Finding the right computer to meet your needs in college can be tough — there are just so many choices!

Having a computer for college is either going to be a necessity for you or a decision made out of convenience. Either way, before making the trip to your local Best Buy or purchasing a computer online, set some specific goals for the type of computer that you are looking for.

Desktop vs. Laptop

Laptops

Pros:

  • Mobility – Laptops are easy to transport and can easily be taken from class to class. Dorm room a little too loud? You can pick up your work and laptop and take it to the library.
  • Size – Laptops come in various sizes from large enough to rival desktops to small enough to fit in a purse. You can take smaller versions virtually anywhere.
  • Battery – Battery fully charged? Even a black out won’t keep you from finishing your assignment! Even if you aren’t able to print it out without electricity.
  • Presentations – When you have a presentation that you have to share with the class, what’s better than having an interactive display? Laptops can easily be used to display videos, images or PowerPoint.

Cons:

  • Overheating – Laptop — doesn’t that mean that I am supposed to sit it on my lap? Why does it feel so hot? The word laptop doesn’t imply that it is okay to smother it with that blanket you have! It will still need air to keep it cool. The CPU can reach degrees of over 100°C. Overheating damages the delicate components inside of your computer, so keep it cool and give it plenty of air.
  • Cramped Keys – The smaller the laptop, the smaller the keys and the smaller your fingers need to be. After typing three book reports and chatting with your friends online, you might regret choosing the small one.
  • Touchpad – Ahh…the laptop Touchpad. With reason, the Touchpad is a brilliant technological achievement, but also not the best from preventing hand cramps. If you’re set on buying a laptop, pick up a wireless mouse to go along with it.

Desktops with Tower

Pros:

  • More Options – Bigger and better technologies….well the desktop is not always the preferred choice, it is here to stay. Having a desktop tower does provide you with the space for a lot of options and future upgrades.
  • Less Expensive – Towered computers just give you more bang for the buck.
  • Set Up a Space – Designating a quiet, peaceful place in your home will give you the perfect place to study and be productive.

Cons:

  • Not A SpaceSaver – You’ll need to find a place to set the tower and monitor. The floor is not an option (dust causes damage to the delicate components), so you’ll need to find a spacious desk.
  • Stationary – Trying to lug around all the components of a Towered Desktop is just plain obnoxious. Once you’ve placed it somewhere, make plans to keep it in the general vicinity.
  • No Battery – Black out + Assignment Due = Disaster. Don’t push it, practice getting assignments finished early becuase they’re not portable.

All-in-One Desktops

Pros:

  • Portable – Grab and Go. Their not quite as portable as a laptop or even as safe to transport, but they can be transported from place to place.
  • Touch Screens – Don’t feel like using your mouse or the keyboard? No problem! Most All-in-One Desktops feature touchscreens. Their obviously not ideal for sitting on your lap to type, but it’s possible.

Cons:

  • Overheating – Early models of the All-in-One Desktops had issues with overheating. The issue can be helped by placing a fan behind it and giving it plenty of room. New models have corrected the issue. Look for one that is manufactured after 2012.
  • Larger Than Laptops – You can’t fold them and place them in a pouch or suitcase.
  • No Battery – You need to have electricity to get an All-in-One turned on.

 

Mac vs. Windows

Mac

Pros:

  • Software Stability – Built, designed and updated by Apple. Windows PCs are built by various manufactures (Dell, Asus, HP, etc.) and the Microsoft Operating System is added. Apple software stability is due largely to the fact that they build everything from the ground up ensuring that each and every component perfectly compliments the other.
  • iCloud/iTunes – iCloud and iTunes makes it easy for users to transfer their information and files from one iOS device to another. Plus, if your computer dies or you just want to upgrade, all of your settings and programs will be transferred to your new one.
  • Long Lasting - Reliable support and great software makes the life of the Mac longer than a Windows based computer.
  • Less Viruses & Threats – Macs can still get a virus, but are statistically less likely to be affected by one.

Cons:

  • Lack of Compatibility
  • Not So Easy for Beginners
  • Price – Macs cost a lot more than a Windows-based computer. If you’re on a limited budget, buying a Mac just might not be an option for you.

Windows

Pros:

  • Easy for Beginners - Mac computers take a little longer to master and understand. If you’re a newbie to computers, stick with a platform that more people use and understand — Windows will probably be the best choice for you.
  • Software Compatibility – Pay close attention to the System Requirements for any software or portals that you will have to use. There are not as many software selections for Mac.
  • Universally Understood – If you need help, Windows-based computers are normally understood by Windows and Mac users alike.

Cons:

  • Updates – Windows pumps out a lot of updates which can be obnoxious, especially when you’re pressed for time and don’t have all day to download. There is a way to turn off these updates, but it just seems like a lose-lose situation.
  • Software Issues – ‘Glitches’ as some call them.
  • Viruses –  Windows computers are vulnerable to viruses. Keep your virus software up-to-date. If you start to have computer issues, immediately run a secondary virus scan like Malware Bytes.

New vs. Used

New

Pros:

  • Starting Out From the Beginning – You get a fresh look at the way your computer looks coming right out of the box. No worries about viruses — and hopefully, you won’t have a lot of scratches.
  • Warranty – You definitely won’t have to stress about it breaking for a little while, right? Just take caution in the warranty that you choose or any additional charges for extended warranties. You’ll want to find out how long you will have to go without your computer before it is returned, if you’ll be given a loaner and if you are responsible for shipping charges in the event that it needs to be sent away. Depending on the warranty terms, you may decide to skip out on the extra charges, if any.

Cons:

  • Price – A new computer can be costly.

Used

Pros:

  • Cheaper – Save yourself hundreds of dollars by purchasing someone’s hand-me-down.
  • Can be Lost or Stolen – Losing or having a $150 computer stolen is nothing compared to a $1,000 investment from a new computer being lost or stolen.

Cons:

  • Outdated – Many changes have been made to the components and software that has been introduced in the past couple of years. Computers launched two years ago can barely hold their own. Lay caution in the specs and set your mind to the minimum requirements that you have.
  • Shape of Internal Components – It can be really tough to know the condition of a computer just based on the way that it runs for a few minutes. Put it to the test.
  • No Warranty - If it dies in a month, you might as well kiss the money you paid for it goodbye.