Getting You Computer’s Hardware Ready for an Online School

July 24, 2011 by  
Filed under About Online Degrees

Getting You Computer’s Hardware Ready for an Online School

Going back to school can be a difficult process. Going to an online school presents some extra benefits and extra challenges. Going to an online school undoubtedly requires the use of a computer. Many feel that they aren’t well versed in technology and its uses and may find the process of ensuring that their computer is ready for school daunting. Computers come down to two basic things, hardware and software. Hardware is the physical parts of a computer that can bee seen, while software are the programs that are interacted with when the computer is turned on. The first step in setting up a computer is hardware and will be the focus of this article. A computer is only as good as its parts so its important to get the right ones.

Desktop vs. Laptop

Choosing the right computer is essential for succeeding in online school. Aside from brands, there are essentially two kinds of computers, desktops and laptops. As their names suggests, desktops are usually used at office desks and are stationary, while a laptop is portable.

There are positive and negatives for each type of computer. Many people prefer the mobility and freedom that a laptop provides, and is the more popular type of computer for students. The drawback of a laptop is that they are very difficult to customize and are more expensive when compared to a desktop of similar processing and computer power. They could also be seen as too easy to carry around, taking a laptop to sit in front of a TV or other locations where it becomes easy to be distracted from doing schoolwork. An additional keyboard and mouse, maybe even an external monitor, could alleviate this problem by creating a permanent workspace for attending an online school, without giving up the mobility provided by a laptop.

Desktops have one clear negative, they can’t go anywhere. A desktop computer is designed to stay in one location. One advantage of a desktop is that since they must rest in a single location it is far easier to create a dedicated workspace for attending an online school, helping with procrastination. Other advantages of a desktop is their low cost compared to laptops of a similar processing power. They are also very customizable, monitor sizes, keyboards, and mice are far easier to incorporate with a desktop. Sound quality can’t be overlooked either, as desktops can use permanent external speakers instead of the onboard speakers in a laptop, which are usually far weaker.

Upgrading RAM

A secret to preserving the life of a computer is Random Access Memory, or RAM. Without going into too much detail, RAM helps improve the function of a computer, is often the least expensive way to upgrade a computer, is the size of a small pocket comb, and is typically easy to install depending on the model of computer. Usually any electronic store can find and install compatible RAM in a computer, but remember this may void a computer’s warranty. RAM is a great way to improve the performance of a computer for those who do not want to buy a new computer. Macintosh users should consult with their local apple store on how to improve their computer’s performance.

Internet Connection

An internet connection is clearly essential to attending an online school. While speed is important for many of the common things that the internet is used for (streaming video, large downloads, etc.) most courses at an online school will not have very large files to download or have excessive use of streaming video. What is important is dependability, as a hiccup with an internet connection at the wrong time could mean late assignments and delayed e-mails. Researching the internet service providers offered in an area is important, and having quick service to fix problems is essential. What is also important is deciding if a router is important. A router, specifically a wireless router, is critical to have a computer connect to the internet without wires, otherwise a network cable is needed. This is especially important to owners of laptops. Many internet service providers will rent a wireless router when subscribing to the internet. There are many different kinds of routers with various capabilities, asking the person selling or renting the router will help determine what kind would be best for a particular household.


Keyboards can often be overlooked when setting up a computer. Many will purchase the least expensive and assume one is as good as another. While all keyboards serve the same function, regardless of cost, it is important to remember that a student will spend a great deal of time going to an online school typing at their keyboard, so it must feel natural and comfortable. There is no real guideline to selecting a keyboard, some prefer ergonomic keyboards, some prefer a gel pad for their wrists, but ensuring that their keyboard is a comfortable piece of equipment to use is important.


Like keyboards, mice are an important interface tool used with a computer. Their usability and comfort for the user will go a long way in improving the online school experience. Its also important to get a mouse that works at an appropriate level. Mice can be simple with one or two buttons, or they can have more than a dozen, and some have no buttons and react to movements of the fingers. It’s important to get a mouse that is comfortable to use and is reliable.

Flash Drives and External Hard Drives

Backing up schoolwork is always important, and while attending an online school keeping a backup of all work from all courses will be important in creating work portfolios and similar projects. Small flash drives and external hard drives are excellent for this, since they can easily be plugged into any computer and are relatively inexpensive. Flash drives can be quite small and easily portable and only a few dollars, while external hard drives can hold massive amounts of information at a low cost, a hundred dollar external hard drive can hold hundreds of megabytes of information.

Computers are a great tool and the most important part of an education from an online school. Having the right computer is the first step on the path toward higher education online.

Michael Moss
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