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The Ins & Outs of Buying a Computer for College

The Ins & Outs of Buying a Computer for College

By Bridget Kulla and Mark Kantrowitz

September 02, 2008

Some people wonder whether they should buy an extended warranty, especially one with accidental breakage coverage. It all depends on whether you’re likely to damage the computer or need a lot of technical support. Displays on laptop computers are prone to breakage, especially if you’re fumble-fingered. But otherwise you might be able to get help with computer problems on campus.

Worthwhile Accessories

There are many gadgets available for computers. Some of the more useful ones include the following:

  • Printer: A printer might not be necessary if you can use a printer in the campus computer cluster. But it certainly is a convenience to be able to print out a paper at the last minute in your dorm room.
  • Lock: Be sure to get a security cable and lock for your computer. This affixes to the security slot on your laptop or desktop, making it less likely to be stolen. A combination lock is better than a keyed lock since there’s no key to lose. Targus and Kensington are popular brands, both inexpensive.
  • Mouse: If you get a laptop, it will have a trackpad, pointstick or trackball for moving the cursor, but many people prefer a mouse. Get a USB optical mouse. Make sure it fits comfortably in your hand. A small travel mouse with retractable cord will work well and take up less space on your desk.
  • Backup Disk: Computers can get lost or stolen and hard drives occasionally fail. An external USB disk makes it easy to backup the contents of your computer. Configure the software to automatically backup your files. Schedule the backups to occur at least once a week, and preferably daily, for a time when you’ll be asleep.
  • UPS: A UPS or “uninterruptable power supply” not only protects your computer against surges, but gives you a few minutes to shut down the computer gracefully during a power outage. A UPS can also be useful even if you own a laptop for powering a network switch or router or a cordless telephone.
  • Presentation Remote: If you give many PowerPoint or Impress presentations, a wireless presentation remote control can come in handy. The best presentation remotes include forward and backward buttons for controlling the presentation, a LCD countdown timer with vibration alerts and a built-in laser pointer. The Logitech Cordless Presenter is a well-designed presentation remote. Some other presentation remotes provide extra buttons for other functions, including a remote mouse, but these extra bells and whistles aren’t necessary for most presentations.

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