by Paul Sanders
Is your computer ready for class? At college, your laptop will be your mobile study hall, personal entertainment center and communication portal. Key computer accessories will add new functions to your laptop, make your workload manageable and help you keep in touch with everyone back home. As you're assembling your back-to-school supplies for next semester, don't forget to take along these essential laptop tools.
USB thumb drive: You'll need to transfer files between computers at some point, either from your laptop to the campus computer lab or from your machine to a classmate's. Thumb drives and flash drives with a few gigabytes of space let you quickly transfer even large files to any computer with a USB port.
Laptop cooling desk: Your laptop will be working overtime during long study sessions, so it will produce a lot of heat. To keep your sensitive machine cool, place it on a laptop cooling desk. Cooling desks are designed to lift your computer and provide better airflow to the cooling vents. A cooler laptop will have a longer life.
Extra laptop batteries: After a while, your laptop battery may not last as long between charges. Power capacity drops off gradually over the battery's life span. If you're noticing lackluster battery life, it may be time to pick up a compatible replacement battery for your computer.
Network cables: Whether you're connecting directly to the network outlet in your dorm room or setting up a wireless router, you'll need network cables to get connected. Look for an Ethernet cable long enough to run from your computer desk to the outlet or to your router. If you're using a cable modem, you'll need a coaxial cable for the connection to the wall outlet.
Webcam: You know your family wants you to keep in touch. Make your calls more personal by setting up a webcam and microphone for video chat. If your laptop doesn't have a built-in camera, you can connect an external USB webcam and be chatting with Mom and Dad in minutes.
Laptop bag: Your laptop will be easier to carry across campus in a shoulder bag or laptop backpack. Find a bag that will fit your laptop's screen size, with plenty of compartments for your books, cables and power adapters.