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Geographic Information Systems (GIS): GIS lab computers & software

GIS Help

The GIS & Data lab, housed on the 1st floor of Rotch Library (7-238), is available for use during Rotch's operating hours. Software and one-on-one help is for use by the MIT Community only.

Drop-in help hours

All Libraries will close on March 14th until further notice. See the Libraries' home page for updates.

Email to ask questions or schedule a virtual appointment.

How to prepare for remote work with GIS

  • Install the MIT VPN to use ArcMap remotely.
  • Check out a license for ArcMap if you might have unreliable internet access. Using ArcGIS Pro? Create an ArcGIS Online account to sign in. A personal account will work off the MIT Network, with any internet connection, and you will also have the option of checking out a license if you are without internet.
  • QGIS can be installed on any operating system and has minimal system requirements. Never used QGIS? See the QGIS exercise from our Intro to GIS workshop.
  • Our lab computers can be accessed remotely. Email us for more information and to reserve a computer.
  • Email with questions or to schedule a virtual meeting. We're ready to provide the same support virtually that we do in person. 

Computer Policies

Computer Use

  • 16 computers are available in the lab during Rotch's operating hours and require an MIT Athena login. The lab may occasionally be closed for workshops. Information will be posted on our website.
  • Computers can be used by members of the MIT community only.
  • Use of installed software on the computers takes priority over other uses of the machines.
  • Upon logging off, the Documents, Downloads and Desktop will be cleared of files. The shared drives can be used for temporary data storage. Create a folder using your kerberos name. For help with data management or storage, contact Data Management Services.
  • Per the Libraries' Food and Beverage Policy, food and uncovered drinks are not allowed near computer terminals.

Extended Analysis / Computation


The GIS & Data lab computers are primarily for those actively working with GIS or analysis software. Computers #13-#16 can be used to run analysis and computation tasks for an extended amount of time in certain circumstances. Follow these procedures:

  1. Email to reserve a computer BEFORE you use it. Tell us:
    • your name
    • the dates you would like to use the computer (cannot exceed 1 week) 
    • a sentence about the work you will be doing
    • software you would like installed
      • Note that all software licenses need to be reviewed by our licensing staff and installed by our tech support team. It may take weeks or months before requested software is available.
  2. GIS staff will review the request. If approved, staff will tell you which computer to use and send you a form to complete, print, and place on the computer while it is in use. A printer is available on 2nd (main floor) of Rotch.
  3. On the first day of your reservation, once your analysis is running, lock the computer.
  4. Place the form on the keyboard.
  5. As soon as your analysis is finished, transfer all data off the computer and delete it. Unlock the computer and remove the sign so others can use it. If you need to use the computer after your reservation has ended, email to request an extension.
  • A reservation is required if you will not be actively using a computer. Computers that are locked but have no reservation will be restarted.
  • Analysis must be for MIT-related work. Projects using software already installed on the computers take priority. 
  • Reservations cannot be made for more than 1 week, but it may be possible to extend a reservation with permission from GIS staff if the computer is not needed by others. You may be asked by GIS staff to end an analysis if the machines are needed for other users or classes.
  • If you do not return on the last day of your reservation to unlock the computer, it will be restarted so that others may use it.
  • GIS staff are not responsible for monitoring the analysis. The GIS & Data lab is open to all MIT community members. Computers could inadvertently get re-started or unplugged.


The software listed below is installed on all GIS & Data lab computers unless otherwise noted. Software is for use by the MIT Community only.

GIS & Mapping Software

Imagery & Visualization Software

Data Analysis Software

Software Use Terms

Use of licensed software is restricted to members of the MIT community for the purposes of research, education, and scholarship. Under MIT's licenses, users generally may not:

  • redistribute the software or materials or permit anyone other than a member of the MIT community to use them
  • remove, obscure or modify any copyright or other notices included in the software or materials
  • use the software or materials for commercial purposes

When a member of the organization terminates affiliation with the organization or a member's affiliation with the organization is terminated by the organization or a person not affiliated with the organization leaves campus, the member or person must destroy all personal copies of the software or derived data. Users are individually responsible for compliance with these terms.