Laptops 101 – A Guide to Laptop Use in College

College is an exciting time. It can also be a hectic time. If you’re about to attend college for the first time, don’t forget to bring your laptop. But this shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, if you’re about to enroll in college, the chances are pretty good that you’ve been using computers in the classroom since elementary school.

Whether you’re enrolled in an online university or actually live on campus, you’ll be using your laptop a lot. How? Check out our complete guide on what to expect:

How to Use Your Laptop Safely in Public

Students prefer laptops over desktops for two main reasons. Laptops are portable and lightweight. Virtual students don’t have to spend all day sitting at a desk. They can stretch out on the couch with their laptops. For the on-campus students, laptops are easy to bring to class and otherwise carry around campus.

Some of the most common places college students use their laptops include:

  • Classrooms and lecture halls
  • Libraries
  • Common areas and cafeterias

Do you know what all those places have in common? They’re all filled with people. And while most people are trustable, it only takes one thief to run off with your laptop. According to the FBI, over 100,000 laptops are stolen each year.

The best theft prevention is to never let your laptop out of your site when you’re in public. Take it with you even when you go to the bathroom or leave “for just a minute” to grab a book from a shelf.

You also want to secure your laptop both physically and virtually:

  • Use the Kensington slot and a strong cable to attach your laptop to a heavy table or chair whenever you’re in public for extended periods of time (such as sitting in the library or coffee shop).
  • Keep your computer password protected. If a stranger is able to access your computer they don’t need to steal your laptop in order to steal your identity, and those effects can be far more damaging.

Get a Secure Laptop Bag

You want a bag which will protect your laptop from the hustle and bustle of campus life. The best option here is at least one quarter inch of padding. Also, avoid anything especially showy. You don’t want your bag to advertise that you’re carrying around an expensive laptop.

Don’t Forget the Fun and Games

College students will always find time to have some fun. While there are plenty of opportunities to go out and socialize, there will also be many times when you just want to hang out and relax with a few close friends. Movies and games are a popular choice among college students.

You want a laptop with a fast wireless connection and a screen big enough for movies and games. But keep also keep in mind you’ll be carrying this laptop around most days, so don’t just buy the biggest screen you can afford. Also, try not to watch movies in class – professors really hate that!

Connecting to the Internet

This varies by school but chances are good you’ll have some type of school network you can access in order to get online. You’ll want to understand the basics of how to connect your computer to the Internet. This is typically as simple as Start > Network > Network and Sharing Center.

Along these same lines, you’ll probably also be assigned an .edu email address. If you have existing email addresses you want to continue using, you’ll probably want to set up an email manager. This will let you easily organize your emails across multiple email addresses. There are plenty of high quality, low cost email managers available.

What About Tablets?

Tablets are pretty powerful these days. They’re also durable, lightweight and very portable. While you get more computing power with a laptop, you might want to consider a tablet if:

  • You primarily write papers in college (instead of artistic or computer programming uses)
  • You need only basic internet access (email and popular websites)
  • You have a high need for portability and easy transport

On the downside, tablets don’t give you a full keyboard and full computing power. Many students enjoy a hybrid situation where they use a tablet sometimes and the laptop at other times. There are also laptops which can turn into a tablet as well as desktops with a laptop docking feature.


Laptops and tablets are a part of higher education. You’re not going to be the only person carrying one around campus, that’s for sure. You want to find a durable bag to protect your device from damage. You also want to take some simple steps to help prevent theft. But don’t forget about fun – your laptop is likely going to be a major source of movies and games among you and your friends.

With just a little bit of preparation, your laptop will be ready for school in no time.

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