Guides

The ultimate tech guide for students at university

The tech you need, why you need it and how to protect it… Plus lots more!

Whether you’re just starting out in your first year at university or returning to resume your studies, tech is going to play a massive part in your life. Some of the tech you’ll need is pretty obvious, but do you actually know how to protect the tech you rely on every single day? The answer for most students is probably “No!”

In this guide we’ll go through all the items that will help you work more productively and all the tech which will help you relax more effectively! Everything you need to know is in our guide, so put on your noise-cancelling headphones…

Laptops – and why you need one

There are lots of things to consider when buying a laptop for a new student, including course requirements, usage, user experience and budget.

Most students use more than one device to get them through their uni studies, and a full setup could include items such as a smartphone, a tablet, a USB or external hard drive, along with possibly a docking station, riser, printer and a power bank.

Virtually every piece of work you need to do for uni will involve the use of a laptop – you really can’t function (or pass the course) without one. Every uni will have PCs available in their libraries or study rooms, but nothing can beat the convenience of having your own portable device. Those students who prefer to work “unusual” hours – such as very late nights or very early mornings can’t rely on using uni equipment if inspiration strikes in the middle of the night!

What software will you need?

Having a laptop is one thing, but will there be a specific type of software you need for your specific course? It’s always with checking with your uni department – and whether there are student discounts available. In the majority of cases, the laptop of your choice will be fine, but some students may need to run professional software from AutoCAD, Adobe, Microsoft and other suppliers, and some may need to run sophisticated modelling or statistical software. So, check out what you’ll need and then you won’t turn up on the first day and realise you don’t have what you need.

Good advice

Students on general courses will be able to manage easily with low-end hardware such as a tablet, a cheap Windows 10 laptop or even a Chromebook. Students on technology, engineering, media and programming courses will likely need a more powerful PC with at least 8GB or 16GB of memory. This will obviously cost you more, if you’re going to use it, then it’s not a waste of money.

Why not use social media and contact students who are either currently doing the same course or who were on the course previously. They’ll be able to tip you off about what you’ll need, and what you won’t!

Location and portability

If you’re a student who’s going to be using your laptop in your halls of residence room, then you may be happier with a larger laptop, say, one with a 15.6” or 17.3” screen. However, if you’ll be carrying it around all day then a lighter device would be more convenient. And if you’re going for portability, then one with a longer battery life will really help. What we’re saying is, there’s usually a trade-off between screen size, weight, battery life and price.

A laptop with an 11.6” screen and a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a traditional hard drive could well be the way to go if you need to work ‘on-the-go’.

Another plan

Another possible plan would be to buy a laptop or desktop PC for in your room and then have a small tablet of large smartphone for use when you’re around campus. If you’re used to working on a ‘proper’ keyboard, then worry not, as there lots of portable keyboards that work well with tablets and smartphones. Microsoft, Logitech and others all have options available.

Ultimately, everyone has their own, individual way of working and you probably already know what this is from your experience at sixth form college.

There are still lots of students who prefer to take handwritten notes during lectures, and research has shown that students tend to remember more when they have physically taken notes instead of using digital devices in class.

Experience counts

As a new uni student, you probably already have a decade of experience when it comes to using PCs and other tech devices. It makes sense to buy something which supplements whatever tech you currently use. We suggest you go for something which uses a system you’re already familiar and comfortable with. All the main platforms – Windows, MacOS, Linux, Apple iOS, Android etc – are popular, so just go with what your head tells you will be the easiest for you.

Photo: Farknot Architect / Shutterstock.com

Most educational software runs on Microsoft Windows, and it’s likely that they have a licence for you to use it without having to pay for it. Make sure you ask about this. However, if you currently use an Apple Macintosh, there’s no real reason to change. Macs can a run Windows 10 easily. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to what you know.

After sixth-form college, uni will definitely be more demanding – at least as far as tech goes, so it’s not a bad idea to double the specification of what you currently have. A device with twice the memory or faster storage (ie, an SSD), and a faster processor will help you work more efficiently and productively. As a rough guide, it’s not a bad idea to get a laptop with sixth or seventh generation Intel Core i5. However, for many courses, almost any laptop with 4GB of memory and an Intel Core processor would do the job well.

Processors

When you’re not sure exactly how demanding your workload will be, it’s always better to have too much power than not enough. When thinking about your budget, a laptop is just a tiny percentage of what your course is probably costing you. Most students will be stuck with in the region of £40K of debt by the time they finish uni, so don’t scrimp too much on the cost of your laptop because your computer will play a vital role in getting you the degree you want.

Purchase and support

Like all technology, it’s great until it goes wrong! Many students go for trusted and reliable brands such as HP or Dell because they’re good value and you can get three years of on-site service for a reasonable price. If you have a Mac, then it’s wise to buy Applecare. We know that these all to your general expense, but this is one area where you should give it some serious thought. There are lots of bumps and knocks, along with potential accidents waiting for you at uni!

