External Devices to Get for a Laptop - dummies

By Dan Gookin

The types of devices you can buy for your laptop can be lumped into two categories: portable and stationary. Portable devices go with you on the road. For the laptop at home, consider some devices that are less portable, but can boost the laptop’s potential at home base. Here’s a rundown of some gizmos to consider:

Monitor: Every laptop features a way to connect an external monitor. It is known as a VGA connector and is used to connect a normal, stand-alone PC monitor, such as a widescreen LCD monitor.

Full-size keyboard: PC laptops sport nice keyboards that serve the devices well. But some people enjoy the larger PC keyboard, with its roomier layout and separate numeric keypad. Honestly, giving a laptop a full-size keyboard at its home location gives you the best of both desktop and portable PC worlds.

Mouse: Every laptop, portable or stationary, benefits from having a real mouse. Some smaller-than-normal wireless mice prove ideal for road use. Back home, however, having a good, palm-size mouse with a wide assortment of buttons and an ominous, glowing LED is better.

Printer: If your laptop is your only computer, connecting a printer to it when you get home is a good idea. The printer may be an optional item, however: For most folks, accessing a printer is done through the network. As long as the laptop is connected to a network at home (either wired or wireless), you can access and use any printer available on the network.

External storage: You may wish to buy your laptop an external hard drive for its at-home base. You can use it to perform backups. Furthermore, if you have a lighter laptop (a subnotebook) without an optical drive, get your laptop a nice optical drive for its at-home resting place.

Powered USB hub: Most external gizmos you add to your laptop are USB devices. Just plug them into the laptop’s USB port ― until you run out of laptop USB ports. In that case, set up a powered USB hub. A powered USB hub accepts a wider variety of devices than does a portable, USB hub that does not require power.

Arranging these goodies works just like setting up a desktop PC, but you leave everything in place and awaiting the arrival of the laptop. When the laptop arrives, plug everything in and you’re ready to go. Well, stay.

  • If you set your laptop on a riser or shelf, the laptop’s screen is at eyeball height. People who fix bad backs say that having a computer monitor at eyeball height is ideal.

  • Getting an external optical drive is a must for a laptop without one, especially for installing software.

  • Obviously, if your laptop has a widescreen monitor, you would have no need to connect an external monitor. That is, unless you want to use two monitors at a time.

  • If all you need is a numeric keypad, forgo a separate, full-size keyboard and get just a numeric keypad. Many of them are USB-powered and highly portable.

  • Some portable scanners are worth looking into. Some of them not only are light and skinny but also run off the laptop’s USB port. That makes them helpful for a swift scan when on the road.

  • Newer laptops come with mini-VGA connectors, which are smaller than standard VGA monitor jacks. The mini-VGA has the advantage of being able to communicate with more optical devices, though you need to keep a stock of adapters to hook up the variety.