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IT Help and Support

University Information Services
The Managed Cluster Service (MCS) closed on 1 August 2023. From this date MCS Windows, macOS and Linux computers were disabled. Many MCS sites migrated to the University Managed Desktop (UMD) service during the summer of 2023. Access to supporting services such as DS-FileStore and DS-Print were not affected by the MCS closure.

The Managed Cluster Service (MCS) provides networked computers as well as printers and scanners to University Institutions and Colleges for students and staff to use.

The MCS machines can give end users access to a range of centrally managed applications (Desktop Services) and centrally licensed software.

Find out more:

  1. How to get the service
  2. Pricing
  3. Hardware
  4. Software
  5. Printing
  6. Delegated Management System
  7. Imaging
  8. Reporting problems

How to get this service

Contact the  to arrange an initial exploratory meeting, where we'll review your requirements and ensure the MCS is the appropriate solution for you.

If you decide to go ahead, we'll need written confirmation and a purchase order. We'll then meet up with you to arrange installation and agree the specifics of the work involved. When the work has finished, we'll hand over the completed cluster to you and commence billing.


Charges for the MCS are per workstation with a progressive discount applied to higher numbers of workstations. Any site wishing to discuss pricing can contact  for further information.


If you wish to buy new hardware or wish to take up the Managed Cluster Service to include your existing hardware, you should make sure the hardware is supported before you commit to proceed.

Recommended PC hardware

The currently supported and recommended hardware is: Dell OptiPlex 5070 PCs.

The tender agreement under the NDNA has been awarded to Dell and has the option of being extended into subsequent years. For further details including contact information, please refer to the Central Purchasing Office's preferred/contracted supplier information for Dell.

Note: If anything other than the recommended hardware is required, please ask us in the first instance.

BIOS settings

For PC BIOS settings, please see the Imaging information below.

Recommended Apple hardware

The following guidelines cover the specification of Apple computers for 2021/22:

  • Intel i5 or later or Apple Silicon processor
  • Capable of running macOS 11 (Big Sur)
  • Ethernet upgrade if specifiying Apple Silcon iMac
  • Minimum 8 GB RAM
  • 256GB storage
  • Solid State Disk is recommended

Note: It is a requirement of the MCS Macintosh Service that Apple hardware intended for use on the MCS is available in the University of Cambridge and Related Institutions Apple DEP Account. Please ensure that devices are ordered from one of the following resellers:

  • Academia
  • XMA
  • Insight
  • Stone

We also recommend that you add a note to the order to request that devices be added to the DEP account. The details are as follows:

  • DEP Account Name: University of Cambridge and Related Institutions
  • Customer ID: 1134620

If you are in any doubt about your Mac hardware and/or require further advice or information on what to buy please get in touch with .

Please note that Apple devices not the University of Cambridge DEP pool will not be eligible for use on the MCS from AY 19/20 onwards.

For more information on using Apple Enterprise Programmes in the University please see this page


We try to keep application versions consistent across all platforms wherever possible, but software might differ where this cannot be achieved.

Windows licences for new PC purchases

We recommend you purchase new PCs with a Windows OEM licence because the University's EES Agreement only allows for upgrades to a current licence. 

Installed applications and utilities

Requests for software changes

You can request software that you would like to see added to MCS computers by completing the MCS application request form. We need to receive requests for the next academic year by the end of the second week of March. Requests made after this period will be dealt with on a best-efforts basis. This applies to MCS Linux, Macintosh and Windows applications.



The University's managed print service, known as DS-Print, is a centralised system for managing print, copy and scan usage across the collegiate University.

Support for this and the Desktop Services Managed Printing Service (MPS) is provided by the DS-Print team. For all enquiries about printers, and MCS and MPS printing problems, please contact the .

Delegated management system

The Delegated Management System (DMS) allows IT staff at MCS or DS-Print sites to manage various aspects of the systems, such as print balances and reporting, group membership, usage statistics and power saving.

Access to the DMS is delegated to each institution, so if you require access you should first contact your local IT office in the first instance. If no-one is able to grant access, send your request to the .

Access to the DMS is via and instructions are available from the "Help" button within the DMS.



Please if you would like us to auto image your PCs. If you would prefer to do it yourself, please see the following instructions.

BIOS setup instructions

Dell Optiplex 5070

For other makes and models please .

Windows:  Manual PC imaging instructions


Before deploying a Mac for the first time please supply the following information for each Mac to :

  • Ethernet MAC Address
  • Serial Number
  • If it is a replacement for an existing Mac, then which Mac is is replacing.

MCS Macs can be redeployed at any point by the MCS site staff. It's is a multi-part process:

  1. The Mac boots from Recovery and installs the operating system, then reboots.
  2. Secondary installs then complete.
  3. The Mac is ready to use.

To provision an MCS Macintosh please follow these instructions.

Any questions or issues please contact .

Removing Macs from the MCS

Before removing a MCS from the MCS please inform us via the so the firmware password can be removed and the Mac removed from the MCS Device Enrolment configuration. 

Reporting problems

If you need assistance with MCS problems, please contact the .

We maintain a list of known problems with MCS Windows that you may wish to check.