Photo: Sklo Studio / Shutterstock.com

Insurance and security

Unfortunately, student laptops get stolen, so it’s advisable to have insurance cover. Having your computer stolen is just a part of the problem. What if you lose all your work and deadlines are looming? It’s essential to have some form of backup and there are lots of types available. You can save to an online cloud drive (OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc), save on USB sticks and external hard drives. You can also email important documents to yourself so they are never lost. An important piece of work may be more valuable than the laptop itself, so take all the safety measures you can.

Laptops v desktop v tablet

There are many, many options when buying a new computer for uni. Most people have a good idea of the differences between a laptop and a desktop, but the lines become more blurred when tablets are mentioned.

Below is a list which highlights some important factors to consider including the pros and cons of each device. And just so you know, Apple iPads and Android tablets are both considered “tablet” devices.

Tablet Pluses

Portability:  Tablets are typically far lighter and portable than conventional laptops. On average, tablets computers weigh under 0.8 kg (1.75 lbs as opposed to conventional laptops that weight tend to weigh 2.3 kg (about 5 lbs) and more.

Convenience

You can use a tablet when you’re standing or lying down when it’s just not convenient to use a keyboard or mouse. Most tablets actually come with a stand, so you can input date whilst the device is ‘standing’ on a table.

Less Power Hungry

Tablets user less power and so you can get in the region of ten hours battery life from them. That gives you more than a full day at a conference or on the road. Most laptops have between 3-6 hours of battery life.

Input Device

Some students prefer using a stylus pen to input diagrams and symbols than using a mouse or touch pad. Those who use the digital painting and image editing options will also find there are advantages when using a stylus pen.

Tablets also have a touch-screen facility which makes navigation easier than when using a mouse.

Versatility

Tablets have no problem running your Windows operating system program. You can also surf the web and send emails. As an additional extra, you can add a keyboard and optical drive.

Computer and tablet power

Computers need powerful computing processors with the necessary power to cool high-end processors. Tablets, on the other hand, are much more compact and can’t offer the same amount of processing power as a high-end computer.

Cost

Prices for a computer (desktop or laptop) can, and will, vary widely, depending on its capabilities, storage, and other features. You can expect to pay anything from £300 to £2000. Depending on power and what features they have, tablets are likely to cost anything between £100 and £400 in most cases. As you would expect, there are always “luxury” models which are going to cost more!

Screen size

Desktop computers often have a screen-sizes of at least 17″ with support for a TV or projector. Laptops generally feature a maximum screen size of 17″.

Being much more compact, tablet screens can be anything from 5” to 10”. They can also connect to external displays, so you’re not stuck with the small screen size.

Portability

Desktop computers are not portable. Laptop computers are portable, lightweight, and easy to place in a backpack, but laptops with larger screens (17″) can weigh several pounds and can be difficult to carry around – especially if you’re out and about all day.

Tablets are much more portable than any computer or laptop. They can fit in a large pocket, purse, or small bag without too much trouble. They’re really like a large mobile.

Storage

Computer hard drives can be over one TB (terabyte). Almost every computer comes with a 250 GB (gigabyte) hard drive which will be more than enough for the majority of students.

Tablets have built-in storage usually ranging from 8 GB to 128 GB. To give you extra storage, some tablets have expansion slots.

Battery life

The battery life of the most efficient laptop is still not close to the battery life of a tablet. Because a tablet has smaller screen and few components, it uses much less power and therefore has a much longer battery life.

Operating System

As they have more computing power and memory requirements, desktop and laptop computers possess a much more fully featured operating system. Tablets on the other hand have a much more slimmed down operating system due to their limited power and memory. The Android OS and Apple iOS are adequate operating systems for tablet users, but not as comprehensive as computer operating systems.

Boot time

The latest computers running the latest operating systems have improved a lot on their boot time – and we’re talking just a few seconds here, not minutes. However, are still slower than a tablet. Most tablets are faster at booting-up than the majority of computers.

Keyboards and mice

A standard computer uses a keyboard for you to enter data with. Everyone has used one and probably everyone is comfortable using one along with a mouse for scrolling and clicking.

What do tablets use? Well, they have an on-screen keyboard which is smaller than a normal computer keyboard and to be truthful, takes a little getting used to. However, most of us are used to trying on our mobiles, so is it a big deal? Probably not. Some tablets allow for an external keyboard, providing a more comfortable and familiar medium for typing. And you can get miniature keyboards too, which are light and easy to stuff into your bag.

Touch screen

Although quite a few laptops and desktops now support touch, most still have no touch screen support. Touch is actually very good and convenient, but your screen gets smudged all the time, so you’ll need to clean it regularly! All tablets support a touch screen, which is easier for new computer users.

