Accessories for Your New Mac - dummies

Accessories for Your New Mac

It’s best to get your computer configured the way you want it when you buy it. You can buy other accessories with your purchase or later, when you need them. Accessories to consider include

  • AppleCare: Macs typically come with a one-year warranty and 90-day free phone support. You can extend the warranty and phone support by signing up for AppleCare.

  • ProCare: For about $100 per year, Apple sells a premium service plan called ProCare that offers a number of improvements over the standard warranty. You can buy it only at an Apple retail store (not online). It entitles you to personal training, priority repairs, advance registration at the in-store Genius Bar, and a yearly preventive maintenance tune-up.

  • .Mac: .Mac is Apple’s data storage and sharing service, offered on an annual subscription basis at $99 per year. You get an e-mail address ending in .mac and 10GB of online storage that shows up as another hard drive on your desktop and that you can use to store your Web site, photo and video gallery, calendar, and backup files, all subject to a terms-of-service agreement.

  • Printer deals: When you buy a new Mac, you’re typically offered a reduced price or rebate on a new inkjet printer. Sometimes the rebate covers the purchase price of the printer, so even if you already own a printer, it may be worth getting a new one as a spare or to give to someone else.

  • Microsoft Office: Microsoft Office is still the most widely accepted tool for creating text documents and spreadsheets. You can safely send documents back and forth between the Macintosh version of Office and the Windows version. If you feel you need Microsoft Office, check on whether special deals are available with the purchase of a new Mac. Unfortunately, you can’t transfer your Windows license to OS X.

  • External hard drive: If you don’t already own one, get a high-capacity external hard drive — at least 120GB worth. They’re pretty much a “must-have” if you want to get decent use out of Apple’s Time Machine backup software. They’re also handy for transferring large files. You should get one with both FireWire and USB 2.0 interfaces, giving you maximum flexibility, because you can use USB 2.0 with your PC and the faster FireWire with your Mac.

  • Flash drive: If you don’t already have one of these tiny, inexpensive USB mass storage units, it’s time you got one. There’s nothing like knowing you have the files you need in your pocket. Get at least a 1GB unit.

  • Networking equipment: If you already have high-speed Internet access and maybe even a home network, your Mac will plug right in.

  • Wireless: If you’re buying a laptop or just don’t want wires strung everywhere, consider getting a WiFi router. Apple’s offering is called the AirPort Extreme Base Station (AirPort Extreme is Apple’s name for the 802.11g WiFi standard). However, just about any 802.11g router will do.

  • Ethernet (wired): If you plan to use wired networking, check to see whether you have an extra Ethernet port available on your router or cable modem. If not, you might need an Ethernet router. Getting one that also includes WiFi doesn’t cost much more, however.

    Another handy accessory is a USB hub, a small box that multiplies the number of USB devices you can plug in at the same time.

  • Travel accessories: If you’re getting a Mac laptop and plan to travel with it, here are some other accessories worth considering:

    • Airplane power adapter: If you take long plane trips, get Apple’s airplane power adapter. Many airlines provide laptop power outlets, though less often in economy seating. Note that the Apple adapter powers your laptop but does not charge its batteries.

      If you’re traveling to other countries, the good news is that the power adapter that comes with Mac laptops runs on any AC power source in the world — 100–240 volts, 50 or 60 hertz. However, you may need to buy a travel adapter to plug it in. You can get these at Radio Shack and many travel stores.

    • Three-way extension cord: If you’re lucky enough to find a power outlet in an airport, another road warrior has probably already claimed them for his laptop and cell phone. But most people are willing to share the outlet if you ask nicely and produce your three-way cord.

    • Security cable: Consider buying a security cable that lets you lock it up when you have to leave it unattended.