Going back to school doesn't just stop with a new laptop purchase. To make your collegiate truly an effective student I'd recommend adding a few items that'll improve his or her productivity and maybe even get them to graduate on time.
If a larger monitor improves productivity for an office drone, why not a student? I'd recommend picking up an inexpensive external monitor such as Acer's H236HL. It's an IPS panel which means off-axis viewing is great and it has more accurate colors than most laptops. It's also very affordable with prices as low as $125 on the street. If your kid really wants to increase productivity (don't believe that hooey that one monitor "improves your focus" either) he or she can use the laptop's screen alongside the Acer to create an adhoc multi-monitor setup.
Keyboard and mouse
Even the world's best laptop keyboard and trackpad is inferior next to a real keyboard and mouse. So if you buy that monitor, go ahead and also pick up a low-cost mouse and keyboard combo such as Logitech's MK270. For around $20, the MK270 gives you a full-sized membrane keyboard and wireless optical mouse. Even niftier, it uses Logitech's Unify receiver so a single dongle controls both. The Unify nano receiver is small enough, it can just be left plugged in all the time. When the student gets back to the dorm room, the keyboard and mouse just work and all that needs to be done is plug in power to the laptop and the external monitor.
A laptop sleeve
When you tearfully wave as your kid heads off to college on the train, don't be surprised if your old ugly black laptop bag gets left on the train while the laptop goes naked into a backpack.
College students value style and your yard sale black laptop bag from 1998 isn't style. Since you don't understand youth style either, consider a simple laptop sleeve that they can put into their bag of choice. While it won't offer quite as much protection as a bag, it's better than nothing at all which will happen if the bag you pick is too ugly for them.
You can get a neoprene laptop sleeve for $11 and under from Amazon.com and in sizes to fit laptops from 7-inches to 17-inches.
Portable USB Hard Drive
Hopefully any laptop you buy will make it through all four years (crosses fingers) but sometimes a crashed hard drive, horrible malware outbreak or corrupted OS can ruin everything. A simple portable hard drive will have the space to back up all of the files and can be found for $65 and lower these days like this Seagate model.
Either manually do backups or set Windows to do your backups for you to give you some peace of mind.
Laptop theft is a huge problem on schools. It's such a problem, some campus police departments recommend that students who cat nap in the library actually sleep on top of their laptops to keep them from getting stolen. Theft during napping isn't the only problem. All it takes is a few seconds for a thief to snatch a laptop and run off if a student walks off to get a drink of water. While it won't stop all theft, Kensington's WordLock can be deployed just about anywhere and secures the laptop from snatch and grabs. Just set the combination of choice, loop one end around something that won't budge and lock the other into the Kensington lock port that's on most laptops.
For a street price of just $20, the WordLock can easily make up for its value if it deters one theft.
This story, "5 must-have back to school laptop accesories" was originally published by PCWorld.
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