Upgrade

All computers have some form of hardware upgrades including easy upgrades such as adding more memory, disk storage, or even a new expansion card.

Tablets are a different kettle of fish! There are one or two which give you the option of adding extra storage capacity by using an extra memory card, but that’s about the limit of its upgrade options. However, many students use a tablet as a secondary device to throw into their bag – so it’s not expected to be everything that a laptop is!

Software

Most application software is designed for the computer, not the tablet, and a computer has an almost limitless supply of options. Programs on the computer are also usually more feature rich than apps designed for tablets. There are millions of apps which are available for tablets, but that is still nothing compared to the available programs and games available for a computer.

Accessories

Where do you begin? Computers have thousands of peripherals and accessories which connect to them. Tablets have a very limited amount of accessories. However, they do include keyboards and an array of printers.

As we mentioned earlier, lots of students and users in general have multiple devices and a tablet is often used for browsing the internet and for all those small jobs. The computer is used when more power is needed and where the projects are more complicated. There are also hybrid computers which offer the best of both worlds!

What if you still can’t decide?

If you’ve read the above and are still none-the-wiser, then consider what you need your device for? In basic terms, a tablet is best used for consuming information. And that means anything from browsing the internet, checking on emails and watching videos.

For those tasks such as creating and editing documents, then you should really opt for a laptop as it provides options to connect devices such as printers, cameras, scanners, drawing tablets and lots more.

Do you need a printer?

Why do you need a printer when you’re at uni? After all, every university has a library which includes photocopiers and printers! The problem is that when several thousand students have projects to do, the queues to get to the printer can be massive. This will cost you not only time, but also lots of money. If you have lots of pages to print off every week, which is not uncommon, then you can easily spend more in a month than it would cost you to buy your own printer, inks and paper.

Having your own printer at your accommodation gives you total convenience, as sometimes it’s not easy getting into uni – which may be a bus journey away. If you’re working late into the night (when not partying) then having a printer is really a necessity. If you share a house or flat, then you could let your friends use your printer and charge them a fee. It will help them and pay for your own usage! If you get a HP printer then they have what is called ‘Instant Ink’ where you pay a monthly fee and you never run out of ink. It also works out much cheaper than the usual method of buying your ink when you’ve run out – and it’s always an emergency!

Do you need a monitor?

If you have a laptop, and you probably do, then that will be enough in the majority of cases. If you’re desperate for a larger screen, then a monitor can link to your laptop and will solve your problem! The best advice is, get yourself to uni, see what your accommodation is actually like and what you really need for your course… and then decide. Of course, if you are doing a media or music course for example, you’ll need more than a standard laptop for the intense amounts of data, but your course tutor will have all the info you need to help you through your studies, so if you’re in any doubt about what you need, get in touch with the course leader. There’s no point spending money on something unless you know you’re going to need it.

Do you need a TV at uni?

When you’re in your own room at uni, your laptop will double up as a TV so if you’re happy with that, you don’t really need an extra, stand-alone TV. It’s just another cost you can do without. If you’re in a halls of residence, then there will probably be a communal room which already has a TV. However, if you’d rather watch a TV on a much bigger screen than your laptop, a large-screen model can be yours for less than you’d probably think!

Why a pen and notepad still have a role to play

Research has shown that writing things down using pen and paper is much more likely to be remembered than things typed onto a computer document. At uni, some lecturers actually insist on handwritten notes being taken rather than recording the class or typing directly on a laptop. So, you may think that a pen and notepad is a thing of the past, but no – it’s still relevant and extremely useful today!

How to record lectures and get meaningful notes from them

Most universities stream their lectures these days, so in theory, you really don’t have to do much yourself, it’s all there for you! It means you can view them when and wherever you like. However, there will be times when you need your notes straight away and you just can’t wait for them to be uploaded. So, recording them yourself is a way around this. Don’t panic though, you really don’t need to be a tech wizard.

If your lectures are on Zoom, then it’s easy to press the record button and then have them converted to text via an app. There are lots of apps which convert audio into text, and otter.ai is a good one and free. Well, free for limited amounts of audio conversions – at the time of writing this, you get six free per month before you have to start paying – but do a search and look at what else is available.

There are lots of effective audio recorders on the market which are not expensive, and which produce excellent quality.

Here’s a list of recording devices you can use which are easy to master:

  • Audio recording device
  • Smartphone with a voice recorder app
  • Laptop or tablet with audio recording or dictation software

If you are going to transcribe audio files, then it’s best to use an external audio recording device or mobile so that you can point in the direction of the speaker to get a clear and crisp recording. Transcribing apps will struggle if the sound is dodgy – and it will mean you’ll have to spend a considerable amount of time deciphering it all. Strong accents are a particular problem for apps!

