I have started doing a project and I promised to report my results every week to my professor. At the beginning, he told me you should have a reasonably good laptop. I thought my laptop could support the project.

Yesterday, I realized that my laptop has a 2G graphic card and the project needs a laptop with the at least 3G graphic card. I have written the code but my laptop can't run the code to see the results.

What should I tell my professor? If I buy a new laptop it will take about 1-2 weeks, however my financial support from my family is poor.

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    How long is the project over? What sort of project is it? Part of a PhD? A project based undergrad unit? Paid work as a research assistant? May 27, 2017 at 4:48
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    I have written the code but my laptop can't run the code to see the results just curious how is this possible? In any reasonably non-trivial task it is very unlikely to write the code which behaves as you want without ever trying it May 27, 2017 at 5:34
  • Can you revise your code to make it work with 2G? A decrease in performance and capabilities is better than no results at all.
    – Mast
    May 27, 2017 at 7:36
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    @SalvadorDali: it could be that e.g. OP’s laptop can run the code on small test datasets, but can’t run it on the full actual dataset, or something like that.
    – PLL
    May 27, 2017 at 18:04
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    I'm voting to close as unclear because the OP's question doesn't make sense in its current form. Why has the OP not explained the problem to the professor?
    – user1482
    May 27, 2017 at 21:25

4 Answers 4


It should really be the responsibility of your professor to secure the required equipment to successfully complete your project; it's not quite right on his part to demand that you pay for any part out of your own pocket. Typically, a laptop is cheap relative to the professor's grant whereas it is unrealistic to expect a student to pay 1k to 2k. After all, the work you do is probably for a project that your advisor has funding for, and it's as much to his benefit as yours to successfully complete it. If he requests you to pay, it seems like he's talking advantage of his students.

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    I suspect part of the problem is that the professor made the point of having a good laptop at the beginning. Obviously, they should have been more specific. One has the impression that the university/professor of OP's question may not actually have good grants/financial support, and that may be part of the problem. More information needed. May 27, 2017 at 5:25
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    What Captain Emacs said. I've experienced the same issue from the other side: A student was warned that the project she had set her heart on was only doable if she had a matching machine and she assured us that was the case. When at the start of the project it then transpired almost immediately that this wasn't the case, there was some scrambling followed by the assignment of a new project that could be done on existing resources. If she cannot find a suitable machine, the OP should expect to have to start from scratch on a new project that does not require any new resources. May 27, 2017 at 14:17
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    @CaptainEmacs A laptop with a 3G graphic card is not simply good. It's much more than that. Nevertheless, if the institution of OP does not have fin. support, how can it be involved in a project that requires heavy computational tasks on machines that are far from good (standard)?
    – PsySp
    May 27, 2017 at 14:43
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    @PsySp An institution gets involved in what it can. I think the key problem is miscommunication. The OP needs to talk to the professor ASAP, to not let the consequences of the miscommunication grow further. May 27, 2017 at 15:08

Professors are (usually) not soulless monsters, and can understand your situation. A delay because the hardware requirements are slightly higher than what you expected at the beginning is not uncommon in research. Tell him right away, so he can tell you what options are available.

It could be anywhere from borrowing equipment from the department or getting access to a computer cluster, to getting log in access into his own machine to run things, or even help adapting the code to run on your card.

The bottom line is: you shouldn't be afraid of talking to him, you have a reasonable problem, and part of his job is to help you through them.


It's not quite clear form your post what kind of student project this is. However, it's highly unusual for the University to require you to have your own laptop. In most (undergraduate) courses computers are provided for report writing and similar tasks, which do not require powerful machines, but many students use their private laptop for these (mainly for convenience).

However, for research projects, when more powerful hardware is needed, Universities generally provide appropriate hardware, for example in form of access to some University owned supercomputer or even a personal laptop.

So what should you tell your Professor? Simply state the facts. Tell him that your personal private laptop is not as powerful as you thought and that it appears that you cannot do the project with it. You may add to ask what arrangements the University/Departmant/Lab has for such common situations.

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    Well, you don't know how this went down. Totally possible that the Prof. asked "do you have a machine to run the code on?" the student thought he has one so he said yes. There would be no reason to provide a setup if the student already has one which can be used.
    – user64845
    May 27, 2017 at 16:49

Can you find other alternatives? Maybe you can install the tools you need on the computers in the library and use them to run codes. Many departments have servers which you can use remotely to run codes. Maybe that is an option too.

Tell your advisor about this situation. 1-2 weeks is not a significant delay. Explain why you cannot run codes and tell them about your financial situation and that you may not be able to buy a new one.

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    That kind of hardware (3GB of graphics memory) is almost invariably not found in university libraries, which tend to have machinery in the "obsolete 5 years ago" category available for public use.
    – NGTOne
    May 27, 2017 at 7:25
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    @NGTOne: Yes and no -- some university libraries have multimedia labs for video editing, sound editing, etc. that may have such hardware. Whether or not they have the proper software is another question.
    – tonysdg
    May 27, 2017 at 18:16
  • @tonysdg: Fair enough. In my experience, that sort of gear hasn't been associated with the library, but rather with individual departments that relied on it - Fine Arts, Geography, Engineering. The library computers were little more than terminals for e-mail, word processing, and printing.
    – NGTOne
    May 27, 2017 at 18:23
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    @NGTOne Are you sure this is meant by 3g? Because I have a problem finding normal laptops with even 1gb of dedicated graphis memory ;) This would not mean decent, but high end gaming. It is more likely to refer to some Generation or something.
    – TomTom
    May 27, 2017 at 19:50
  • Another possible alternative is cloud computing: You can hire a server with a 4GB graphics card from Amazon EC2 for US$0.65/hour (or less, if you can put up with the possibility of being outbid). However I'd expect this to only be necessary if the university somehow literally has no spare hardware for you and can't purchase any.
    – user253751
    May 28, 2017 at 4:14

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