The perfect setup to learn coding

All you need is a computer

Harry Chen
Jul 5, 2018 · 4 min read

To learn coding, you don’t need fancy tools. You just need:

  • A MacBook Air or an equivalent computer
  • An environment where you can focus
  • A happy mood

Alright, if you want to hear the detailed analysis, read on.

Mac, Windows or Linux?

Mac, Windows or Linux will do. You should use a system that you’re familiar with.

But which is truly better?

Alright, let’s dive into it.

Mac? Many programmers use Mac because the interface is user friendly, and it’s easy to install software for software development. If you have a Mac, you can develop most types of web and mobile applications. Mac also has a great built-in command-line interface with a lot of community support.

Windows? Its command-line interface is generally inferior to Mac, but it’s been improving with more tools built by the community. Software installations for software development have a larger variance compared to the Mac. Sometimes, you can install things you need in one-click. At other times, you have to Google a lot to install something.

Linux? Linux has the most flexibility out of the three. You can install anything you want in any way you prefer (if you know how). But, it’s the least user- friendly out of the three. For beginners, Mac and Windows are easier to start with.

What screen size do I need? How many monitors do I need?

I learnt everything about coding in a 13-inch laptop. I am currently using a 13-inch laptop. I code with a 13-inch laptop. 13-inch is fine (See #1 in the image below). 15-inch is good too.

I recommend a setup where you can focus on one thing at a time. So, you only need 1 monitor to be productive.

I also find a widescreen monitor (25-inch) to be productive (See #2 in the image below). Keep in mind that, if the screen size is too big, you will also be unproductive since your eyes have to travel back and forth across a big screen.

The common problem with multiple monitors is that your eyes have to constantly travel back and forth, and left to right. The only two-monitor setup I’ve found productive is the top-down approach (See #3 in the image below). This way, you can focus on one screen at a time and use the other for referencing.

Here are 3 productive setups I’d recommend.

Do I need a new computer?

No. Probably not.

You shouldn’t buy a new computer unless you find your computer slow when you’re coding what you need to code. Start coding first!

Can you give me a benchmark computer specification?

A recommended benchmark for a computer is

  • Memory: 8GB of RAM (4GB is OK too)
  • Storage: 128GB of SSD storage drive (make sure it’s SSD so reading/writing files is fast)
  • CPU: 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or anything better (CPU is usually not the bottleneck when you’re coding)
  • Graphics card: Standard, normal, nothing special

This specification is from the cheapest model of MacBook Air. This is the benchmark.

A note on Memory. 8GB of RAM is pretty standard now. Memory allows you to run multiple programs at the same time easily. 4GB of RAM is fine too, but your computer might be slower if you run too many programs at the same time. You are also welcomed to upgrade to 16GB of RAM. That just means that you can run many programs at the same time without any lag.

You do not need a MacBook. If you prefer PC, it can cost 50% less in price for the same specification as a MacBook.

Should you use a laptop or desktop computer?

If you want to work at cafe or when you are traveling, you need a laptop.

Else, a desktop computer is good enough.

Your surroundings and environment to code

Coding requires your full undivided attention and a lot of perseverance. Make sure you put yourself in a position where you can focus.

Some advice you can try

  • Turn off your TV and every other distractive devices
  • Listen to music that you can enjoy and focus on coding
  • Eat healthy food OR any food that makes you happy
  • Maintain a good mood so you don’t get pissed when you can’t solve a problem quickly
  • Turn every challenge into a lesson, instead of self-shaming
  • Make sure other people won’t disrupt your flow of thoughts

Generally, the following is what you want to achieve

  • Be happy. Coding can be hard from time to time, so it’s important that you can keep a positive mood.
  • Be able to focus continuously
  • Be tenacious enough to persevere

This is written by me and the team at Altcademy — an online coding bootcamp with 5,000+ students from 80+ cities.

If you have any questions about coding, comment below, and we will answer them!


Learn to code. Live your dream.

Harry Chen

Written by

Co-founder of Altcademy



Learn to code. Live your dream.

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