Laptop Skills You Need to Have Before Entering College

If you’re about to enter college, you probably have a ton on your mind. What will classes be like? What activities do you want to pursue? What’s your social life going to be like? So don’t feel bad if you haven’t paid much attention to your laptop – we’re here to help.

Your laptop is going to be your constant companion throughout college. If you attend a virtual university, your laptop is your classroom. Otherwise, your laptop is going to be taken with you to just about every class. In every case, you’ll need to know some basics about how to use and care for your laptop. A little bit of routine maintenance will ensure your computer works fine all year long.

Selecting a Laptop

First, you want to make sure you’re taking the right type of computer to college. There are a few factors to consider such as:

  • Size and Weight – College students need something portable to take to class, and that generally rules out most desk bound computers (unless used as a docking station). With laptops you want something small and lightweight.
  • Hard Drive – A hard drive with about 200GB to 250GB of space should be fine for most students. Some majors will have different needs. Visual art majors might need a bit more space. An external hard drive is a great option for anyone who needs extra storage or solid backups.
  • Battery Life – During lectures and classes, you might have to rely on battery power. You’re looking for the longest battery life and the quickest recharge times. You probably want a battery with at least the average lifespan of three to five hours.
  • Webcam – While pretty common, you just want to make sure your laptop has a webcam. For virtual students, webcams might be a requirement. For students living away from home, video chatting is a great way to stay in touch with family and friends.
  • Warranty – Most new laptops come with some type of warranty against defects. You want this type of warranty but it’s not the only type you might be interested in. Despite your best efforts, accidents can still happen. You might want to purchase additional warranties against accidents and damages.

Preparing Your Laptop

Before school starts you want to set up your computer. You just want to make sure all the pre-installed software is properly configured. This isn’t a difficult process but it can take some time.

  1. Register Your OS

First, you want to register and activate your operating system. For PC, this will be a version of Windows. For Mac, this will be Mac OS. Part of this means you’ll likely be forced to download all system updates and service packs. In some cases, this can be pretty large. But that’s okay! The fixes and patches will greatly improve the speed and reliability of your laptop. Plus, other updates will generally go much faster.

  1. Remove Any Bloatware

A new computer isn’t really a blank slate. New computers tend to have a lot of what’s called “bloatware.” This is any unwanted software pre-installed on your computer.

Removing programs is pretty easy. In Windows, go to Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features. From there, it’s easy to highlight whatever program you don’t want and click “Uninstall”.

  1. Add Security Software

You’ll need to keep your computer safe on the campus network. Most computers will come with anti-virus software. You probably want to search around and augment your pre-installed software. You want to cover these basics:

  • Anti-Virus
  • Anti-Malware
  • Firewall Protection
  • Cleaning Programs

You want to set up automated scans for about once a week. This will help keep your computer secure. Plus, a cleaning program such as will keep your laptop running as fast as possible.

  1. Back-up Software and Recovery

It’s midnight, and the paper you’ve been working on for weeks seems to have disappeared from your laptop! This is an all-too-common occurrence. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy back-up solutions.

You can use online cloud back-up or a physical device such as a hard drive. The hard drive provides greater security but online storage is often a bit easier. Whatever method you choose, you’ll be thankful you chose something if your computer ever crashes.


You’re probably already pretty familiar with computers and are far more interested in other aspects of college. But what incoming freshmen never quite understand is how often they’ll use their laptops. If you take the time now to properly pick out and set up your laptop, you can avoid problems all year long. So, before class is in session, spend an afternoon brushing up on the basics of Laptop Use: 101.

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