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A College Student’s Guide to Tech Accessories

8 Comments

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As handy and light as laptops may be, that size and portability does come at a price. There are a huge number of items out there designed to fix that issue and give you all the capabilities you need, but which ones are actually useful? Unsurprisingly, most of them have to be judged on a case-by-case basis, so here’s a helpful guide to laptop accessories so that you can figure it out for yourself.

External Hard Drives

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In the age of technology, where computers are prey to stray magnets, random viruses, or simple damage, backing up is the savior of every college student’s life (especially around now, when theses are coming due). If you aren’t backing up your data regularly, you should definitely start. The question is, where do you store those images of your laptop?

If all you care about are your notes and papers, a USB drive might be all you need. Likewise, there are a number of online services available: DropBox, Box, iCloud, and Google Drive are some of the most popular and well-known names in that respect. If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, these places are willing to store heftier chunks of data.

But if nothing will do but all your files, preferences, and settings being saved, you should definitely consider investing in an external hard drive. Most people prefer a basic, portable hard drive, but if you don’t plan on moving your external around, you can save some money by buying a bigger, heavier desktop external. Seagate and Western Digital are two of the more common, trusted brands out there.

Fans

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I gave up and bought a cooling pad around when I started using my laptop to keep drinks and sandwiches warm. I only wish this were an exaggeration – which is to say, if your laptop needs a fan, you’ll know. (Pro tip: if you smell something burning, it’s too late. I had a friend whose laptop actually melted on him, demonstrating that sometimes, these gadgets are more of a necessity than an accessory.)

If you’re a pro with computers and you’ve noticed your machine burning a hole through your lap, you could try removing the base and cleaning the dust off the fan, but for the rest of us, I would recommend shelling out the bucks to buy this particular accessory. A decent fan will set you back by about $15-20, and won’t have to be replaced for years, if ever. I would recommend Antec, but Belkin also has fairly affordable options available.

Extra Batteries

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The need for an extra set of laptop batteries is debatable. For Apple users, the design of the MacBook renders one largely useless, since the battery can’t be removed, but for PC users who need hours and hours of battery-based performance, this is definitely something to consider adding to your arsenal. If nothing else, it will be convenient on long flights or bus rides. If you’re interested in buying one, be careful to buy the battery designed specifically for your laptop – nothing’s more frustrating than spending $80-100 on something that doesn’t fit in your computer.

Mouse

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Personally, I find touchpads incredibly annoying, though over the years my Luddite self has grown accustomed to them. As soon as I was able to, I grabbed up a cheap mouse and considered myself satisfied, especially since I used a Mac in those days and found the lack of an easy right-click button to be frustrating. If you’re a hardcore gamer, well, you probably already have a monster of a gaming mouse. If you just find mice easier to use, or your touchpad is acting up or badly built, consider grabbing a mouse at your local Staples. Logitech has never let me down, but for a cheaper option, Microsoft is just fine.

Speakers

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Who here has screamed at the tinny and often inaudible sound coming from their laptop speakers? While they’ve no doubt improved since they first came out, sometimes those dinky little things on your laptop just can’t do the job – especially when you’re trying to watch something with a friend. In that case, a cheap pair of speakers can be an invaluable accessory.

There are a number of incredibly cute and adorably-shaped options out there, but don’t let them sway you – this is a situation where sensible and dull definitely wins out. Logitech has great options here, with a wide range of prices and styles.

Your Comments?

As you’ve well noticed, these accessories don’t exactly increase the portability of your laptop – most of them will probably sit at home, waiting for you to come back and use them, which is why I urge all college students to think about what they actually need and what just sounds like a good idea. Not to mention, some of these items come with a paycheck-blowing price tag, so definitely think hard and carefully about what you buy.

Do you have any of the items on this list? Or is there something that you think should be added? Tell us in the comments!

Posted on on May 4, 2012 / Filed Under: Shopping / Tags: , , ,

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8 Responses to “A College Student’s Guide to Tech Accessories”

  1. 1
    May 4th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Just FYI: a typical magnet cannot damage most current memory devices. That’s a holdover from the ages of Floppy drives past. Most hard drives have at least one small magnet inside them anyway, and something would have to be EXTREMELY strong to actually damage a hard drive.

  2. 2
    May 4th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    If you’re willing to shell out around $40 for a laptop speaker: http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-USB-Laptop-Speaker-Z305/dp/B003VAK1I2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336161411&sr=8-1

    I haven’t personally checked it out myself but the reviews are pretty good :)

    In addition to Kira’s comment, be careful with today’s external hard drives. The magnets in them are strong enough to affect smaller electronics (for example, your cellphone) rather than the other way around..

  3. 3
    May 4th, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Apple just wants you to think you aren’t able to remove your battery. You can, you just need the right tools. My Macbook, (brand new, bought late 2011) broke down on me a few months ago for no apparent reason. I didn’t have any money to get it repaired, so i just went on ifixit.com and performed a SMC reset which required me to remove my battery. my laptops been working fine ever since.

    Be aware that removing your battery or any other parts of the macbook will void your warranty!! So proceed with caution.

  4. 4
    May 4th, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    This writer is bias and somewhat… complacent. There are three ways to do a right click on a mac trackpad. One of which allows you to right click anywhere on the trackpad. New Macs don’t allow you to access the battery due to the design and due to the fact that they are the longer lasting in terms of usage and long term. Plus if you don’t have the battery in your computer and it becomes unplugged you’ll lose your unsaved data.

  5. 5
    May 4th, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I kind of agree with the previous commenter about this article’s quality, despite how much I love geek / tech posts on this blog.

    In addition, if the data loss wasn’t an issue, unless you are somewhere without a power outlet, it isn’t much harder to carry around a laptop charger than a whole extra laptop battery. And since most places college students will take laptops will have power outlets, that need seems nearly unnecessary.

    I could see a device that plugs into your USB to charge AA batteries being useful though….if such a thing even exists… ?

    I think in spirit though, the other laptop accessory suggestions are sound. External hard drives have been lifesavers for me!

  6. 6
    May 4th, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    For PC users an extra battery is almost a must, i’ve had my laptop for two years and for the last six months my battery won’t hold a charge and can only go a max of 15 minutes without being plugged in. and while i don’t think i am ever going to buy speakers for my laptop i would definitely by a microphone my built in one stopped working in september and i have yet to figure out how to fix it, a fan is definitely a must, most computers shut down immediately if they overheat, i’ve had this happen a couple of times but personally i won’t buy a mouse for my laptop.

  7. 7
    May 5th, 2012 at 7:55 am

    I don’t honestly know enough about laptop accessories to comment on the quality of the article, but I just wanted to say I REALLY appreciate that there’s an article like this!! I appreciate all the ones that are students’ guides to things or just tips, such as the laundry article for example. Please do as many of these as possible! As someone who is anal about trying to gain all the skills I should know as a 20 year old ‘adult’, I SO appreciate it!!

  8. 8
    May 18th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    My external hard drive had cost me about $100, and saved me $100 when my laptop broke. That’s how much the tech guys at best buy wanted in order to get my files off my computer for me. It was great to say “ya know what, I think I’ll pass” knowing that all my pictures, music, movies, games, papers, ect. were all safely tucked away in my external at home.

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