As we just mentioned, you can record directly from your mobile phone – and they generally have really good audio quality for classroom recordings. If your mobile doesn’t have a voice recorder built-in, you’ll be able to get one in the app store.

What portable storage do you need?

Everyone has a USB stick (even though they might not be able to find it!) but is that all the storage you need for uni? Well, USB sticks are OK for storing the usual Word files, and photographs, but if you’re doing a media course for example, where you need to store lots of videos or movies – then a USB stick won’t suffice. For larger storage options you need an external hard drive which can store a mountain of stuff. Plus, the advantages are that if your laptop got stolen or your system crashed, you’ll still have copies of everything stored and ready to upload immediately on to another system.

How to get the best info out of google (without turning in the same essay as everyone else)

Smart searching

If you’re doing research for a uni project, you need to be a little bit smarter than the rest, as most people will end up with the same search results. You can get better results from Google if you learn how to be a smart searcher. Try the tips for Advanced Search, Google Scholar and Image Search below.

Photo: Mama_Mia / Shutterstock.com

The URL for Google Advanced Search is: https://www.google.com/advanced_search. Or, you can just Google ‘advanced search’!

Boolean searching

Google advanced search allows you to combine search terms, using Boolean search functions to design a better search strategy. The Boolean search video will show you how: Just search “Boolean Search” to get more information about specialist searches.

How to create the perfect study area in even the smallest room

Laptop: Perfect for general tasks and still Zooming Into class. A new laptop should last you at least four years and be ultra-portable for all your uni requirements!

Extra storage

There are loads of way to store your documents in the cloud. Google Drive and Dropbox are just a couple of the many options, but what if you have a huge video library or you’re a prolific video editor? Well, it’s always a good idea to have an external hard drive. In a tiny dorm room, or in areas where you and your friends gather, it’s really easy to have coffee spilt over your device, rendering it out of action.

If you have technical issues

You never know when you’re going to need a little bit of tech to solve your problems – after all, things never break at a convenient time, do they? Get yourself a 2-in-1 charging cable, a USB wall charger, a microfiber cleansing cloth, a phone/tablet stand, and an expandable phone grip. That’ll help!

For a Little Homework Help

Alexa to the rescue! The Google Assistant can help you when you have questions that need an answer. A smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo Dot With Clock will shout out the answers pretty quickly – and much faster than you could look them up. Alexa is also handy for other things such as ordering a pizza!

Most dorms have a basic cable setup but a Wi-Fi connection and the Roku Express 4K+ can help you get the most out of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and lots more! And let’s not forget that Google Chromecast is another good option. You lucky things!

 Hush!

Dorms and shaved living accommodation can be noisy places at the best of times. There is a way you can beat this irritating problem when you’re trying to meet that pesky deadline: Noise cancelling earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones. Take yourself into an idyllic world to quietness without having to lose your temper at your selfish housemates!

Charging cables, hubs and surge protectors are becoming necessities for uni students, especially those with a small collection of devices and tech accessories.

Don’t forget…

Almost as important as tech itself, are the little comforts to make your time at uni that much more comfortable. Think about treating yourself to the following: An espresso maker, microwave, and bedside lamp. All important and extremely useful!

Think about these products to make your life easier…

Printer

We’ve already mentions why you should get a printer, but it really is worth saying it again. The uni facilities often have big queues, can be expensive, and it’s not always convenient to go to the main building or library to print off some documents. Do it in the comfort of your own room and you’ll always be on top of things. Wireless printers are really popular and you can send docs to print direct from your mobile when you’re out and about.  

A Fire HD Tablet

Most students struggle to find some personal space when they’re at uni. A Fire HD tablet is perfect when you need to get out of your room for a while and find a remote space in the library to get some “you” time. The screen is large enough and at a sufficient resolution to watch Netflix, read your favourite book, or do some online shopping!

Cool!

Mini fridges have been around for a few years now – and having the convenience of one in your own room cannot be underestimated. Many students swear that they are the best investment they ever made. So, what are the benefits of having one?

*When you wake up in the night desperate for a drink, you don’t need to leave your room…

*You’ve brought a doggy bag home with you, or you need somewhere to stick your uneaten pizza. Shove it into your mini-fridge!

*When you’re studying hard (yes, it’s got to happen sometime!) and you lose track of time – the uni dining hall is closed. Time to get your stash from your own mini-fridge and make an emergency sarnie!!

*If you have medication you need that has to be stored at a certain temperature, your own min-fridge means it’s safe and close when you need it.

*If you’re the sort of person who uses essential oils, then they last longer and stay fresh in a mini-fridge. Cosmetics also last longer, too.

*Keep a stash of fresh fruit and veg handy to avoid those crappy trips to the late-night vending machine!

