Think you know everything you need to know about outfitting
your kids for college? You may have found the perfect backpack and
coolest loft, but there are few things you should know about
For example, what happens if that laptop gets stolen? And does
your freshman really need a printer? What about a flash drive? Read
on for my recommendations about what tech really matters and what
you might be able to skip.
Before you ship your student off to school with that fancy new
laptop, check your homeowner's insurance policy to find out what
coverage, if any, you currently have or can add on. If the machine
gets lost or, more likely, stolen, a replacement rider may be
cheaper than buying a new one.
Likewise, consider a theft-recovery option like LoJack
, which combines location-tracking software with
coordinated recovery services (which include local law
enforcement). Plans start at $39.99, with a current special
offering two years for the price of one.
A printer may seem like essential gear for any college
student, especially given that middle- and high-schoolers are
typically still required to hand in hard-copies of their essays and
other written work.
But at the college level, there may be little or no printing
required. That's because many classes allow for--indeed,
prefer--electronic submission of students' work.
Thus, a printer might not be necessary. If nothing else,
consider waiting on the purchase and see if one or more roommates
might want to share the cost.
Flash Drive: Optional
Although these little USB drives appear on most back-to-school
lists, it's debatable just how important they really are
Indeed, thanks to cloud-storage services like Dropbox and
Google Drive, it's easy for students to back up and share important
documents--tasks that previously warranted a flash drive.
That said, given that you can buy a 16GB drive for as little
as $10, it's not a huge investment to keep one on hand, just in
Remote Tech Support: Recommended
If you sent your student off to school with a new laptop,
chances are good it came with some kind of phone-support option via
the manufacturer. That might come in very handy when it's 2 a.m.
and suddenly Microsoft Word won't load.
However, if the system is past its warranty period or the
manufacturer's support department is closed, it might make sense to
tap a third-party tech-support provider. There are several
companies offering this kind of service, which can be accessed via
phone, online chat, e-mail, and/or remote session, in which the
tech actually connects to the computer to troubleshoot from
Mobile Charger: Recommended
Modern students are always on the go, and although it's
usually not hard to find an AC outlet at the library or coffee
shop, it's way more practical to keep a portable charger at the
ready. That way, there's always extra juice for the smartphone,
tablet, e-reader, or other mobile device.
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I remain a big fan of the Peak MyCharge 6000 (currently on sale at Amazon for around $79
recharges via a built-in wall adapter and includes built-in tips
for Apple 30-pin and microUSB devices. (Everything else can plug
into its industry-standard USB port).Veteran technology writer Rick Broida
is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his
money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC
World and Wired.