Talking tech since 2003

College isn’t what it used to be.  In modern-day education, computers are a key component in a student’s overall education and success in college; even if they are not studying a computer-related field.  Between hardware and software, getting properly equipped for college can be somewhat of a costly battle.  This how-to is going to give you a few pointers on getting the best deals on computer equipment for school, and ultimately ensuring that you’re 100% prepared on your first day of class.

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that notebook computers are the most common computer seen on college campuses.  This is no surprise, as notebook computers allow for a wealth of information and utilities to be carried in a compact form.  When shopping for a notebook computer, one of the first things to consider is battery life.  This being, a student may not have a reliable power source whilst out and about, and a dead computer isn’t very helpful.  Getting a notebook computer with reliable battery life ultimately ensures productivity, even when a student does not have constant access to power supplies.

Depending on what a student studies, their needs specification-wise will vary greatly.  For example, a medical or legal student may simply need a basic computer, as the majority of their work will likely be done in word processors and spreadsheet applications that are not typically too resource intensive.  On the flip side, a student studying something such as computer graphics may use more resource-intensive applications (e.g. Photoshop, 3DS Max, etc.).  Because of this, you should look at the system requirements for the software that you will be using on a routine basis.  However, you do not want to simply go with the minimum requirements, as doing so could lead to a lack of overall performance.  Consider the “recommended” system specifications when purchasing a computer.  Additionally, you may even want to have greater than recommended specifications, as doing so will allow for the ease of multi-application use, and help to ensure that the computer will be able to handle software updates down the road.  It will save you money in the long run if you spend more on a better computer now instead of spending less now and then having to invest in another computer in 2-3 years.

Along the lines of software, you should check with your college or university before purchasing software.  In many cases, universities either have complimentary copies of software like Microsoft Office (usually “site licenses”) that you can use as apposed to purchasing your own license.  Additionally, even if your college or university does not have complementary copies of software, they may be able to sell you a “student” version of said software at a discounted price.  If you find that your university does not have any software deals whatsoever, you can still purchase “student” versions online at discounted prices.  For example, the site JourneyEd (previously discussed in my DreamSpark article) sells Adobe Creative Suite 4, which normally retails for just south of $1800, for $399.  In order to get discounted software, you simply need to provide proof of enrollment at a college or university.

Many colleges and universities provide wireless (or wired) network and Internet connectivity to their students.  When using a public network, it is always important to ensure that you have a strong firewall and good malware protection.  Most colleges and university’s actually require you to have such protection in order to be allowed on the network.  In many cases, your university may be able to provide you with a copy of firewall and anti-malware software.  However, if they do not, you should consider using Malwarebytes Anti-Malware software.

Lastly, it is important to ensure that you establish some sort of a backup system for your important data.  You would hate for a laptop theft, a spill, a drunk room-mate, etc to cause you to loose important projects essential to a passing grade.  There are a number of backup methods available.  Your university may offer network storage.  However, you can back up your own data on to an external hard drive, a flash drive, CDs/DVDs, etc.  You may consider using off-site backup services such as Dropbox (review here), Carbonite, or even an FTP server as well.  This ultimately helps to ensure that no computer failure can stop you from success.

As you’ve learned, battery life and system specifications are important to consider, but vary by the needs of different students.  Additionally, you can save money on software, including often-necessary anti-malware software, by purchasing it through your university or through a store that offers student discounts.  Lastly, you’ve learned that keeping backups of your work is an important, yet simple way to ensure your overall success.  With this information in mind, you should be prepared for a successful stay and hopefully a great deal of success.

Do you have any tips for college computer efficiency?  If so, please leave a comment.

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