*Have breakfast without leaving your room. Canteen expenditure can mount up, so have milk, cereal and yoghurt fresh and ready.

*A mini-fridge is perfect if you are celiac or have other special dietary requirements. Storing your food in a large fridge along with all your housemates’ buys could be a nightmare.

OK, that’s all about min-fridges. One final piece of advice: it’s wise to get one as big as you can manage to fit in your room, as we guarantee you’ll get lots of benefit from it!

Make studying easier

Focus is a Chrome browser extension designed to help you stay focused on studying, learning, and the work that matters. Why is Focus so good? Well, it’s great for students because it blocks all non-educational websites to keep you productive and away from all the distractions you’ll find on the internet, all we all know how easy it is to drift into the exciting world of online shopping when we’re supposed to be doing an essay!

How do you use Focus? You simply set a pin, decide which websites you want access to, and let Focus block the rest. If you want to visit a site you have blocked, just enter your pin, and decide how long you want to be on the blocked site. It’s amazing how much more you’ll get done when parameters are set! You now have a set of internet guardrails that help to help you stay productive and on task whether you’re studying, remote learning, or need an extra boost of self-control to finish a project.

Pros: Work now and play later.

Cons: Like all browser extensions, Focus can be uninstalled, so if you have any weakness, you’ll probably crack and uninstall it! If you find yourself needing something a little more strict, try “Freedom” – this will block distractions on all your devices.

Microsoft study help

Here are a few tips, tricks and shortcuts to help you work more effectively on your projects…

Repeating your last action in MS Word: MS Office can duplicate the previous command if you click F4. This works with almost every command, from text entry to deletion, style application, and so on.

Translate Languages: All translations in Microsoft Office are handled by Microsoft Translator. From the Review tab, use the Translate function. Translate a single word or a complete sentence. Alternatively, you can translate the entire document and save it as a separate Word document. It is very easy to do and will save you a ton of time.

Photo: Sharaf Maksumov / Shutterstock.com

Making text more readable: Select “Hyphenation” from the “Page Layout” section to do so. It is possible to operate manually and automatically. Long empty spaces will be automatically removed, making the text appear more condensed and easy to read.

Using tech to study with friends

Zoom!

This free meeting tool has really taken off and is perfect for you to meet your study buddies. Meetings are usually up to 40/45 mins before you get cut off and have to pay, although many times, Zoom lets you continue regardless. If you set up the meeting, then you’re able to record it!

Google Meet

Google’s video meeting tool that integrates with Gmail and, while limited compared to Zoom, has its applications. And it’s also free.

Skype

Microsoft’s video calling platform that can be used via mobile app through web browsers. It has stream recording, live subtitles, and also can be used for phone calls. Skype has been around for a long time now and has sort of been overtaken by Zoom and Teams.

Microsoft Teams

With Skype integration, Microsoft Teams is useful for online classes. It’s basically a kind of communication and resource hub which can be used effectively for uni studies. It’s an alternative to Zoom but has arguably more features. And again, it’s completely free.

Discord: This is an open-source platform which was originally created for gamers. Discord is separated into interest-based channels with available video streaming available for Mac or via your browser. Another interesting alternative, and another free service. Definitely try this is you’re a gamer or streamer.

Facebook Live: More for family members, fundraising, and ‘influencers’ than students, Facebook Live is a good option for uni study groups already using Facebook Groups. It’s a free video streaming tool with simple features and reasonable bandwidth requirements.

Photo: Luca Larezelli / Shutterstock.com

You are not just a student. Armed with your iPad and our selection of unmissable apps, you are the perfect studying machine – a student version of Arnie in Terminator, only probably with more varied vocabulary!

Note-taking, subject research, weekly budgeting, catching last night’s episode of Bake Off – all can be achieved with just a quick sweep of your fingers. We’ve put together a list of apps which will give you those much-needed superpowers to get your degree with ease! Or something like that…

iTunes U: free

Now you can stuff your backpack with all the knowledge you need from many of the top universities thanks to iTunes U. It’s a uni version of Apple’s movie/music/app download service – offering course content from the likes of Oxford, UCL and Warwick for free. Use it to complement your current lectures, or take a break and learn about something completely different and expand your knowledge!

Evernote: Amongst hundreds of note-taking apps, Evernote stands supreme – and it’s also free. At its most basic, you can use it to take notes and access them across your mobile and desktop devices. But take a closer look and you’ll see that it’s much more than that. You can create audio notes from recordings, take photos of course notes and books (and then search for text inside the images) and you can also access all your notebooks offline if you’re feeling a bit flush and decide to buy the premium version.

Photo: Dennizn / Shutterstock.com

Instapaper: This is a cool little app you may like! You can tag web pages you want to read later and then return to them when you’re on the bus or during a particularly boring lecture! The app strips the page down to just its bare text – enabling you to read pages offline. It will cost you the princely sum of £2.49.

