered by Central IT (not CSE).

More General "PC" notebooks and desktops may be bought with UNSW's Standard Operating Environment (SOE) which is Windows with associated software. The computers CSE buys for research activities do not have SOE. We expect that the researchers will need administrator control of their computers and will be installing their own operating system and research software. A computer with SOE would not allow such direct control of the software.

Replacements and second computers

Replacing your primary workstation

If your primary workstation can still do what it needs to, then CSE will not replace it with a new one.

If it cannot, then the school will find a replacement for you - however this is unlikely to be a new machine unless you are permanent staff.

If you have a special research need for a new computer then the Computer Support Group and Head of School can give your case special consideration.

You may need to provide extra research funds to pay for special equipment.

Using research-group computers

Primary workstations need to stay with their assigned owners - you can't end up with more than one.

If your research group has a computer that isn't anyone's primary workstation, the supervisor can assign it to anyone in the group.

They will need to email System Support and tell us:

  • Which desk it should be moved to
  • Its asset number
  • The person who will be using it on a regular basis

Using old CSE computers

CSE sometimes has computers left over from lab upgrades, etc - but we don't usually let people use them as second workstations.

These computers:

  • Are old, out of warranty and prone to sudden failure and data loss - and so put a large support burden on CSG.
  • Create a lot of extra workload in terms of asset tracking, network patching, physical installation, etc.
  • Use a lot of power and generate a lot of heat, putting a strain on the school's air conditioning, energy costs and carbon footprint.
  • Are health and safety risks due to reduced working space, increased noise and heat, extra wiring and powerboards, etc.

Modern computers are easily able to support virtual machines, so you can quickly set up whatever VMs you need on your primary workstation.

If you need more computing power, our login servers and VM clusters are far more powerful than an old PC; they're also a lot more energy efficient.

CSE donates many of its used computers to charity - keeping them beyond their useful life makes this impossible.

If you feel you have good, specific reasons to maintain a second computer, supported by your supervisor, we're happy to discuss your needs.

Giving your computer to someone else at CSE

We want school computers to go to the people who can best use them.

We also want to ensure that everyone gets one school-supplied computer to work on.

If you have a computer that you want to give to another researcher and they are happy to accept the computer then this seems like a good arrangement.


  • Would you expect CSE to buy you a new computer as replacement?
  • Does the other researcher already have a working computer, and does that mean they get to keep two?

The Computer Support Group and the Head of School must approve any changes to who gets which school-supplied computer.

We may decide that is not appropriate to pass a computer on unless everyone ends up with just one working computer.

Taking computers away from CSE

Can I take my desktop computer or monitors home?

Generally, no.

Doing so presents significant risks to you and to the school:

  • Within the building, the school can ensure that your working environment is safe and set up according to ergonomics guidelines - at home, it cannot
  • Within the building, the school can provide significant physical and network security to protect your computer - at home, it cannot
  • Transporting bulky equipment to and from the school risks damaging it (or you!)
  • Returning equipment to the school after your study or contract ends can be difficult, expensive and unreliable

As such, CSE policy is not to allow off-campus loans of desktops or monitors under normal condtions.

If you can show a clear research or operational need, and your supervisor or the Head of School endorses it, then we can make an exception.

All off-campus loans have paperwork that must be filled out before the equipment is taken off campus.

Equipment taken off-campus remains the property of CSE and must be returned eventually.

You are of course free to use your own computer equipment at home - at your own risk.

If you need help setting up remote access to your computer, Contact System Support.

Can I take my laptop home?


You will fill out an off-campus loan form when you first collect your laptop.

You are free to use your laptop at home, however for health and safety reasons we encourage you to use it at your desk in K17 as far as possible.

If you do not have a laptop but need one occasionally, such as to attend a conference, you can borrow one from the Computer Support Group.

What about CSE computers at Data61?

CSE researchers working at Data61 use computers owned by CSE.

These computers are recorded as off-campus loans because Data61 offices are outside CSE-controlled office space.

They remain the property of CSE and must be returned to CSE eventually.

CSE expects the equipment to be used in Data61 offices much like equipment is used in CSE offices.

Specifically, we do not endorse its use at the researcher's home without special permission from a supervising academic.

Can I keep my computer when I leave CSE?

In some cases, we can transfer ownership of primary workstations to users when they leave CSE.

There is a policy for this, but in its simplest form:

  • You must have graduated from your research program
  • The computer must be out of warranty and have no further value to the school
  • The computer must be your primary workstation
  • The IT Manager or Head of School must agree to the asset transfer - this is not automatic or guaranteed

If all the above conditions are met, the school will let you keep the computer.

You do not own the computer until the transfer paperwork has been signed off by HoS or the IT Manager.

Aside from a "primary workstation" what other computers does CSE provide?

  • All CSE staff, researchers and students may use the CSE lab computers, however they're often reserved for tutorials
  • Postgraduate research students and undergraduate thesis students have special access to the Oud lab.
  • CSE provides login servers and other servers (including VLAB) that you can use remotely.
  • Your research group may have its own computers that you can use.
  • There is also a pool of loan laptops that staff and research students can borrow.

(Also there are computers you can use at the library.)

Last edited by robertd 16/11/2020

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