E-learning strategies have become an important part of biomedical education. However, why and how medical students select hardware tools and software formats during their preclinical education has not been sufficiently evaluated. These aspects should be considered when designing or offering new e-learning modalities to learners. Two medical school classes at a major US medical school were surveyed about their use of e-learning resources during their first year of medical school or their preparation for their first licensing examination (USMLE® Step 1), respectively. Their responses were analyzed for patterns and significant changes. Students’ answers indicated that computers and tablets were considered the most important hardware devices to support students’ learning. During the first year, students often preferred resources that were tailored to the specific courses in their curriculum. In contrast, some preferences changed when students prepared for the USMLE Step 1, with students shifting almost exclusively to a solitary learning strategy using commercial e-learning resources. Across all phases of medical school education queried, peer advice was the major determinant influencing e-learning resource selection with faculty only playing a minor role. Videos were the most popular e-learning modality, and students cited efficient acquisition of knowledge and preparation for examinations as major reasons for e-learning tool utilization. These factors should be considered when offering e-learning resources to medical students during different phases of their preclinical training.