PocketMoney: This budgeting app costs £1.99 and is designed specifically for the iPad, and it makes it simple to track where your money is going. This is so simple to use and boasts useful features such as the option to set limits on particular types of spending. If you’re likely to let your spending run out of control, then this could be for you.

WUNDERLIST: This free app has been voted ‘app of the week’ by more reviewers than you can shake a stick at, and students love it too. It helps organise you and ensures that you won’t forget those important things, or those little things you need to be reminded of. Push notifications and email reminders ensure nothing gets forgotten from your list, no matter what device you’re using. From now on, there’s no reason to be late for anything and no excuse for not meeting that deadline!

Photo: Postmodern Studio / Shutterstock.com

Alarm Clock HD Pro: 60p is very well spent with this cool app. Not only will Alarm Clock HD Pro will wake you up on time, but it can do so much more! It links up with your iTunes playlist so you can wake up to music instead of an annoying alarm ring and it also has a selection of Retina display-ready themes. There’s even a torch function, for when you wake up wondering where you are – always useful when you’re at uni and might have had too much alcohol!

TED: Everyone has heard of TED, which broadens your mind by serving up video and audio talks from some of the world’s most interesting people. You might not agree with everything they have to say, but it’s always interesting, may well help you with your studies, and it’s 100% free.

BBC iPlayer:  The BBC iPlayer app is really good these days, serving up on-demand TV and radio programmes from across their vast network from the past seven days. It’s completely free, and if you’re only going to use the ‘watch again’ service (rather than watching any programmes live) you don’t even need a TV licence. Bet you didn’t know that!

The Student Room: The app that every student should have, for all the info you need on every aspect of student life, and it’s free. The TSR app makes it quick and easy to flick your way through forums, add to the discussion and upload images direct from your tablet’s camera. An invaluable resource!

How to Protect Your Tech Gadgets

Here’s a list of several ways you can protect your tech and gadgets…

Register it!

Whether you are using a smartphone or a tablet, or even a home system, the first thing you should do, is to register it. Typically, you can register the product with the manufacturing company at their website pretty easily. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I’ll do that later!” knowing that in reality, you really can’t be bothered to do it. However, you must break that cycle as there are lots of benefits to registering your possessions.

First, the manufacturers can acknowledge your ownership of the product. And this makes it easy for the company to take necessary actions regarding your product insurance. Alternatively, you can get access to your device’s operation remotely. If, the worst happens and someone steals your tech item, you can immediately “kill it” just by logging into your account. That will make you feel better straight away!

Strong Security in Login Info

Yeah, we know you already know this! Most tech users don’t go far enough when it comes to log-in information and will likely suffer at some point in their lives. Take the simple Password, for example. How many people set their phone Password as 12345 or similar? So how easy is that for a thief to access all your details. You don’t even have to have had your tech stolen, you could have just left it on a train or similar.

Your security log-in info needs to be difficult to crack. Use mixed characters in the secret code to strengthen it. This should apply equally to the registration log-in info, as well. The easier your password is, the easier it will be for a criminal to hack it.

Insurance

Most tech users don’t know if their device can be insured or not. For smartphones, PC, or even tablets, the manufacturers do reserve some provision for insurance. It’s easy to find out, if you’re prepared to put in a little time.

Tech companies like Apple and Samsung have impressive insurance policies that can protect the smart gadget you purchase from them. If these are not your brands, you can still look for the same service from the manufacturers of your device.

There are always third-party insurance companies that provide insurance service for gadgets and devices. This makes sure that if you somehow lose your device or gets stolen, you won’t have to stump up a whole load of money yourself to replace it. It’s also worth contacting the Student’s Union to see if they have insurance companies on-board who specialise in insurance for students at uni. The chances are they will!

Voice-Activated Devices

Recently, voice-activated devices have become popular due to the boom in smart-home technology. Apart from our phones that work in a similar way, many of us are placing a dedicated VAD in the corner of our living room now. But how many of us are aware that these VAD can actually record what it listens and can expose the recordings to potential data-thieves? Yeah, it’s a bit worrying and sounds like science-fiction, but it’s happening right now!

However, you can bypass this, too. Every VAD has an option to delete its recorded clips. Simply activate that option and stay safe. Then there’s nothing to worry about.

Photo: CoinUp / Shutterstock.com

Security Apps

Back-Up Your Data

If you are using cloud storage then you’re already moving in the right direction! But if you are not, then you need to keep regular back-up of your data as there are several ways you could end up losing everything. An external hard-drive is perfect for storing all your data and gives you all the back-up you need. You could also use a flash drive (USB stick) or use Dropbox or another of the cloud data services.

