Q&A: Tips for buying a laptop for college

    3:04 PM, Jun 19, 2012   |    comments
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    UNDATED (USA TODAY) -- USA Today's Kim Komando provides tech tips when it comes to buying your son or daughter a laptop before they head off to college, and more.

    Question: My daughter just graduated high school and is going to college in the fall. I'm going to surprise her with a new laptop as a graduation gift. How much storage space should it have?

    Answer: Although hard-drive space is important, most laptops will have more than enough. The same goes for RAM. What's most important is the processor - I recommend Intel's Core i3, i5 or i7. Look for a processor model number in the 3000 range to make sure the laptop has the latest version. After that, the most important specs are screen size, battery life and weight. These are mostly about comfort and usability, so take your daughter with you when you buy. It may ruin the surprise a little, but it's the best way to buy a computer she'll love for years to come. I would think twice before rushing out to buy now, though. Laptop prices are usually cheaper closer to the start of the semester.

    Avoid text messaging scams
    Q: I received a text saying I won an iPad 3. The message looked like it was from Apple's Web address, but it took me to another site. Should I take this deal?

    A: This is another case of "too good to be true." It has all the telltale signs of a scam. First, it refers to the new iPad as the iPad 3 - which isn't its name; it's just The New iPad. An official Apple giveaway wouldn't make such a mistake. Second, you more than likely didn't ask for this text. Legitimate companies don't do many giveaways, and when they do they don't just hand them out through texts. You would have to sign up to be entered. Lastly, a real company wouldn't pull a bait-and-switch. It would have the contest hosted on its site, and wouldn't redirect you when you tried to sign up. You definitely want to give this one a pass.

    Add a guest Wi-Fi network
    Q: Is it possible to have two Wi-Fi networks? I'd like to set up a second network for guests to use.

    A: Sure thing! Many new routers can have multiple network names, or SSIDs. You can find out by visiting your router's settings menu - check your manual for instructions. Multiple SSID support is usually under the Wireless or Advanced tab. It might also be called a Guest Network. It you don't have the option and your router is older, you might just decide it's time to upgrade. Finding a router with guest network support won't be difficult. If you have another router lying around, you hook that up to your main router to create a second network.

    Make your PC boot faster
    Q: I'm tired of waiting an eternity for my computer to boot up! How can I make it start up faster?

    A: The biggest roadblocks to quicker startup times are programs that start automatically when the computer starts. This creates a logjam every time you boot. Use a program like Autoruns to disable unneeded programs from starting automatically. Autoruns makes sure you don't mess with any necessary startup programs, like your antivirus software. Download it from http://komando.com/news. You can also clean out Start>>All Programs>>Startup. Any programs listed there will start when Windows starts. Don't worry; removing the icon won't delete your programs.

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