Stop Using Wi-Fi In Public Network

It’s hard to resist using the free Wi-Fi found in a random cafes and bars, but it can be pretty harmful to your privacy. Hackers can get easy access to your gadget by tracing your log-in information if you are using a publicly open Wi-Fi network. Really, it’s advisable to avoid using this type of Wi-Fi. Better to be cautious and put your security first.

Use Durable Cases

This is for those of you who regularly carry their phones or tablets with them. It’s easy to drop a device which can result in a cracked screen or broken device. To avoid such a disaster, you need to buy a strong, durable case. The case will absorb the shock and thus help protect your tech.

Clean your devices

You need to clean your gadgets whenever you get a chance. This is something that most of us haven’t done – even when our screens are like a giant smudge! Over time, your tech and gadgets will get dirty with day-to-day use and the natural dust in the atmosphere. You need to use cleaning solutions that are specially formulated for electronic devices. You can use alcohol pads or 70% isopropyl alcohol rub to clean your tech. It’s a fact that clean tech will have a longer lifespan, so now is the time to change your habit of a lifetime, and rub down your tech!

Personal security on campus

How can students protect and defend themselves against crime and violence? What is the best security advice for students to avoid dangerous confrontations and situations? Well, without trying to scare you, it’s possible that situations may arise which threaten your personal security, so we’ve put together a list of helpful tips to help you navigate all your new-found freedoms away from home.

Best personal security tips for students on uni campus

Keep your valuables safe

One of the mistakes students make is leaving their valuables lying around unprotected. If that’s you, then you need to change your habit now! Do not leave your textbooks, phone, laptop, or other valuables lying around. Lock them up in your cupboard when you don’t need them. Dorms are places that anyone can enter, as at uni, friends and friends-of-friends are always popping in and out.

Keep your dorm room secure

If the door to your dorm is not very secure, you need to do something about it. If you live off-campus, then you must ensure that you have a good security system. You can also install a basic alarm system that will send you a notification when someone is on or outside the property. Wireless alarm systems are a perfect choice because they are easy to install and remove, and they’re not expensive!

Use the buddy system

What this means is that you should never walk alone, no matter how safe the local area seems. Avoid walking in dimly lit and more remote areas where there are few people around. There is power in numbers; the larger your group, the lesser your chance of being in any form of danger. This precaution should be particularly observed at night and whenever you need to walk past silent or desolated places. Always walk with friends and keep communications open on your mobile at all times. You may think we are being over-precautious, but your safety comes first.

Watch what you say on social media

While social media is great for interacting with friends, it’s best not to promote your whereabouts all the time. If you post: “Will see you at Langham’s Bar – or wherever – at 8pm tonight!” you are indirectly informing criminals you are not going to be at home! If they’re keeping an eye on your property, they then know it is empty and a much easier target. Just be careful when you post personal details and circumstances on social media.

Disclose your whereabouts to close friends

While it is potentially risky to reveal your whereabouts or schedule on social media, disclosing this to your roommates or close friends is a good safety measure. Let someone know where you are going, who you are going to meet, when you are likely to be back, and the name of the place you’re going to (if you know it!). This precaution is important when you’re going off campus.

Store all emergency phone numbers

It’s a good tip to have all your “emergency numbers” stored on your mobile device. This way, you will easily dial the right numbers when faced with a challenging or dangerous situation.

Report anything strange

“If you see something, say something”. In other words, whenever you see or aware of something strange, don’t be afraid to raise the alarm. The authorities would always prefer you to act on the side of caution, so report anything which doesn’t seem right, immediately.

Avoid giving personal details to strangers

Avoid giving all your personal details to someone you don’t know. Most of the time, this happens during chat sessions or dates. If a stranger starts asking  personal questions during a date or chat session, then be suspicious and do not give out the information.

Drinks can be spiked

Never accept food or drink from someone who you do not know – and if you’re out on the town, do not leave your drink unattended. Make sure your friends are around. Always keep your eyes on your food or drink during a party or date. There have been many occasions people have had their food or drink spiked, so be careful at all times – and make sure you go home with friends and never alone.

The main thing regarding personal security is: stay with friends, don’t walk in remote, dimly lit areas alone, and always be vigilant. We’re not saying don’t have fun, we’re saying that these simple tips will ensure your enjoyment of what should be a fantastic university experience.

Best apps for your personal safety when walking home…

 With recent tragic stories on the news, many women understandably feel like they need to take extra care when walking home alone at night. It’s always important to take basic precautions if there’s no way around you having to walk home alone. Vigilance is key.

The good news is that there are some fantastic apps available to aid your security. Let’s take a look at some of the best ones on the market.

WalkSafe

This extremely popular personal security app includes a map that shows crime figures taken from monthly reports, whether that be sexual assault, mugging, knife crime, and pickpocketing.

WalkSafe allows you to avoid hotspots on your walk home, to ensure a little more peace of mind. If you come close to a location where a crime has been reported, the app will alert you, so you can avoid that area and take an alternative route.

The excellent HomeSafe feature lets you set an estimated time of arrival when you set off and will send your location to an emergency contact if you don’t get home in time. There’s also an option where a reminder is sent to emergency contacts so that they can check on you at a specific time.

Perhaps the best feature of all is the TapSafe feature, which allows you to check-in with your friends if you’re feeling unsafe. You can either tap ‘OK’ every 30 seconds or ‘nervous’ every 10 seconds before your loved ones are alerted and shown your location.

Life360

Life360 allows you to stay connected to key contacts wherever they are, when you’re walking home alone at night (or any time!)

You can put together your own private groups called “circles” and view the real-time location of those individuals. On top of this, you can receive alerts when someone arrives or leaves a destination, so you don’t have to send them loads of panic messages!

For this app to work to its full potential, you’ll need a few permissions, but it’s really quick and easy to get started. With a feature called Driver Care Support, with one push of a button, you can speak to a live representative over the phone.

One con of this app, however, is the fact that there are some paid features.

Kitestring

Here’s another really good app which is free and very easy to use. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, then this app will certainly help. Like most of these apps, you’ll need to add a list of emergency contact numbers and then inform your app when you ‘re going out and when you plan to return. Again, emergency contacts will be alerted if you don’t respond to the app when it checks up on you. If for some reason your plans change, you can let the app know and it will extend your time before it sends any alerts to contacts.

Red Panic Button

If you find yourself in an unfamiliar part of the town or City after a night out, you need to be prepared. The Red Panic Button app has a widget that allows you to immediately inform your loved ones where you are so they can find you. This very simple app is brilliant for personal security and medical emergencies. Red Panic Button sends an SMS and email containing your GPS coordinates and a Google maps link to your emergency contacts, so you can be monitored and found straight away.

One Scream

Wow! This is a brilliant app and it can detect a scream (not any other words), even if it’s nestled at the bottom of your bag under a ton of stuff! Once the scream is detected, it automatically sends a text message and automated call to your nominated contact and also tells them your exact location.

For those with an Android system, don’t worry, the phone line will be kept open so that your contact can hear what’s going on and get help for you. The aim of this app is to give you confidence when walking home, or wherever your destination is. Up to 3 people can be notified when you need help and there’s plenty of time to cancel the alarm if all is OK.

Hollie Guard

This gives you real-life notifications if you’re in danger and was featured on the BBC. You can set a generic alarm profile which you are able to customise with an image and if you shake your device, a flashing light will start, and a high-pitched noise will sound. With Hollie Guard, the deterrent feature is loud enough to ensure that people anywhere nearby are alerted to an emergency situation.

Silent Beacon

This is another totally free app which sends your GPS location to contacts in real-time so that multiple friends and loved ones can monitor your journey. Another benefit of Silent Beacon is that you can send texts, push notifications, emails and voice calls to your main contacts with just one touch.

SOS Stay Safe

Make your smartphone into a safety device! Unlike the other apps we’ve listed, this one will send your device’s battery level to an emergency contact. Additionally, if you shake your mobile, it will also send a recorded audio clip. This is done secretly and will not arouse suspicion.

SOS Stay Safe also has another unique feature: it will send a txt or email to your key contacts at regular intervals with your exact location. This allows your friends to work out whether you’re on the move or not, which is great!

bSafe

With bSafe, there’s an SOS button than you can activate by touch or voice. Your contacts then get an unmistakable sound alarm and your exact location. Additionally, they can see and hear everything that is happening in real-time, plus the audio and video is recorded. It’s a live-streaming tool which means you’re in constant contact as you walk home. Your contacts can also be invited to be online as you make your way to your destination. You then know that your friends are monitoring you as you make your journey. There’s also another useful function: You can receive a “fake” phone call to help you get out of an unpleasant situation (such as a difficult blind date) and your friends are also notified.

Shake2Safety

The Shafe2Safety app enables you to send text messages to emergency contacts. You are also able to share pictures and audio in emergencies. As the name implies with Shake2Safety, if you shake your mobile or press the power button four times, you can send unlimited text messages to your contacts along with one call. Amazingly, this will work when your screen is locked and also if you have no internet connection. If you send a photo to your contact, it will also share your location too!

As you can see, there are lots of fantastic personal security apps available which add extra layers of safety to a walk home alone.

Finally

That brings us to the end of our comprehensive student blog! Hopefully you’ve found lots of useful information within, and picked up more than a few tips to make sure you have a happy and fulfilling time at uni! We’ll be raising a glass to you as you set about achieving your goals. It won’t be long before it’s all over and you’ve got that ‘first’ you know you deserve, and a headful of amazing memories! Best of luck.

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